Three Trades Bob Quinn and the Detroit Lions Can Still Make
By Jeff Risdon
As preseason continues on, NFL teams become more acutely aware of their roster deficiencies. For the Detroit Lions, those holes on the depth chart are pretty evident.
For whatever reason, teams don’t typically trade superfluous talent at an overloaded position or misfit talents for a player of similar status on other teams. Even so, Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn would be wise to try and flip these trades to help strengthen the den.
Gabe Wright to Cleveland for Pierre Desir
Defensive tackle Gabe Wright might go down as one of Martin Mayhew’s biggest mistakes as GM of the Detroit Lions. Mayhew traded up in the 2015 draft to snag Wright in the fourth round, sacrificing a 2016 third-round pick in the process.
Wright was a schematic misfit from the start. He’s a natural 5-technique in a 3-4 front. The Lions, of course, play a 4-3. The big man from Auburn is perilously close to not making Detroit’s roster in his second season, but it’s too soon write off his NFL chances. Enter the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland runs a 3-4 and needs help up front. Armonty Bryant is suspended to start the season, leaving the Browns very thin on the front line. Wright’s style is different enough from rookie Carl Nassib that Cleveland could situationally mix and match them as needed.
In return, the Browns give up Desir. The 6’1” corner was a fourth-round pick in 2014 but hasn’t established a roster foothold. Cleveland has a real numbers game in the secondary and Desir, a player the Lions liked in the draft process, appears to be the odd man out. His press-man skills and length would look nice in Detroit. The cornerback situation after Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs (in the slot) is still wide open. Desir has even gotten some looks at safety, another weak point in Detroit.
Stevan Ridley to New England for Aaron Dobson
This is a case of leveraging familiarity to exploit a need. Ridley was a New England Patriot for his first four years, even rushing for over 1,200 yards in 2013. The veteran running back has not done much to win over the Detroit coaching staff. He’s struggled while playing with the third team in the first two preseason games.
There’s a chance Ridley won’t make the Lions, though I think many are overplaying that hand. But the Patriots are in trouble at running back as Dion Lewis is now on the shelf and Donald Brown didn’t make the cut.
Ridley knows the offense, knows the expectations of playing as a Patriot and doesn’t break the bank. If Bob Quinn could use his New England connections, he might be able to bring back something in return.
Dobson is a wideout who just hasn’t materialized like the Patriots hoped when they took him in the second round back in 2013. He has just 16 catches the last two seasons after a decent rookie campaign. Dobson has size (6’3”, 205) and special teams experience. That could be a trump card over undrafted rookies Jay Lee and Quinshad Davis to making Detroit’s roster.
The reality here is neither player can do much in their current setting but might offer a spark at a position of greater need on the other team.
Alex Carter to the Titans for Antonio Andrews
Tennessee is building up a pretty impressive young offense, but their defensive back seven is as barren as February in the Gobi Desert. Carter was the Lions’ third-round pick in 2015 but injuries have stunted his progression. He’s on the roster bubble and almost certainly would be a gameday inactive even if he makes the 53-man Detroit Lions roster.
It hurts to give up on a recent draft pick like this, but the chance to parlay Carter into a legit power running back who can upgrade Detroit’s own offense is too tempting to pass up. Andrews is a capable NFL talent but he’s buried on Tennessee’s freakishly well-stocked running back shelf. He’s the short-yardage, between-the-tackles grinder the Lions lack to pair with Ameer Abdullah. Granted that’s about all he offers but the Lions have a real need for those 5-8 carries a game, presuming they don’t just turn it over to Dwayne Washington.
To balance the deal, Tennessee would have to throw in a conditional draft pick based on how quickly Carter progresses for them. If he doesn’t make the team, it goes away. If he’s their No. 3 corner by November, and the Titans’ secondary might be that bad, Detroit recoups the third-round investment.
One important factor to note: Tennessee’s GM is Jon Robinson, who worked very closely with Bob Quinn for many years in New England.