Despite heavy investments, the Detroit Lions offensive line is still in need of improvement. Is right tackle Rick Wagner part of the problem or the solution?
The Detroit Lions have made some major investments to their offensive line in the past few years. Under the watchful eye of general manager Bob Quinn, the Lions have invested two first-rounders and signed pricey free agents like starting right tackle Ricky Wagner to bolster the unit. But after three seasons, is it time for Detroit to move on from Wagner?
Drafted 168th overall in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Wagner will turn 31-years old during the 2020 season. He was signed to a five-year contract in 2017 by Quinn as a free agent.
Wagner’s 2019 season for the Lions was not exactly prolific, playing in only 12 games. His Pro Football Focus score of 59.0 points leads me to believe he had issues with hits and hurries. Yet, Wagner only allowed three sacks and had only three penalties, which was pretty good.
According to OverTheCap, cutting Wagner would free up $6.1 million in salary-cap space (assuming he were to be cut before June 1st). That kind of savings wouldn’t necessarily be enough to sign another top free agent to take over his roster spot.
Paying Wagner his contracted salary of $9 million would give him the fourth-highest salary cap number on the team. There are only five right tackles in the NFL that currently have a higher salary cap number in 2020. Note: a salary and a salary cap number are different numbers for a reason, more on that in my future articles.
The Lions could certainly decide to draft a right tackle. Drafting a right tackle in the 2020 draft is not without its problems though.
Finding a starter in his first year usually means using a first-round pick. That’s not likely to happen as Detroit possesses the third overall pick. Drafting a developmental tackle later in the draft would be great, even advisable. But that would not make Wagner expendable.
If Rick Wagner had played a large part of the 2019 season not fully recovered from injury, and if said injury is what hurt Wagner’s ability to play tackle, then he’s worth keeping for at least one more year. Now if the injury was in no way affecting Wagner’s play, the Lions might decide to go in another direction this offseason. And I would be okay with them moving on.
Fans don’t get to have the inside information to make this determination. But with free agency about a month away, we will get to see how the Detroit Lions plan to handle this and other parts of the offensive line soon enough.