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American Football: Lions continue to focus on defense

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posted on Mar, 27 2004 @ 08:45 AM
For the second time this month, the Detroit Lions have strengthened their secondary with a high-profile veteran, signing unrestricted free agent safety Brock Marion Thursday to a four-year contract.

Marion, 33, joins cornerback Fernando Bryant, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as key secondary upgrades to a defense that statistically ranked 28th against the pass in '03. The 11-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowl performer will provide both leadership and playmaking skills to the Lions.

Released by the Miami Dolphins early this month for salary cap considerations, Marion generated interest from several teams and was avidly pursued over the past couple weeks by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Lions' courtship of Marion, who will be joining his third different team, was a relatively quick one.

Detroit officials knew, however, that the once-stagnant safety market had heated up this week, and moved to secure Marion's services. Like most teams, the Lions were slightly concerned by Marion's age (he will turn 34 in June), but felt strongly that he can still be a productive player for a few more years.

Marion will start at free safety while holdover Brian Walker remains at strong safety. Bryant joins veteran Dre Bly, the team's top defender in 2003, at cornerback in what should be a much improved unit.

Particularly over the last four seasons, when he totaled 18 interceptions, Marion has been one of the NFL's top interior secondary players. He retains solid range, still moves well to the football, and is a solid tackler.

In 11 seasons with Dallas (1993-97) and Miami (1998-2003), the former Nevada star has 28 interceptions. He also has 823 tackles, two sacks, seven forced fumbles and 66 pass deflections. Marion had 81 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defensed in '03.

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