By Dave Birkett Detroit Free Press
It’s football, but to use a baseball analogy, the Detroit Lions went 3-for-3 on Wednesday, with a couple home runs.
Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones, their top three targets in free agency, all at positions of need, agreed to multiyear contracts during visits to Detroit.
Bush, of course, is the headliner of the group, a former Heisman Trophy winner who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints and should give the Lions’ running game an immediate jolt.
Quin was perhaps the best safety on the market, a converted cornerback whose range, coverage ability and history of staying healthy add a new dimension to a thin Lions secondary.
And Jones, a former Southfield-Lathrup and Eastern Michigan standout, returns home to play defensive end on a line that could be losing its sack leader from the last two seasons.
Together, those signings, coupled with cornerback Chris Houston’s decision to return to Detroit, generated plenty of buzz, both across the NFL and inside the Lions’ Allen Park headquarters.
“We want to win,” Jones said. “I’m a part of it now. We want to win. To get the three people that they targeted, I’m pretty sure they’ll probably go out and find some more, but to get those three on the second day of free agency, it shows their commitment to winning.”
Bush, the Lions’ top target since their free-agent planning meetings in January, said players such as Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Nate Burleson reached out to him in recent weeks about playing in Detroit.
He flew into town after the start of free agency Tuesday, met with coaches Tuesday night and Wednesday, and took his physical on Wednesday morning, before signing a four-year deal worth a reported $16 million.
“I was very nervous. I didn’t even get any sleep last night,” Bush said. “In all honesty, I was talking to the coaches. I got about two, three hours of sleep last night, just because I was up just thinking about all the possibilities.
“We had such a great meeting that it almost seemed too perfect. But I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to get this thing on the road and get to work, because I think it’s going to be a good thing, and I look forward to winning a lot of football games here.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Bush provides a much-needed big-play dynamic to a backfield that struck little fear in opponents last year.
They Lions ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense, at 100.8 yards per game, but no team had fewer carries of 20-plus yards (just four, including one by receiver Mike Thomas on an end-around).
Bush is coming off the two most productive rushing seasons of his seven-year career — he had 986 yards last year and 1,086 yards in 2011 — has three seasons with at least 50 catches and can be a field-stretcher in the backfield or slot.
“Where we are, he definitely would be the missing piece,” guard Rob Sims said. “With our aerial attack, and he can catch the ball the way he can out of the backfield and some of the other running-game stuff we got in place, I think it’s tailor-made for him.”
Of course, free agent winners rarely find repeat success in January and February, when it counts most, and Wednesday’s signings guarantee the Lions nothing coming off a disappointing 4-12 season.
They still need to upgrade the pass rush, which is expected to lose Cliff Avril to greener pastures elsewhere. They still need to find starters at left outside linebacker and right cornerback and maybe a No. 2 receiver. And they still need to make the most of the No. 5 pick in April’s draft.
Do that, and Wednesday’s buzz turn into a whisper compared with what could be ahead.