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Saints Restricted Free Agent Anthony Hargrove Visiting Lions

The Times-Picayune is reporting that Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove is visiting the Lions tonight and tomorrow.  Hargrove is a restricted free agent with a third-round tender, meaning if he signed an offer sheet with the Lions and the Saints declined to match that offer, Detroit would have to send a third-round selection to New Orleans.  It's always possible that a trade involving different compensation could be worked out, but based on Hargrove's tender, the Lions would have to give up a third-rounder to sign him.

Although there is no report of an offer being made just yet, the fact that the Lions are hosting Hargrove for a visit is very interesting to me.  Hargrove is a defensive tackle who can play defensive end as well, and he is coming off of a pretty good season and good year in general.  After being suspended for all of 2008 due to another violation of the league's substance abuse policy, Hargrove cleaned up his life and ended up getting another chance to play in the NFL down in New Orleans.  Hargrove's life is now on the right path and he is greatly respected by his teammates in New Orleans, as evidenced by the fact that they voted him as the recipient of the team's 2009 Ed Block Courage Award.

What exactly this means for the Lions is tough to figure out.  I personally would be surprised if the Lions gave up the 66th overall pick to sign Hargrove.  If that does end up happening, though, what does it mean for the second overall pick of the draft?  If Hargrove was brought in as a defensive end, then it would simply mean that the Lions are really trying to improve their defensive line and could still draft Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.  While that's certainly possible, I just have a hard time believing the Lions would give up a third-round pick for another defensive end when they already signed Kyle Vanden Bosch and gave Jason Hunter the highest tender out of all their restricted free agents.  To me that shows that they are high on Hunter, meaning unless they are really concerned about depth at defensive end, it wouldn't make sense to bring in someone like Hargrove to play outside.

If Hargrove is brought in as a defensive tackle, then you would certainly think that Suh and McCoy are no longer an option for the second overall pick.  Again, it's possible that it could be a situation where the Lions just want to load up on depth at the defensive tackle position, but that doesn't seem very likely.  If anything, a move to sign Hargrove would signal that the Lions either feel really good about being able to trade down or are content with drafting someone like Russell Okung.

Martin Mayhew has certainly thrown a curve ball simply by going to the trouble of hosting Hargrove for a visit, but it's important to realize that nothing has actually happened yet.  I don't know what the strategy is behind possibly signing Hargrove and having to give up a third-round pick, but if Mayhew has shown us anything in the past, it's that he always seems to be planning ahead and has something up his sleeve.  Perhaps a move to sign Hargrove is just the start of something bigger, such as a trade to move down from the second overall pick.

(Interesting side note via John Niyo: Hargrove's agent is Philip Williams, who is also Will Heller's agent and was Mayhew's agent when he was a player.)