Detroit Lions Shuffle the Bottom of Their Roster


Although we’re building up to the most exciting part of the off-season, Training Camp, we’re sadly still treading the waters of inactivity that make up a majority of the off months.  During the ramp up to camp, teams often shuffle the players at the bottom of their roster and the Detroit Lions are no exception.

It’s unlikely that any of the moves the team has made in the past few days will have a huge impact on the season, but late off-season additions can be a very important part of building team depth and, occasionally, finding that diamond in the rough type player.

Changing of the Guards

Seated very near to the bottom of the Lions depth chart was former Old Dominion Monarch and 2014 undrafted free agent D.J. Morrell.  With entrenched starters at both starting Guard positions as well as a tenured veteran and early round draft pick ahead of him on the depth chart, he was already a long shot to make the roster.   Morrell was cut to make way for George Winn, but he was actually replaced by former Atlanta Falcons starter Garrett Reynolds.

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Reynolds joins the Detroit Lions after being cut by the Falcons and failing to find a roster, despite trying out for several teams.  Though he received an okay PFF grade of +2.8, Reynolds was not considered a top free agent after his release.

Reynolds will not push Rob Sims or Larry Warford for starting time, so he’ll likely be battling with incumbent swing interior OL Rodney Austin, who is no lock to make the team.  Reynolds was responsible for 4 sacks, 3 hits, and 22 hurries according to PFF, so his positive grade wasn’t for his work as a pass blocker.

Another Local Boy Done Good?

To make room for Garret Reynolds, the Lions released former Ohio State Buckeye and untested journeyman J.B. Shugarts.  Undrafted in 2012, Shugarts floated from team to team before landing with the Detroit Lions this off-season.

Like Morrell, Shugarts was facing an uphill battle to make the roster even as a backup with the team spending significant resources shoring up depth at the position.  Never able to distinguish himself, the team let him go.

As mentioned earlier, the team signed a well-traveled FA and 2013 UDFA out of Cincinnati George Winn.  Born and raised in Southfield, MI, Winn spent time on six different rosters before finding his way home.  Like newly re-signed Detroit Lions Running Back Joique Bell, Winn has yet to record an NFL carry despite spending time on several teams.

Also like Bell, much of Winn’s UDFA status came from registering poor measurables at the combine (Though unlike Bell, Winn improved with his pro day numbers).  Another Bell parallel, Winn was considered an excellent leader and hard worker as well as a good special teamer.  Bell was unlikely, so Winn panning out immediately would be like lightning striking twice.  Still, he’s one to watch.

Swapping Role Players

When the Lions signed Naaman Roosevelt back in April, he did so with little fanfare.  He left in the same quiet manner and few were even aware he was on the team.  The former Buffalo Bill was an adequate role player that would have been challenging for a spot as a 4th or 5th wide out in this offense.  Used to a spread out, wide open passing offense, I understand why he was signed but didn’t expect him to make the roster.

He was replaced on the Detroit Lions roster by Reese Wiggins, an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina.  While his 5’10”, sub 190 lbs. frame would suggest a slot role, Wiggins actually played outside his entire college career.  From a pure measurements standpoint, Wiggins actually outshines Lions 6th round pick TJ Jones, but there is a vast divide in actual production that helps explain why Wiggins went undrafted.

A three-year starter, Wiggins never eclipsed the 29 catch, 432 yards of his 2011 campaign.  Wiggins seems destined for a special teams role in the NFL.  His limited production and pedestrian tape don’t show a receiver at the pro level, at least in anything more than a limited role.