Detroit Lions: 5 free agents to watch

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 07: Justin Ellis
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 07: Justin Ellis /

The Detroit Lions figure to be very active once the free agent market opens up next month. Here are five names we think you should watch.

The Detroit Lions should be pretty busy the next few weeks. Tomorrow kicks off the NFL Scouting Combine, where all 32 teams will scout college prospects for the upcoming draft while also meeting with their own free agents and potentially talking with other franchises to discuss possible trades.

Following the Combine, the focus shifts to free agency, which starts next month. And then towards the draft in April. It’s the former we want to cover in this piece. Here are five free agents we think Lions’ fans should lookout for as possible fits in the Motor City soon.

Justin Ellis, Defensive Tackle

The Lions struggled to stop the run last season once they lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in Week Five to a bicep injury. Enter in Justin Ellis. The former Oakland Raider is only 27-years old, checks in at 6-foot-2, 335 pounds and is one of the best run stoppers in the NFL. Ellis has the youth and upside you’d want at the position, plus he’s coming off his best year as a professional by far, recording 48 tackles and half a sack in 2017.

Carlos Hyde, Running Back

After the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell, there aren’t many running backs available in free agency that seem to have the kind of workhorse ability the Lions desperately need. Dion Lewis seems too slight of frame and scheme reliant to create on his own, while LeGarrette Blount is a power back on the wrong side of 30.

Hyde could be the perfect one-two combination with Theo Riddick. A down-hill runner with the ability to cut against the grain on a dime and the experience to make the most of every run. Adding a veteran like Hyde to this roster as well as a rookie runner from the draft makes a lot of sense.

Josh Sitton, Guard

If the Lions indeed move Graham Glasgow to center this offseason, they could bookend him with two Pro Bowl guards. T.J. Lang on his right side, a free agent Detroit signed last offseason and Josh Sitton, a Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowler who used to play with Lang as a member of the Green Bay Packers. The 31-year old Sitton has been with the Chicago Bears the past two seasons, so the Lions would potentially be his third NFC North team.

Anthony Hitchens, Linebacker

Due to a scheme change, the Lions could be in desperate need for more linebackers. The more versatile the better. With the Dallas Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens played ever linebacker position they had. He’s a player the Cowboys highly covet as a backup but figure to lose this offseason via free agency as they expect to get outbid for his services. At just 25-years old, Hitchen’s best football is in front of him.

Next: Ranking the 5 best Lions draft classes of the past 30 years

Trent Murphy, Defensive End

Regardless if the Lions re-sign Ezekiel Ansah or not this offseason, Detroit will need more pass rushers. Due to his injury concerns and a recent PED suspension, Trent Murphy might be a steal in free agency the Lions can take advantage of. In 2016, Murphy had a career-high 47 tackles and 8.0 sacks for the Washington Redskins. Only 27-years old, taking a risk on signing this young free agent pass rusher could really pay off.