Can DeAndre Levy Return to Form in 2017?

Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) looks on during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) looks on during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The curious case of outside linebacker DeAndre Levy continued to trend downward in 2016. After recording 119 tackles in 2013 and 159 tackles in 2014 (which ranked second in the NFL that season), Levy earned a four-year extension worth more than $37 million.

Levy still has three years and about $19 million left on his current contract. What is the problem with that, you may ask? He has only played in six games combined in the last two seasons and is a shell of his former self.

Even in the games he played in during that time frame, he didn’t really make his presence felt. In 2016, he appeared in five games with 21 total tackles and one pass deflected. Levy brought the ball carrier down eight times in Week 15 against the New York Giants, but did not record more than four tackles in any of the other four games he played in.

So here is my question: Can Levy return to his 2014 form this upcoming season, or are his best days behind him? He turns 30-years-old in late March and has had nagging injuries to both his hip and right knee. He has had surgeries to repair both injuries.

Bob Quinn, general manager for the Detroit Lions, believes Levy can return to his 2014 Pro Bowl form. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press writer, quoted Quinn as saying the following about his linebacker:

"“I think he can be the same player he was a couple years ago. It looks like to me he was getting healthier and healthier as the weeks went on when he came back. That’s what we envision.”"

To be honest, I am not sure I agree with Quinn. It looked like Levy’s health continued to decline. When he did play, he moved slowly. He was not the tackling machine that Lions fans grew accustomed to seeing. Of course, that is the nature of the beast when you have nagging injuries.

With that said, I think the Wisconsin product still may have it in him, but he obviously has his work cut out for him. He needs to start with the basics and let things come to him, though. Working on his strength and conditioning should be Levy’s top priority. After missing essentially two seasons, Levy would have a hard time just throwing himself back into the lineup. There is a big difference between game speed and practice.

Levy has also voiced his concerns about potentially having chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease better known as CTE. CTE is becoming synonymous around the league for retired/active football players who have suffered multiple concussion or head injuries. Dealing with its complications has caused great harm both physically and mentality for many players. If Levy truly does suffer from this, that is yet another reason why his career may be over.

The Lions need Levy to contribute. The linebacking core was in shambles without him in 2016. Even if Levy begins 2017 healthy, it is vital that Detroit adds a veteran in free agency, or selects the position at some point during the draft. While I don’t believe Detroit will use its first-round selection on a linebacker, drafting one in the second round, or middle rounds would be wise.

My final take: No, I do not believe we will ever see Levy return to the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was in 2014. However, I do believe he would contribute and be a leader on this defense if he can find a way to stay healthy. I wouldn’t expect 151 tackles and for him to cover ground sideline to sideline, but he can surely still play the game, and play it well. The Lions need him to.

I also think Levy should consider taking a pay cut because he has not lived up to his contract. Detroit could use the extra money to add a veteran in free agency. We’ll save that argument for another time, though.

What do you think? Leave a comment below with your opinion on Levy’s potential in 2017.

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