Shoring up O-line and pass rush among the needs Detroit Lions must still address

The Lions need to give Ezekiel Ansah some help in the pass rush. Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

As the first week of free agency comes to a close, the Detroit Lions continue to shape and remake their roster -- particularly on defense -- for first-year head coach Matt Patricia and third-year GM Bob Quinn.

But what’s changed? Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Lions, their roster moves and what it could mean for the next few months and the season ahead.

* Denotes player added in free agency. ** Denotes player who was re-signed, tagged or tendered.


Current roster: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock**, Alek Torgersen

Who departed: None

What it means: This is a pretty steady group. Rudock, as expected, was given an exclusive rights tender. The question for Detroit -- and a draft pick could come into play here -- is in 2019 because Rudock will be a restricted free agent.

Running back

Current roster: Ameer Abdullah, LeGarrette Blount*, Tion Green, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner**

Who departed: Mike James (unsigned)

What it means: Not much yet. The only back who seems guaranteed of a roster spot is Blount (and, likely, Riddick). The rest will likely be competing with a drafted rookie and perhaps an undrafted rookie or two for two or three spots. It’s a group sure to change in 2018 after the Lions’ league-worst showing in 2017. How much it changes depends on the draft.

Wide receiver

Current roster: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones**, Jace Billingsley, Dontez Ford, Andy Jones, Bradley Marquez

Who departed: None

What it means: If a team tries to give TJ Jones an offer sheet it could leave the Lions with a difficult decision to make deep into free agency. The wild card could be Ford, who showed promise as a practice squad receiver and could push for a roster spot. Don’t be surprised if Detroit brings in some more receivers, but the top group here seems pretty set. Tate’s long-term future (he’s a free agent next year) is worth monitoring.

Tight end

Current roster: Michael Roberts, Hakeem Valles, Brandon Barnes

Who departed: Eric Ebron (Indianapolis); Darren Fells (Cleveland)

What it means: This is the thinnest position on Detroit’s roster after the surprise release of Ebron. The Lions are light on experience and talent and would seem likely to add tight ends in both free agency (Luke Willson, Brent Celek and Logan Paulsen have reportedly all visited) and the draft. Ebron’s release is one of the more puzzling moves of Quinn’s tenure. He created a roster hole where one didn’t exist without an obvious plan to upgrade once Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton signed elsewhere.

Offensive line

Current roster: Taylor Decker (LT), Joe Dahl (LG?), Graham Glasgow (G/C), T.J. Lang (RG), Rick Wagner (RT), Kenny Wiggins*, Corey Robinson, Emmett Cleary, Brian Mihalik, Dan Skipper, Leo Koloamatangi

Who departed: Travis Swanson (unsigned), Zac Kerin (unsigned), Greg Robinson (unsigned), Don Barclay (unsigned)

What it means: Four of the five starters are set with one position open -- either guard or center, depending on where the Lions use Glasgow. Right now, the guard spot seems to be a competition between Dahl and Wiggins, signed from the Chargers. The Lions seem likely to add at least one more interior player to compete with Wiggins and Dahl. A third or fourth tackle could be a need, too, depending on how much Detroit wants to challenge Mihalik, Cleary and Skipper.

Defensive line

Current roster: Ezekiel Ansah**, Cornelius Washington, Anthony Zettel, Kerry Hyder**, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Christian Ringo**, Alex Barrett, Jeremiah Valoaga, Akeem Spence, A’Shawn Robinson, Toby Johnson, Cam Johnson

Who departed: Haloti Ngata (Philadelphia), Brandon Copeland (New York Jets), Jordan Hill (unsigned), Dwight Freeney (unsigned), Rodney Coe (unsigned)

What it means: Detroit’s largest need entering the offseason still must be addressed. While Ngata was not going to be a long-term solution in the middle, a one-year contract would have given Detroit some time to figure out the interior. The Lions are expected to add a pass-rusher and at least one interior lineman either in the second wave of free agency or the draft. Detroit’s pass rush continues to be an issue. Based on moves thus far, not much has been done to rectify it.


Current roster: Jarrad Davis, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Devon Kennard*, Christian Jones*, Nick Bellore**, Steve Longa, Brandon Chubb

Who departed: Tahir Whitehead (Oakland), Paul Worrilow (unsigned)

What it means: This is the biggest area of change for the Lions as both Kennard and Jones are expected to have good-sized roles in 2018. Kennard is a versatile player who can play standing up or as a defensive end if necessary and gives at least an idea that the Lions are going to be flexible defensively. Figure a linebacker or two get added between the back end of free agency, the draft and undrafted free agency. The top four seem locked in with Davis, Kennard, Jones and Reeves-Maybin. Bellore and Longa both had roles last year but are primarily special-teams players. Longa has potential and Bellore has experience as backups. However, it is not a statistically imposing unit.


Current roster: Darius Slay, DeShawn Shead*, Nevin Lawson**, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Adairius Barnes, Des Lawrence

Who departed: D.J. Hayden (Jacksonville)

What it means: This group once again has pretty good depth with Shead, Lawson and Tabor competing for the starting spot opposite Slay. Quandre Diggs could fit in here, too, depending on how the Lions position him. Detroit will likely add an unrestricted free agent or two, but it seems like this is the group the Lions are going to go with – banking somewhat on improvement from Tabor and Agnew.


Current roster: Glover Quin, Quandre Diggs, Tavon Wilson**, Miles Killebrew, Rolan Milligan, Charles Washington, Stefan McClure

Who departed: Don Carey (Jacksonville).

What it means: Like cornerback, this group seems pretty locked in. The Lions could use a draft pick here with Diggs entering a contract year and Quin at age 32. But it’s a deep group and perhaps the most talented on the roster if Killebrew and Washington continue improving. It could be a fight for one roster spot between the two of them -- especially if the Lions use a draft pick here.

Special teams

Current roster: Matt Prater (K), Sam Martin (P), Don Muhlbach (LS)

Who departed: Kasey Redfern (unsigned)

What it means: There will likely be a camp leg added at some point to take stress off Prater and Martin (and in case of injury) but otherwise, this is Detroit’s group.