The Detroit Lions need immediate impacts from their free agent acquisitions, especially young cornerback D.J. Hayden. With a thin line help in the secondary, the former Oakland Raider has a prime opportunity to establish himself with his new franchise.
Given some early career struggles, the Lions signed Hayden to a trial run one-year contract worth $3.75 million. One of the biggest concerns regarding the 26-year-old has been his health.
During his senior year at Houston, Hayden suffered a near-fatal injury when he took a knee to the chest from a former teammate. The collision leaves the majority of victims in a state where blood stops pumping to the heart, but Hayden was lucky enough to recover and continue his career.
Injury issues have followed him to the NFL as he has missed 19 games through his four year career. Injuries to his groin, hamstring and foot have hampered his mobility and development at the next level.
Hayden spent lots of time in Oakland as an outside corner where he struggled mightily. The Raiders saw success last season playing him inside at the slot until he tore his hamstring in Week 12.
Detroit will more than likely feature Hayden as an inside corner on defense. The Lions lost nickelback Quandre Diggs to a season-ending shoulder injury and could use Hayden as help in that position. Starters Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson more than likely will see the majority of action as outside corners.
Last season, the Lions allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete an NFL record 72.7-percent of their passes against them. Hayden at 5-11 190 pounds adds depth and much needed versatility to the secondary.
Detroit is also working with the luxury of a defense-heavy draft in April. Look for the Lions to add plenty of play-makers on the defensive side of the ball, especially pass rushers.
The best compliment to a young secondary is a thorough defensive line. After ranking 30th in sacks with 26 last season, Detroit is in dire need for an upgrade on the line. Hayden and the secondary could definitely benefit off of an improvement in that area.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has found great success with putting his players in the best position to flourish. If Hayden manages to stay healthy, there should be a beneficial increase in his production.
This acquisition provides little risk and could pay off for this defense. Hayden has a lot to prove, and he’s in a legitimate position to become a helpful piece for the Lions.