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At Least One Lions Fan Wants Al Wilson

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Something called a Rob Machota wrote an email to the Detroit Free Press, which the Free Press seems to then turn into an internet article.  At least that is what I take away from the following line - "Jon Machota is a freelance writer who shares his opinions with freep.com. To share your opinion, e-mail sportsletters@freepress.com."

Anyway, in this intriguing plea to Lions' management, Machota explains why the Lions should dig deep to sign Wilson. I love Al Wilson.  He was a great player for the Broncos.  At 31, however, I have a hard time believing he can come back and be the force he was 4 or 5 years ago.  The more I think about it, though, giving Wilson fat cash is exactly the type of move the Lions would make....

You know how I feel about "if's", and Machota's "case" is filled with them.....

Breaking news, Teddy Lehman, Paris Lenon and Boss Bailey are not starting middle linebackers in the NFL. I know this comes as no surprise to many, but it needs to be stated.

All three can be solid contributors for the Lions, but not at the most important position on defense.

Middle linebacker needs to be filled by someone who has experience and can dominate.

And free agent Al Wilson is that guy

News of the former Denver Broncos linebacker visiting the Lions on Tuesday should be music to every Lions fan's ears. Wilson is a five-time Pro Bowler, a vocal leader, and, when healthy, is one of the fastest linebackers in the league and very effective in pass coverage.

All these things are exactly what the Lions need. They need a Pro Bowl caliber player who is not afraid to get in teammates faces and that can defend the pass. That is what the "Mike" linebacker does in the "Tampa 2" defense.

In his eight seasons in Denver, the 6-foot, 240-pounder had 723 tackles, 21.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and five interceptions. The Lions have not had that kind of production in the middle since Chris Spielman put on the No. 54.

There are negatives though. He obviously needs to be healthy to be effective. Wilson missed the entire 2007 season because a neck injury and salary cap problems kept him off the Broncos roster. Denver tried to trade him to the New York Giants in the 2007 off-season but he failed his physical. Wilson will also be 31 by the start of the '08 season.

Since the injury, he has been cleared to resume his NFL career by back specialist Bob Watkins, who is regarded as being conservative when it comes to allowing players to return after neck injuries. And for the Lions it is very simple, if he cannot pass the physical, then they do not sign him.

In terms of his age, the middle linebacker spot is played by several athletes that are older than Wilson and still very good. A few of them include Zach Thomas, Ray Lewis, Antonio Pierce and London Fletcher. I am pretty sure that no Lions fan would have a problem with any of them anchoring their defense.

The bottom line is that he is worth the risk. It has been six seasons since the Lions had a Pro Bowl middle linebacker (Stephen Boyd). Drafting Lehman in the second round of the 2004 draft looked to be the answer, but nagging injuries have forced him to only be used sparingly. Bailey is probably best known for having a dominating outing one week and than nowhere to be found the next. Lenon is a solid ball player who was second on the team in tackles last season, but he is probably better suited to be a backup.

There are a few options in this years draft that Matt Millen could choose from, but they would be minimal upgrades at best. The only legitimate option is to address this position in free agency. The Lions cannot wait two or three years to develop a middle linebacker that they drafted. It is time to win now, so fill your biggest holes with veterans that know how to win. And Wilson does.

If Wilson wants to play for the Lions, Mr. Ford, sign the check.

While the argument nearly has me dusting off my own orange and blue #56 jersey, I must admit that Al Wilson as a Bronco is a ship that sailed.