It's been no secret that Pro Football Focus is quite high on what defensive end Israel Idonije did last season with the Chicago Bears. PFF ranked him as the sixth-best edge defender to hit free agency this year after he got a +17.8 grade for his play in 2012. Thanks to his "improved run defense" and "ability to rush the passer from inside and out," PFF saw Idonije as a good value signing wherever he ended up.
On Tuesday, Idonije finally found a new team when he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions. On Wednesday, PFF's Neil Hornsby discussed the move, and it's safe to say that he is a big fan of the signing considering he called it a "slam dunk win" for the Lions.
Why does Hornsby think so highly of this addition for the Lions? Quite simply, he views Idonije as an upgrade over the Lions' current options at left defensive end. He thinks Jason Jones is a better fit as an inside pass rusher in certain situations, and Idonije's production as of late, outside of a bit of a rough stretch, speaks for itself.
On the balance of five years of tape review Idonije is a far better option. He’s not without risk as a player, having his most productive season in a contract year always raises a few flags, but his overall body of work since 2008 has been impressive. He played very poorly in one patch across that period, from Week 14 in 2010 through Week 12 of 2011, however the nature of the performance during that time is so marked and out of character, it does appear very much as an extended "blip". In that period his overall grade was an abysmal -31.9, but outside that his +49.0 rating would mark him as one of the most underrated players in the league.
Hornsby thinks the Lions may now have a defensive line that could "top" the one from a few years ago that was mentioned as one of the best in the NFL. It obviously remains to be seen if this year's D-line will truly emerge as one of the best in the NFL, but at the very least the pieces are in place for it to be much better than it was last year.