Lions’ Wood favors retooling over blowing up roster, but says it will be new GM’s decision

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

One of the biggest debates heading into the hiring of a new general manager and head coach is whether the Detroit Lions need to completely rebuild the roster or make more modest adjustments to be competitive in 2021. 

Team president and CEO Rod Wood, who will be helping make those hires in the coming weeks, acknowledged he’ll defer to those in those hired to make any roster assessments, but he personally believes a retooling might be the better course of action. 

“I do think, despite the record, we’re not as far away as it might appear,” Wood said. “I would think that we can retool some things and continue to be competitive, while we’re also, I think in some cases on the defensive side of the ball, having to rebuild the roster a little bit. So it’s a little maybe a combination of both. But there’ll be other people here in the building soon who will have big votes on those two questions.”

The defense is the glaring issue entering the offseason. Many of the pieces added in recent years were designed to fit former coach Matt Patricia’s system. There are a handful of players who are schematically flexible, but after finishing the season with the worst defensive in franchise history, statistically speaking, there’s an easy case to be made for an overhaul. 

Committing to a full rebuild of the entire roster hinges on what the team does with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The 32-year-old remains under contract for the next two years, and is universally respected within the organization, but is at a point in his deal where moving on comes with sizable cap savings.

Again, Wood said that will be the new GM’s call.  

“I don’t have a preference,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re certainly talking about our entire roster, including Matthew, with everybody that we’re interviewing for both positions. He’s our quarterback. He’s a very important player, very important position. But again, when we have people in the building to weigh in on those decisions, that’s when we’ll be able to talk more about it. Certainly everybody that we talked to admires Matthew from afar, as much as we admire him inside the building.”

No update with Johnson

The bridges between the Lions and former wide receiver Calvin Johnson remained burned, with little to no movement on their mending. 

“I would say nothing (has) really changed,” Wood said. “We’re supportive of Calvin’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame, continue to try to reach out to him, but it’s going to require both of us to get together on that. It’s not just us. I won’t really comment on where we stand on that, but certainly as I’ve said at the very beginning, that’s my goal.”

Johnson, in a text to the Detroit Free Press, refuted Wood’s suggestion there’s been recent attempt at communication. 

“Not that I’m looking for him to,” Johnson wrote, according to the Free Press, “but that’d be totally false if he asserted he reached out to me recently.”

Johnson abruptly retired five years at the age of 30 after nine seasons, all with the Lions. He finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

The relationship with the franchise became strained after the team recouped some of Johnson’s signing bonus after his retirement

A six-time Pro Bowlers and three-time, first-team All-Pro, Johnson’s 1,964 yards in 2012 remains an NFL single-season record. He’s currently one of 25 finalist for the Hall of Fame, his first year on the ballot. 

Wood mum on Schneider

A report circulated over the weekend, indicating the Lions would make a run at Seattle general manager John Schneider.

Despite having a year remaining on his contract with the Seahawks, the Lions would be able to potentially make the move based on coach Pete Carroll holding final say on personnel decisions with the franchise. 

Wood was asked Tuesday about the accuracy of the report, but declined to offer any insight. 

“I’m not going to comment on anybody that we haven’t interviewed,” Wood said. “Certainly not going to comment on anybody who’s under contract with another team. There’s lots of rumors out there. I don’t know where they get started, but I have no comment on that.”

Schneider was equally uninformative when asked about the possibility of taking another job during a pregame interview last Sunday. 

“My wife and I love it here, obviously,” he said. “Great team, great ownership, coach Carroll, the city, the 12s (Seahawk fans), everything. I know when you and I told on this week — you may get tired of me talking about it, but just like going to the 53 cut that weekend, this is the worst weekend in the National Football League because you have so many friends and so many contacts around the league that, between all the families involved, people losing their jobs or people going to be moving, people are talking about it on the TV shows and everything today about who’s going to get fried, who’s going to get hired and all that kind of stuff.

“And it lends to tons of rumors,” Schneider said. “We have to remember this is an entertainment business, obviously, but there’s a personal side of it, too. So, it’s a bummer on one side. On the other side of it, it’s been very fun over the last several weeks now with teams that have openings to be able to talk about the guys on our staff and people that are looking at our coaches and people that are looing at our personnel people, and guys that going to interview for jobs, too. So that’s excited, but, yeah, that’s about that. We’re good.”

Offseason roster additions

On Tuesday, the Lions announced a handful of future deals. The non-guaranteed contracts secure player rights heading into the offseason. 

The Lions signed wide Victor Bolden, offensive lineman Evan Brown, safety Jalen Elliott wide receiver Tom Kennedy and linebacker Anthony Pittman. Each of those players spent time on the team’s practice squad this season, with Brown getting pressed into action the final two games of the season due to injuries.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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