Every week we take some of your questions and answer them in a Detroit Lions mailbag. To ask questions for a future mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, on to this week’s questions.
Tyler, you can never say never, but the signing of Sylvester Williams earlier this week -- for what colleague Cameron Wolfe reported as a one-year, $3.5 million deal, basically all guaranteeed -- seems to mean Johnathan Hankins coming to Detroit is unlikely at best. That's for multiple reasons. First would be the money. Unless Hankins is going to play on a smaller contract than anticipated, Williams getting that deal seems to have been part or all of what would have gone to Hankins. Second, it's not clear where Hankins would play at this point, especially if the Lions expect Williams to be one of the team's top three interior defensive linemen. Detroit already has A'Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence and it would be a surprise to see either one of those players go anywhere. So, just not sure where Hankins would fit. Although I personally think Hankins is a better player than Williams, it remains to be seen what kind of role they would have for each. Both Williams and Hankins would seem to have similar roles as primarily early-down run stoppers.
@mikerothstein Is it believed the Lions have a serious interest in Jonathon Hankins and what's are chances of bringing him in? I think he'd make a great addition to our improving d-line. #LionsMailbag— Tyler Thurmond (@tthurmond04) March 23, 2018
Derek, it's an interesting question. Moves made in March don't always translate to success once the season starts. Teams throughout the history of the free agency are littered with examples of that. That said, all three of Detroit's NFC North foes appeared to get better in the past two weeks. Chicago added a passing offense, essentially, by adding Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel. Green Bay added a Pro Bowl tight end for Aaron Rodgers on offense (Jimmy Graham) and a dynamic defensive player (Muhammad Wilkerson). The Vikings added a franchise quarterback (Kirk Cousins) and another piece to a defense that was considered one of the best in the league entering free agency: Sheldon Richardson. So all three of those teams look a lot better on April 1 than they did on March 1. Meanwhile, the Lions added a bunch of depth pieces, but no obvious difference-makers. So yeah, that should be a concern and it doesn't bode well, especially with a fairly difficult schedule this year. It's way too early to make predictions (at this time last year, who saw the Rams, Eagles and Jaguars being playoff teams? Nope, me neither) but the Lions are going to need a strong, impact-immediate draft next month.
With the Lions only signing mediocre role players so far in free agency along with the rest of the NFC North getting significantly better, are the Lions destined for a 3rd/4th finish in the division? #LionsMailbag— Derek (@stfudude2) March 23, 2018
Dan, I would say most players on the roster could end up traded if the right deal came along, but there needs to be a willing partner (and a desire for the team to move on from the player, at the right cost). I'm not sure about that with Theo Riddick, who has a valuable role in the Lions' offense with a pretty dynamic skill set. Not saying it wouldn't happen, but I would look at the LeGarrette Blount and Zach Zenner signings as reasons for Riddick to be on the trading block because Riddick has a different skill set than those two. But as I said, if the right situation comes along, anyone other than likely Matthew Stafford could always be moved.
With the signing of LeGatrette Blount and resigning Zenner, would a trade up in the draft for Theo Riddick be feasible? #LionsMailbag— Dan Vanisacker (@danvan78) March 23, 2018
Michael, this is going to be a question throughout training camp. I would expect six to seven backs (at least) in camp for Detroit and not all of them will make the roster. So who gets cut? That's going to get sorted out beginning next month, when the Lions report for spring workouts. About the only player who seems completely safe is Blount, but even that could change. Riddick would seem to have a role in the offense as well as a pass-catching specialist who can also line up in the slot and out wide. If I were any of Detroit's running backs, though, I would not feel too comfortable, particularly the four backs not yet mentioned: Ameer Abdullah, Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Tion Green. All have flaws in their games and none stood out last year. It's going to be one of the more intriguing battles of camp. I'm not going to predict who would make the roster at this point because so much can happen -- and the draft hasn't even happened yet.
Lions have 6 running backs on the roster and are widely expected to draft a 7th. So who gets cut? If Abdullah or Riddick are on the chopping block, would it have been better to do that before the league season started? #LionsMailbag— Michael Lewis (@malewie) March 23, 2018
All four are still pretty big needs that will likely be addressed with draft picks. In order, though, I would still say defensive end and defensive tackle are the biggest needs. Despite keeping Ezekiel Ansah, getting Kerry Hyder back and adding Sylvester Williams, the Lions have some major pass-rush issues and a draft pick (or two) could go a long way to fixing that. Also, with a one-year deal, it's not clear whether Williams is a true fix in the middle or just part of a rotation. The Lions still could use a difference-maker at defensive tackle (Vita Vea would be a strong candidate if he's around at No. 20). Considering the Lions' moves at tight end (in Luke Willson, out Eric Ebron), drafting a tight end makes a lot of sense. It's probably not as big of a need as a pass-rusher, but it's still pretty important. Then there's running back, which the Lions are expected to address during the draft, perhaps in the first two rounds. The Lions don't need to pick a running back in Round 1 because of the depth of the class, but players such as Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and Rashaad Penny could be sensible Round 2 selections who could improve Detroit's backfield -- because Blount is not a long-term fix.
#lionsmailbag what are the more pressing need TE DT DE RB and What Round do think lions address them in .— Detroit Lions view (@Ont_DetLionsfan) March 23, 2018