Stevan Ridley Release Shows These Aren’t Same Old Lions
By Jeff Risdon
New Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn did what many believed was the unthinkable. On Thursday morning, Quinn cut veteran running back Stevan Ridley.
Signing Ridley was one of Quinn’s first moves upon taking over in Detroit. He helped draft Ridley in New England in the third round back in 2011, and the dual-threat back was widely expected to take over Joique Bell’s role in Jim Bob Cooter’s new-look offense.
Except Ridley never got it going. He never earned first-team reps even with Ameer Abdullah sidelined with a shoulder injury. Ridley’s preseason reps with the second- and third-team offense did little to inspire any confidence he was ever going to be the versatile player who once (2012) rushed for 1263 yards and scored 12 TDs.
There just weren’t any compelling reasons to keep Ridley, not with Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner both showing more upside and special teams ability, a key component for reserve RBs. The only way Ridley was going to make it was because he was a “name” veteran with long ties to the GM.
We’ve all been watching to see how Quinn handles his own missteps. Would he blindly cling to them with the hope something positive might come down the road? That was predecessor Martin Mayhew’s modus operandi. That was Matt Millen’s apparent overriding strategy.
Quinn cut bait quickly. That’s a positive sign. He was willing to eat the $680K cap hit and acknowledge the signing just wasn’t a good one.
Even better, Quinn earned respect from the other veterans by releasing Ridley now and giving him a chance to latch on elsewhere. That matters for players. It matters even more for their agents, and Quinn’s move here proves his ego won’t impact their clients.
It also establishes the Lions are a meritocracy. That reinforces Quinn’s New England background but also harkens to other successful organizations in Seattle and Pittsburgh. If the bigger name or higher-paid guy isn’t the better player, they won’t be there for long. This probably sounds like a foreign language to cynical, seen-it-all Detroit Lions fans.
As for the on-field product, expect more competition between Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington for that No. 3 running back gig behind Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Washington has been the more effective power runner and earns a big boost on special teams, but Zenner does more things (pass protection, route running, selling play action fakes) better.
There is also the distinct possibility the No. 3 running back is not currently on Detroit’s roster. Washington and/or Zenner can quell that speculation with strong performances in the final two preseason games.