By Michael Downes
The Detroit Lions have been incredibly active in free agency this year. They had some key departures in linebacker DeAndre Levy, guard Larry Warford and tackle Riley Reiff, but they were still able to come out winners. With two huge signings to shore-up the offensive line, this offense looks poised to be one of the most prolific in the NFL next season. Give a dynamic player like Matthew Stafford some extra time to pick apart a defense and he will thrive. Plus, the addition of these linemen should allow the Lions to become a more balanced offense.
Ricky Wagner, Right Tackle, 27 years old
Contract: Five years, $47.5 million
Ricky Wagner was the best free agent right tackle available this offseason, and the Lions got him at such a cheap price, they should be arrested for robbery. To compare, Matt Kalil went to the Carolina Panthers for five years, $55.5 million, and Reiff went to the Vikings for $58.75 million over five years. Granted, those two will likely play left tackle, and that’s the market for their position. But Wagner is a much better all-around tackle than both of those players. Wagner, who only allowed three sacks last year with the Ravens, is a much better pass-blocker than a run-blocker. That would be alarming for most teams, but seeing that the Lions are a pass-first team, he will fit right in. Did I mention that he was the second-best lineman the Lions signed?
TJ Lang, Guard, 29 years old
Contract: Three years, $28.5 million
The biggest signing this offseason was TJ Lang, not only because he is an Pro Bowl-caliber guard, but also because they managed to steal him away from their division rival, the Green Bay Packers. Lang, a Royal Oak, Mich. native and Eastern Michigan graduate, was expected to become a Seattle Seahawk, but the late push from the Lions was too good to pass up. Though he had a rough time staying healthy this year and had hip surgery this offseason, he vowed to be ready for training camp. Lang is a huge upgrade over Warford. Nothing against Warford, but Lang was one of, if not the, best offensive linemen for the Packers these past few years. Last season, Lang didn’t give up a sack, but even more impressive is the fact that nobody he was in charge of blocking ever once hit Aaron Rodgers last season, which is ridiculous.
The Lions didn’t bring in a giant haul of free agent signings, but they signed the right guys for an even better price. They still have some needs on both sides of the ball, mainly running back and linebacker. But free agency isn’t over yet; those signings still might be coming. General Manager Bob Quinn has this team headed in the right direction, and with the draft coming up, look for the Lions to improve even more. This team has all the potential in the world to be one of the best next season, and it will be exciting to see if they live up to those expectations.