If there's ever a statue to be erected of Detroit Lions' general Manager Martin Mayhew, the slogan on the bottom should read very much like the Statue of Liberty. "Give me your tired, your poor and your huddled masses."
Only, you can add "unwanted cornerbacks" to the end of that theme. Monday, the Lions addressed a need in the backfield by snagging another young defender, Kevin Barnes, from the Washington Redskins. Barnes had been a decent contributor in 2011, intercepting two passes and registering 26 tackles in the third cornerback role. For a player seeing limited minutes, those numbers aren't bad. Barnes was competing in camp for more time, but was edged out by veteran Cedric Griffin. Then, he was abruptly shipped out of town.
No problem. Welcome home. In Detroit, Barnes will get his chance to show he's a player, just like Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith have done before him. Famously, the Lions' defensive backfield has been built upon the notion that under appreciated talent can still become difference makers. Houston has done it, becoming the lead cornerback in two year's time. Smith, in his spots, has shown the ability to be a ball hawk. Each had been given up on for one reason or another in a different city, yet found success in Detroit.
Now, it's Barnes' turn. He's entering the perfect situation, being that injury and attrition have struck Detroit's defensive backfield hard this offseason. Is Barnes more serious than Aaron Berry? Can he stay healthy and be a difference maker? As long as he gets a chance on the field, there will also be a reasonable chance to answer those questions with solid play.
In doing so, he'll be able to join what's becoming a select fraternity of successful reclamation projects. Mayhew knows what he likes in a cornerback, and he likes players who are young and underrated. Throw the obviously talented Barnes into the mix, who was once a third round pick, and Gunther Cunningham might just be able to pan gold once more.
Yet another offseason where the song remains the same. Go ahead and give Detroit your tired, poor, huddled masses of unwanted yet talented young cornerbacks. With the Lions, they'll always have a home. Mayhew will always lift his lamp beside the golden door.
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