DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11: Stephen Tulloch #55 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a first quarter touchdown with teammates DeAndre Levy #54 and Corey Williams #99 while playing the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 11, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
One of the Detroit Lions' top priorities this offseason was re-signing Stephen Tulloch. He joined the Lions on a one-year deal a year ago, and he played quite well in 2011. The Lions didn't want him to leave, but they allowed him to test free agency. The gamble paid off, as the Lions were able to ultimately re-sign Tulloch to a five-year deal worth $25.5 million.
The Lions also have their other two starters at linebacker from last season coming back. DeAndre Levy was a restricted free agent and re-signed, and Durant has one year left on his contract. The hope is that after spending a season together, the Lions' linebacker unit will improve in 2012 and become a strength for the defense.
With the same three starters back, the big focus at linebacker is on the backups. Ashlee Palmer and Doug Hogue appear to be entrenched as backups at this position, and Hogue especially has a lot of promise surrounding him heading into his second season in the league. There is also a lot of promise surrounding Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead, who were both drafted by the Lions this year. The early reports on them have been extremely positive, and some believe one or both of them could work their way into the rotation at linebacker in their rookie season.
The other linebackers currently on the roster are Slade Norris, Ronnie Sneed and Carmen Messina. Norris is back after spending part of last season on the practice squad, whereas Sneed and Messina joined the team earlier this offseason as undrafted free agents. Space on the 53-man roster is pretty limited, so in all likelihood none of these three players will be able to make it through the final round of cuts without being released.
Need going forward?
With the starters in place and the Lions appearing to have four capable backups on the roster, there is really no big need at this position assuming everybody stays healthy. There could be a change made at the bottom of the depth chart at linebacker, but anything beyond that would be surprising.