As the negotiating window of free agency opened, the Detroit Lions addressed the offensive side of the ball first before securing two veteran defenders.
The Detroit Lions addressed a need along their offensive line to start the NFL’s free agency legal tampering period on Monday, agreeing to a reported five-year, $50 million deal with former Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. This contract can not become official until Wednesday.
This early news was a bit of a surprise given the needs the Lions have on the defensive side of the ball and considering the players that had already committed to signing with other teams. Let’s be clear, the Lions made right tackle a big need when they released starting right tackle Rick Wagner last week.
So, signing an offensive tackle isn’t completely out of the blue. And new tackle might be just what the doctor ordered. But many fans had their eyes set on the other side of the ball.
Vaitai, who mainly played as a backup for the Eagles, cashed in while filling in for the injured starters. Here’s what Justin Rogers of the Detroit Free Press had to say:
"” … Vaitai still managed to see 477 snaps in 2019, primarily at right tackle. He thrived as a run blocker in that role, grading out as the ninth-best offensive tackle in the league among those who played at least 20 percent of their team’s offensive snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.”"
That’s very positive for the Lions, even if it is a bit of a gamble, given the $50 million price tag on a new five-year contract. If Vaitai fills Wagner’s shoes and helps the run game, Lions general manager Bob Quinn will look smart. Unfortunately, Quinn doesn’t have room for mistakes at this point in his tenure.
Fans were itching to see what Quinn would do to address the defensive side of the ball. Late Monday night, they got their answer. The Lions reportedly agreed to deals with both free agents defensive tackle Nick Williams and linebacker Jamie Collins.
Williams is a career backup who is coming off his first 16-game season where he recorded 6.0 sacks for the Chicago Bears. And Collins is another ex-Patriot coming off a career season in New England posting an incredible stat-line of 81 total tackles, 7.0 sacks, seven pass defends, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown.
Yet, the Lions still have more work to do and it would be smart to keep their options open. Detroit can’t blindly move forward without addressing more needs along their depleted roster.
A couple of planned signings for other teams along the defensive line, including Javon Hargrave and Michael Brockers, have removed options from the free agent pool at the position. Cornerbacks Byron Jones and James Bradberry are also off the market, with Jones possibly setting the bar for the next players to sign at the position. While the Lions shouldn’t rush into anything, they also can’t miss the boat by dragging their feet.
So, what other free agents might become the newest Detroit Lions on the defensive side of the ball? Here’s hoping that the Lions find another solid veteran or two that will agree to sign with them soon. If not, the draft could get really interesting.