The Detroit Lions do have some salary cap space remaining. Here’s a position Motown may opt to address with a key free agent signing this summer.
The Detroit Lions have been busy this offseason retooling their roster. Landing quality veterans in free agency like defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman and tight end Jesse James plus adding a talented draft class headed by Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The Lions went about addressing every need on their roster. But following the first two waves of free agency and last month’s NFL draft, Detroit appears to still have a major void to fill along their offensive line. Following the release and subsequent retirement of veteran right guard T.J. Lang, his possible replacement has been a hot topic in the Motor City.
Kenny Wiggins, who played 10 games in place of an injured Lang last season, is the early favorite to land the starting role. Other depth chart options include second-year tackle Tyrell Crosby and veteran backup Joe Dahl. Detroit did sign guard Oday Aboushi in free agency, who had previously been a starter for new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Both Aboushi and Wiggins figure to be the front runners for the starting guard position.
If there is a wildcard candidate it’s Beau Benzschawel. An undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, Benzschawel was a projected Day Three selection that became a very hot commodity as a free agent. Many believe he has the traits to become a starter, but his massive frame (6-6, 309) and lack of mobility will need to be offset with better fundamentals and more developed technique.
Still, even with all those candidates ready to replace Lang along the Lions’ offensive line, Detroit may not be satisfied trying to fill a starting role with unproven talent. If it is experience they lack, the team could opt to find a suitable replacement in free agency. According to OverTheCap.com, the Lions have an estimated $26.4 million in current salary cap space. But is there anyone left in free agency worth spending those monies on?
"“One name to watch among current free agents is Andy Levitre, who didn’t miss a start in his first eight seasons in the league. Of course, he also played just two games for Atlanta last year while dealing with a torn triceps injury, and at 32 years old, you have to figure his best ball is behind him. Still, that kind of experience — more than the starting experience of all Detroit’s in-house options combined — could be attractive.”"
Special Note: A day after this article was published, Levitre announced his retirement due to his injuries.
If it’s experience the Lions want, they could certainly find it in Levitre. Originally a second-round selection in the 2009 draft, he spent his first four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, then two more with the Tennessee Titans. Between 2009 through 2016, Levitre never missed a single contest, starting in each and every one. In total, the 10-year veteran has played and started in a whopping 143 games.
But there is a reason why Levitre is still on the open market. For one, he’s turning 33-years old on Wednesday. And he’s missed 17 games in the past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons due to a triceps injury. But even before landing on injured reserve early last season, Levitre’s declining play forced him to take a pay cut last March in order to remain with the Falcons.
Still, the point is valid. If the Detroit Lions don’t like what they see from their right guard position this summer, there are some options still available in free agency. But it seems more likely that the Lions might try to find a hidden gem on the waiver wire during final cuts like they did successfully with defensive end Romeo Okwara just last year.