Detroit Lions: Improving the offensive line in 2019

Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions might be looking at replacements along the offensive line. Fortunately, they might already have one that could start next year.

Detroit Lions General Manager Bob Quinn made it a point to build this team from the inside out. That began with revamping the offensive line. He put numerous resources into building a line that would not only protect Matthew Stafford but help breath some life into the running game.

First, it began with Quinn’s first draft. He drafted Taylor Decker to be the franchise left tackle in the first round. Then, he took interior lineman Graham Glasgow in the third round. The following year he spent big to bring in right tackle Rick Wagner and guard T.J. Lang from free agency. The past year Quinn drafted guard Frank Ragnow to complete his revamped offensive line.

This year was going to be the year the Lions would finally reap the benefits of this retooled offensive line. Beginning of the season, everything was working according to plan. Stafford was one of the least sacked quarterbacks. The running game finally saw their first 100-yard rusher in what felt like forever. Everything was going exactly how Quinn envisioned. That was until the Lions faced the Dallas Cowboys.

During the game, Lang would suffer a scary head injury that left him dazed and confused on the field. He would later return, but he would go on to suffer a neck injury that landed him on injured reserve. More than likely, Lang has played his last down with Detroit. With his injury history and significant cap hit, the Lions will probably move on.

Since then Kenny Wiggins has filled that spot in his stead. He has been serviceable, but tends to be inconsistent. The question leads to though who is going to fill that vacant guard spot long term. Wiggins is a good backup, but he’s someone you don’t want to rely on for the long haul.

The Lions could look into free agency to fill that void. The top guard free agents are probably Mike Iupati, Andy Levitre, Ramon Foster, and J.R Sweezy. All of these free agents though are over 30 or will become next season. I am not too sure Quinn wants to put more resources into another aging veteran lineman again. Especially after the up and down play from Wagner and the history with Lang.

The Lions could look into the draft. Kent Lee Platte and Alex Reno from Pride of Detroit both laid out five potential guard prospects in this year’s draft. There are a few intriguing options, but the Lions have more pressing needs on top of their draft board. Plus they will drafting too high to warrant such a pick for an offensive lineman.

If the Lions don’t want to replace it through free agency and if they miss out on the draft, where will the Lions turn to shore up the line? Fortunately for them, they already have a versatile lineman on the roster that could fill multiple spots, Tyrell Crosby.

Crosby has been acting as the Lions’ swing tackle majority of the season. He was forced into action when Wagner suffered a concussion against the Arizona Cardinals. When it was announced Wagner would miss the Buffalo Bills game, the first one up was Crosby. He served quite well. He didn’t do anything to stand out, but for an offensive lineman, that’s a good thing.

Crosby performed well at the right tackle spot and the Lions might want to keep him there versus the move to guard everyone projects. If the Lions feel Crosby is ready to take over at tackle, they could potentially move on from Wagner next year.

Wagner’s cap hit is $11.9 million next year, but his dead cap hit is $8.7 million if the Lions do decide to release him. The Lions would be saving money, but I don’t think enough to warrant a release. His 2020 cap hit is also $11.9 million but his dead cap hit lowers to $5.8 million.

This would be the year the Lions could decide to move on and place Crosby at the right tackle position. Given that they have a replacement in place to fill in at guard.

Majority of analysts have thought Crosby would be better suited at guard though because of his style of play at Oregon. He could fill the potential vacant guard spot left by Lang and shore a position of need without spending resources to fill it. Either way, I think he is in store for a starting gig on the line next year .

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Crosby has shown he can serve well at right tackle so far. What I would like the Lions to do for the rest of the season is get him more playing time even if Wagner returns. Place Crosby at guard versus Wiggins and see what he has to offer.

The Lions need to know what they have in Crosby. This will help the Lions’ plan accordingly for the offseason and where they need to focus on the most. Hopefully, Crosby can show they have their guard for next year and fill a big need next year without any searching.