OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18: Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after they came from behind to beat the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
On paper, this is probably the Detroit Lions' best position from top to bottom in terms of the overall amount of talent. Defensive end is close, but with Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams as the starters and Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill as the main backups, the Lions have quite a collection of big-time defensive tackles.
The most noteworthy player at this position is obviously Suh, both for his actions on and off the field. 2011 was a tumultuous year for Suh. Many considered it a disappointment not only because his numbers dropped from his rookie season, but also because of the suspension he received for the Thanksgiving stomp heard 'round the world. The Lions have said Suh's production was just as good in 2011 as it was in 2010, even though the numbers didn't reflect that notion.
The other two defensive tackles currently under contract for 2012 are Williams and Fairley. Williams has been talked about as a potential cap casualty, but the Lions don't appear to have any plans to release him. He should be back as a starter next to Suh. As for Fairley, the biggest thing for him this year is to stay healthy. Foot problems ravaged his rookie season from training camp to the very end of the year. We got to see a flash of his potential in the Lions' regular-season game against the New Orleans Saints, when he was blowing up plays left and right. Unfortunately, he quickly reaggravated his foot injury, but if can stay healthy and play like that, all I can say is good luck to opposing offensive lines next season.
The two free agents at this position for the Lions are Hill and Andre Fluellen. Hill was tendered at the original-round level yesterday since he is a restricted free agent. This means that another team could sign him and the Lions would get a fourth-round pick if they declined to match the offer. The hope is he will be back, but it's a bit of a risk to only give him the original-round tender. Whether or not Fluellen is back could depend on what happens with Hill. There has been no indication about the Lions' plans for Fluellen, whose versatility is a big plus.
Need going forward?
If the Lions lose Hill, there will be a spot open at defensive tackle. Whether the Lions would simply re-sign Fluellen to fill it is unclear. It's possible both players could be re-signed, in which case the only real need would be for a camp body or two, which the Lions could find by looking to the pool of undrafted free agents