The Detroit Lions eventually will need to find a replacement for right guard T.J. Lang. The question remains, though, how fast that will have to happen.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said at the NFL combine on Wednesday that the franchise is still working through evaluating players -- including the former Pro Bowler, who missed half of last season with a neck injury and never appeared fully healthy throughout 2018.
“Everyone’s kind of different in terms of the evaluation process on each player. Some players you can have the evaluation done in a couple weeks after the season, some guys linger a little bit longer,” Quinn said. “I would say T.J. is in that category of someone that we’re still kind of going through the process of thinking about what we want to do and kind of talking to T.J. a little bit here and there.
“Those conversations between myself and him we’ll kind of keep private.”
Part of the question with Lang, who is entering the final year of his contract, is his cap number of $11,510,418 this year, along with the $500,000 roster bonus he'll get if he’s on the team the fifth day of the new league year. Lang’s cap hit is the fourth-largest on the team behind Matthew Stafford, Darius Slay and Rick Wagner.
There is the possibility the Lions would ask Lang, 31, to take a pay cut -- something he didn’t rule out the day after the season ended. He said then he wanted to take his time before making the decision about whether he would play in 2019.
Lang said his neck injury wasn’t serious enough to end his career and that he didn’t need surgery on it.
“I think everybody wants to have a chance to go out on their terms, and I’m no different,” Lang said in December. “I’m not going to make a decision one way or the other any time soon. I’ve had a lot of time off the last couple months.
“I’ve been trying to keep myself busy around here and helping out in different ways with the guys.”
His need to make a decision might be approaching, though, as it could alter how Detroit approaches free agency and the draft. The franchise has Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl and Leo Kolomatangi on the roster as potential in-house options if Lang doesn’t return.
But none of them has shown he can handle the position on a day-to-day basis, meaning if Lang is gone for 2019, it becomes a high-level need. Even if he’s back, though, it’s a spot Quinn will have to think about long-term because Lang isn’t under contract for 2020.