Detroit Lions lineman, Kenny Wiggins
We asked if someone was a starter as a lead-in to whether or not they might find themselves in a precarious position. The follow-up question about whether or not there are cheaper alternatives that offer similar skills applies here, though. Wiggins started ten games in 2018 while T.J. Lang was injured and at times looked like he belonged in with the starters.
Wiggins was signed as a free agent to provide depth and earned a spot through training camp to be the top backup guard. At a price tag of over three million dollars, fifteenth on the team and the third-highest paid lineman, Wiggins has to prove that he belongs there in pay. Pro Football Focus has Wiggins ranked as the number fifty-nine guard with a rating of 54.8, overall, which is a below average mark on their scale.
Behind him coming into camp are newly signed Oday Aboushi, 2016 draftee Joe Dahl, or the Lions could bring over second-year Tyrell Crosby from his swing tackle position. Wiggins spent the entire offseason as the starting guard so far but we expect some intense competition for that spot in camp. Essentially, he must outplay nearly all of his competition to solidify a spot.
If he looks about the same as, or even close to, the group of players behind him, the Lions could save two million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars against their cap. That is more money than Aboushi and Dahl will cost for an entire year, to keep the number in perspective. However, we can definitely defend keeping him, too.
On the other hand, if he finds some rhythm as a starter and offensive coordinator feels he has developed good chemistry with the starting line, it would be easy to see him staying. The line needs to do two things, keep quarterback Matthew Stafford from getting sacked and make room for Kerryon Johnson in the running game. They did not do both with Wiggins in the game but at times it didn’t matter who lined up at his spot.
Kerryon Johnson’s two one hundred yard rushing performances were both with Wiggins on the sideline. However, Wiggins was only in the lineup for one horrible game’s worth of pass blocking, where the Lions gave up six sacks against the Chicago Bears. The previous week with Lang in, the Minnesota Vikings shredded the line for ten sacks.
In a nutshell, both the run blocking and pass blocking need help after giving up 40 sacks and having a bottom-half, twenty-third ranked rushing attack. With zero draft picks spent in the 2019 draft, and most of the line looking for a new deal within the next two years, the Detroit Lions still have room to grow before making any long-term decisions. Wiggins has to make his case to stay past 2019 if he stays.