Ongoing injury concerns in Detroit Lions secondary could drive fit with veteran free agent

Ongoing injury concerns in their secondary could push the Detroit Lions toward a notable veteran free agent.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Things are going well for the Detroit Lions, and the defense has been legitimately very good so far. But injury concerns in the secondary have been an ongoing deal, with C.J. Gardner-Johnson out for the season, Kerby Joseph having missed two games and now Brian Branch set to miss at least Week 5.

Friday morning, when talking about Branch, head coach Dan Campbell said he is "hopeful" the rookie defensive back would be able to play in Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As some in other corners of the world might say, "hope is not a strategy, or a good plan." It was clear Branch suffered a pretty significant ankle injury against the Packers in Week 4, even if he came back to the field in uniform, got it taped up heavily and returned to action. That he was not seen at practice at all this past week, and is out even with extra time between games, says it all. But it doesn't really say "we think we can beat the 0-4 Panthers without him."

Ongoing injury concerns may drive Lions toward interest in veteran free agent

The good news for the Lions' secondary this week is Joseph lined up to return and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley set to make his Lions' debut. For once, there's good depth to navigate injury situations.

In their weekly evaluation of team weaknesses coming out of Week 4, Bleacher Report pointed to the secondary as a need for the Lions. And a free agent fit was proposed.

Add Now: DB Logan Ryan

"The last few weeks have not been kind to the Lions' secondary. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson is on injured reserve with a torn pec and nickel corner Brian Branch suffered an ankle injury on Thursday. While Branch did return to the game and the X-rays on his ankle were negative, the coaching staff would be smart to play it safe with the rookie this early in the campaign.

"Bringing in a veteran like Ryan would allow the Lions to have a replacement for either Gardner-Johnson or Branch as Ryan has experience playing safety and wide and slot corner at a high level. The 10-year veteran can serve as an insurance policy and a mentor for Branch to help elevate the Alabama product's game even further."

Ryan spent last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he reunited with Tom Brady after starting his career with the New England Patriots. He missed some time with a foot injury, but his production was solid (37 tackles, one interception, three pass breakups) was solid. Over his previous nine NFL seasons, with the Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and New York Giants, he missed a total of two games.

Of course the big thing with Ryan is his age, at 32 years old. But he appears ready for an opportunity to continue his career, and during some appearances on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" he has hinted that teams have shown interest.

Ryan is versatile, starting his career as a cornerback before making a late-career transition to safety. He is a slot corner/safety type this stage of his career, but he's done both a high level. Such things shouldn't be overrated, but he does have two Super Bowl rings on his resume.

If Branch trends toward missing more time beyond Sunday, the Lions may have to think about doing something to add a piece to the secondary. The percentage chance they sign Ryan is very low, but he is an interesting possibility.


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