After the 2013 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew made it known that the team still had some needs to fill. Specifically, the Lions were still in need of a veteran offensive lineman. With depth especially thin at offensive tackle, Mayhew said that the team was planning to take a look at some free agents on the O-line in the coming weeks.
Justice, a former second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been in the NFL since 2006. He was with the Eagles through the 2011 season, and he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last year. He became a free agent this offseason after starting 12 games for the Colts. Previously, he made 31 career starts in six seasons in Philadelphia.
Before free agency began, Pro Football Focus ranked Justice 10th on its list of the top available offensive tackles. For context, Gosder Cherilus was ranked fifth on the list. Justice received a -0.5 grade for 2012, and PFF had this to say about him:
Having started the season like a house on fire (+8.2 after Week 6) Justice’s season tailed off as the year went on and he ended the season playing at a level similar to the rest of the Colts’ line, which was not very good. That said, what he did avoid in Indianapolis this season were the absolutely disastrous single-game performances that blighted his time in Philadelphia and sapped the confidence in him, coloring the opinion of fans and media on his talent.
You have to understand the limitations you’re getting with Justice, and no one will be signing him as an unrivaled starter this offseason, but his performance in the first half of the season for the Colts should at least see him get a chance to win a job somewhere.
If the Lions decide to sign Justice, he will be expected to serve as depth more than anything. He could certainly get a chance to start at right tackle if he outperforms Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard, but the Lions simply need someone with starting experience as an insurance policy of sorts right now.