Detroit Lions Sign This Year’s George Johnson in Veteran Defensive Lineman Corey Wootton


Lately, the Detroit Lions have made a living off scouring the veteran scrap heap, finding underrated reclamation projects and reaping the rewards.

For the third day in a row, the team made a signing at a spot of need. Thursday, they inked veteran defensive lineman Corey Wootton, formally of the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. In his career, he’s played both defensive tackle and defensive end.

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Wootton knows the division and has had success within it. In 2012, he collected seven sacks with the Bears and forced two fumbles. In 2013, he defended five passes and recovered two fumbles. When playing with the Vikings, 2014 was Wootton’s least productive year since joining the league, leading to him being a relatively overlooked free agent who lingered on the open market.

The fact that Wootton has experience inside and out could make him this year’s version of George Johnson, who signed with Detroit last offseason after not truly finding a home in either spot early in his career.

During the 2015 year, Johnson worked hard to make the team and flourished at defensive end, picking up six sacks. It was that production that allowed him to become a warm commodity in the restricted free agent market and eventually depart for Tampa Bay.

Considering the fact that the Lions only added one defensive tackle in the draft and no defensive ends, the move to get Wootton is quite interesting. With depth not a pressing issue in either spot, Detroit has the freedom to use him in whichever role they please. He’s proven himself as a pass rusher and tackle in the past, meaning the Lions can expect decent production in whichever role they choose.

Finding productive, hard-working veterans like Wootton has become a good hallmark of Martin Mayhew’s regime. It helps that Wootton has experience within the division and knows the situation he’s walking into. That should help him accept whatever role he might be given along the line and set him up for success.

Finding productive, hard-working veterans like Wootton has become a good hallmark of Martin Mayhew’s regime.

Signings like Johnson and Wootton don’t make headlines in May, but the Lions have maximized their return by getting decent production across the board from these players in camp, the preseason and regular season. This year, they might need that production even more to compensate for the loss of Ndamukong Suh.

Along with Lance Moore, Greg Salas and Chris Owens, players like Wootten and Johnson are the heartbeat of a team. Nobody counts on them when signed, but their work-ethic and leadership helps them to have success. It’s what Jim Caldwell means when he describes the cream rising to the top of a roster.

Considering the Lions have already seen what Wootton can do, they likely won’t be surprised if he provides them with the same results in the end.

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