The Lions have added a top receiver, some defensive tackles and secondary help through the beginning of free agency but they still have glaring holes on both sides of the ball.
Since free agency began in early March, the Lions have re-signed several members of their 2015 roster, including DTs Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Crezdon Butler, TE Tim Wright along with QB Dan Orlovsky and LS Don Muhlbach. In addition to these re-signings, the Detroit front office also went out and signed WRs Marvin Jones and Jeremy Kerley, DT Stefan Charles and DBs Johnson Bademosi, Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. If you’re keeping count, that’s 3 defensive tackles, 1 linebacker, 2 cornerbacks and 2 safeties for the defensive side and 1 quarterback, 1 tight end, 2 receivers for the offense.
The defense seems to have been the priority this offseason and it looks like a lot of the 2016 defensive needs were addressed, but as far as I know, only Marvin Jones was signed beyond 2017. This team still needs plenty of depth for the long term. But enough about the new faces, let’s take a look at where the team is still falling short on talent.
On offense, the quarterback position is set with Stafford atop the depth chart and Orlovsky behind him, but most expect the Lions to draft a third quarterback to develop.
At running back, the team was quiet during FA. The team has Abdullah, Riddick and Zach Zenner along with fullback Michael Burton. They’ll likely add another back to replace Joique Bell and share carries with Abdullah.
Tight end will feature Eric Ebron and Tim Wright. Brandon Pettigrew may be back by midseason, but I would anticipate the team bringing in another able-bodied blocking tight end that they’re comfortable with giving playing time to in the event that Pettigrew’s return is longer than expected. Ebron is ok at blocking, but he was drafted to catch passes, not block.
Wide receiver might be set for the year. With Jones and Tate as the top 2, Kerley can provide an adequate third option and TJ Jones and Corey Fuller are at least passable at holding up the bottom of the depth chart, although they shouldn’t feel comfortable. With Riddick and Ebron in the mix too, Jones and Fuller may not even see the field on offense. On the other hand, adding another receiver through the draft means Kerley can focus on special teams duties without losing his production on offense. Maybe the Lions add a receiver in the draft, maybe they decide the position is set. Either way, Kerley is only on a one-year deal and should be primarily used as a return man. Receiver will be addressed again, it just might not be until next offseason.
And that brings us to the offensive line. The Lions missed out on Russell Okung and while waiting on a decision, missed out on Kelvin Beachum as well. Barring a trade, the Lions don’t appear to be addressing tackle through free agency. The interior OL is young and at least some of it is promising. It’s a little hard to tell how Bob Quinn feels about Travis Swanson at center, but I would imagine he’s willing to upgrade. The draft might be the place to do it. If the Lions don’t address the tackle position, they’ll at least have last year’s starting pair back in Riley Reiff and Michael Ola. As bad as the OL was last year, that pair actually played decent in the second half of the season.
What Does Detroit Need On Offense?
To sum up, the Lions’ offensive needs are not terribly pressing. The team still needs to add a developmental quarterback, a power running back and a blocking tight end. Receiver might be upgraded but it doesn’t need to be. Ideally, they would upgrade depth at wide receiver and look at improving center and tackle. Offensive line may be addressed more than once in the draft.
Next: What Does The Defense Need?