Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Detroit Lions - May 18th 2016 - Offensive Line
The post draft offensive line situation.
As of today the Detroit Lions have 15 players on their roster that play on the offensive line. Teams in the NFL tend to keep the 5 starters and then 5 backups for a total of 10 players (well some teams do, definitely not all teams). The Lions tend to keep 9, with one player who can back up two positions. Sometimes they get lucky and have more then one player who can backup more then one position. Either way, they usually keep 9 players, so let's see what the options are as of today.
There are currently 3 players on the team who can play center (that I now of, I haven't heard of any guards practicing at center so far this year). They are last year's starter Travis Swanson the 3rd round pick in the 2014 draft but who was ranked as the worst center in the NFL last year (if I recall correctly). There is this year's 3rd round draft pick Graham Glasgow and then there is Gabe Ikard who the Lions signed last year as a free agent player but is the same age as Swanson. These guys could play guard in an emergency, but I suspect the Lions will keep two of them. As the 3rd round draft pick this year the lock is Graham Glasgow. He may even win the starting center job, after all, you can't complain about how bad the OL was last year, draft a number of players that play OL, then not actually play them. With Glasgow the lock, that leaves the two 25 year olds Swanson and Ikard fighting it out for the other roster spot at center. Most assume that Swanson is a lock here, I do not believe that is the case. Oh sure, he's got more starting experience then Ikard, but his progress in developing into a quality starting center in the NFL was no where to be found this past year. For now, I'm giving Swanson the edge in making the final roster over Ikard, but I'm not going to call it a lock, not by any stretch of the imagination.
The Lions have 7 players on the roster who can play guard. Some will be better at left, some at right, and 4 of these 7 could play tackle as well, one or more might even be at tackle instead of guard by the end of August. Last year's starter and 1st round pick in 2015 Laken Tomlinson is purely a guard, he did develop a little as the year progressed last year, just what his ceiling is I do not know, but his entire contract is guaranteed so he will make the final roster (unless he was to get traded, which I doubt). Larry Warford, last year's starting right guard, is still on the team, but he will be facing competition for that job this year, and facing competition for a spot on the roster as well. If he can stay healthy he stands a chance of making the team, but he doesn't seem to stay healthy so this year needs to be his first year he does (stay healthy). One such competitor for his spot (and starting job) is the free agent pick up Geoff Schwartz. Unlike Warford, Schwartz can play guard or tackle, making him more valuable. Schwartz was only paid an $80,000 signing bonus but he has $120,000 of his salary guaranteed. Now $200,000 in guarantees doesn't make a player a lock to make the team, but Quinn obviously really wanted him on the roster, so it's going to take some significant play by others to knock him off of it.
Another player with some momentum to make the roster is this year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl. His signing bonus was $245,916... but Mr Dahl is being tried out at tackle and guard right from the get go, and he's more athletic then all the starters from last year at either position, so he is actually talented enough to play either. He's not a lock, but like Schwartz, it's going to take some effort by others to knock him off the team. Edit: I forgot to include this info on Dahl, the 30 year ex-scout who I referred to before on other players has Dahl ranked ahead of Lee and the others, in fact, he gave him an A grade (player you draft in the first two rounds) and a 6.60 score which is "A very good college player who should develop into a solid and consistent NFL player after a period of adjustment. Will eventually start and help a championship team win on a consistent basis. A late first or top half of second round player. You win BECAUSE of this type of player."
That's four. But, like I said, Dahl is being tried at tackle, he might be one of the four guards, and Warford is not a lock to make the final roster, or even to stay healthy, so there are some more players fighting for the one or two spots remaining. They are the undrafted guard Chase Farris who was paid $10,000 to sign an undrafted contract with the Lions; then there is Andrew Zeller also undrafted who can play guard or tackle and is also, like Dahl, extremely talented and physical. The last member of this group is another undrafted, in fact he was signed after the rookie OTAs where he was invited as a try out player and then signed, and he also players tackle or guard. His name is Darius Johnson. Which spot they settle on for him is not yet known.
Another lock to make the final roster is tackle Riley Reiff (again, unless he is traded). Reiff had his 5th year contract option picked up last year, which makes it guaranteed. When you guarantee a player's salary and that salary is $8.07 million then that player is a lock to make the roster. Now he may not end up as the left tackle, maybe not even the starter, but he'll make the final 53. I did not mark him down as a possible guard because even though pundits say he should be moved inside he hasn't actually played inside so it's unknown if he even could. It's also unknown if he could play right tackle in the NFL. I anticipate that perhaps, with the large influx of new talent on the OL, that Reiff might get moved around some early on to see exactly where he might be best at in Cooter's offensive scheme.
Yet another lock is this year's 1st round draft pick Taylor Decker. His entire 4 year contract is guaranteed, so he's a lock to make the team (again, unless traded) for the next 4 years. Whether he ends up at left tackle or right tackle remains to be seen, though I heard they are trying him at left tackle first (no idea how truthful that is).
The last set of players fighting for a roster spot are some of last year's roster; they are Michael Ola, Corey Robinson, and Cornelius Lucas. None of these guys have a salary cap reason for making the team. None of these guys were signed by Quinn. So all 3 of these guys would need to win a roster spot via their talent only. As none of them is known to play guard, their versatility is limited to playing right or left tackle. With Ola's starting experience last year he is probably a step ahead of the other two, but it's not a giant step... nothing that couldn't be overcome anyway. If you're still with me you are probably trying to remember how many locks there and who is fighting for what... and I plan to summarize that in just a bit. I just want to clarify, there are definitely locks to make the roster, there are no locks to be the starter. That includes every single one of the starters from the OL in 2015. And I do mean every single one. When your OL was as bad as the Lions' was last year, you can not even start to think you have it made. The fans shouldn't think that way, and the players had better not think that way.
Center Lock: Graham Glasgow. Swanson as the backup (or starter) with Ikard hard on his tale to take his spot away from him if he's not the starter.
Guard Lock: Laken Tomlinson. His entire remaining contract is guaranteed. Unless he's traded he makes the final roster.
Tackle Lock: Riley Reiff AND Taylor Decker. Both contracts fully guaranteed for this year (and 3 more years to follow in Decker's case).
That's 4 locks and 1 backup center that's between two players, so 5 spots locked in out of 9. These next guys are highly likely to make the final roster, not exactly a lock, but the next best thing to it.
Likely to claim a roster spot: G/T Geoff Schwartz AND G/T Joe Dahl. One a free agent signed by Quinn and the other a 5th round draft pick selected by Quinn.
That leaves us with 2 roster spots left for these 7 guys to fight over.
G Larry Warford
G Chase Farris
G/T Andrew Zeller
T/G Darius Johnson
T Cornelius Lucas
T Michael Ola
T Corey Robinson
As you can see, some serious talent may not make the final roster. In fact, it's possible that two of last year's starters may not even make the team. It's also possible that two more of last year's starters will be backup's and not starters this year. Fans and pundits alike were after the Lions to fix the OL, and this is how they are going to try doing just that. After writing this blog entry today I'm actually going to have to change my estimated depth chart, as it doesn't match the locks and the guys likely to make it. So I'm changing my estimated depth chart to this:
LT: Riley Reiff and Joe Dahl.
LG: Laken Tomlinson (also backed up by Joe Dahl).
C: Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson (or it could be Ikard).
RG: Geoff Schwartz and Andrew Zeller.
RT: Taylor Decker and Darius Johnson. (edit: Ola may make the roster over Johnson if he doesn't show enough).
Chase Farris is going to be challenging both Zeller and Johnson for a roster spot, and the loser makes the practice squad. Since I don't know for sure who ends up at guard and who ends up at tackle the mix could be re-scrambled at a later time once word leaks out who is settling in where. For the time being though, this is how I see it going. Of course, the other 6 guys aren't going to just lay down either, and then there's the possibility of Quinn finding a trade partner, heck there is even a chance more free agents will be signed to get into the mix. A lot of variables in play, I only know a shake up is going to happen, and we all know, somewhere deep inside, a shakeup needs to happen, as far as the offensive line is concerned.
Posted by NetRat's Lions Blog at 9:00 PM