Ric Tapia/Icon SMI - Schwartz deserves a new contract, like a lot of Lions...
This week, Martin Mayhew locked up offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman for at least the next year. He is supposedly currently working on extending the contract of Head Coach Jim Schwartz.
This move ensures a consistent leadership in the organization and the kind of continuity in philosophies that perennial football powers like Pittsburgh and New England have used to maintain dominance in the league. Pittsburgh's Dick Lebeau has been running the Steelers 3-4 defense for...what seems like forever. He probably coached against Lombardi...Monte Kiffin was the DC for Tampa Bay for something on the order of ten years...and for those ten years Tampa had one of the best defenses every year. Tom Moore was the offensive coordinator for most of Peyton Manning's tenure in Indianapolis.
Familiarity breeds high amounts of skill when applied to a football team. An organization knows exactly what it needs to fill the requirements for their scheme.
As Linehan and Cunningham head into the fourth year of their schemes, they know exactly where their deficiencies are. Also, just as importantly, they know exactly the most important pieces of their teams that need to be kept.
Namely, Calvin Johnson and Cliff Avril respectively. The offense, and the Lions organization as a whole, absolutely must, if they want to continue annual trips to the playoffs, extend Calvin Johnson to a long, long term deal. This will probably take up an unhealthy part of the team's salary cap, but that's unavoidable. Megatron showed how incredibly vital he is to the continued progression of Stafford and the legitimizing of the team's offense. Megatron is a unique and very special talent. He is this decade's Barry Sanders to the Lions. The organization could never have justified losing Sanders, just as much as the Lions cannot afford to lose Johnson.
Avril managed 11 sacks this past season and was already on a one year contract. In the NFL, a defensive end that can average 10+ sacks a season and apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been placed on a pedestal right next to the franchise quarterback and the offensive cornerstone of a left tackle.
Even though Avril, who has steadily improved year after year, managed double digits sacks for only the first time in his career, if he is allowed to test the free agent waters, he will be highly sought after around the league. He will demand a large contract too.
Furthermore, the Lions must also attend to MLB Stephen Tulloch and CB Eric Wright, both of who were signed to one year contracts before the season. Both Tulloch and Wright proved very valuable, especially early in the season, but as the season went on and the Lions defense seemed to fall apart, especially in the last two weeks of the season, one might have to wonder how much of that faltering falls on Wright or Tulloch or even Avril?
The Lions have a ton of decisions to make and only a limited supply of cash. It'll be a very interesting offseason.