As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, Pride Of Detroit will take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. The series continues with a look at the offensive guard and center positions.
Under contract: Dominic Raiola (through 2013), Rob Sims (through 2014), Bill Nagy (through 2014), Rodney Austin (through 2014)
Free agents: Dylan Gandy (UFA)
The Detroit Lions went into the offseason looking to shake things up a bit at center and right guard. They are happy with starting left guard Rob Sims, but based on what happened last season, it seems like they have targeted center and right guard as areas where improvement is needed.
As part of their desire to get better at these positions, the Lions released Stephen Peterman, who had served as the starting right guard. Starting center Dominic Raiola had to take a pay cut to stay on the team, and it's clear that his time in Detroit is beginning to run out. He bought himself some time by restructuring his deal, but that doesn't mean he's guaranteed to be on the roster next season.
The two main in-house candidates to take over for Peterman are Bill Nagy and Rodney Austin. Both players have some experience at center, although Nagy is probably more likely to actually take a shot at the starting center job than Austin. The Lions got Nagy off waivers last year from the Dallas Cowboys (he started four games for them in 2011), and he spent all of 2012 on injured reserve. Austin was on the practice squad as a rookie last season, so there isn't much playing experience between them. Riley Reiff is another name to keep in mind, as he could potentially slide inside to guard if the Lions remain set at offensive tackle.
The lone free agent between offensive guard and center is Dylan Gandy, who has been the main backup at both positions since 2009. Gandy's ability to play offensive guard and center has not only kept him on the roster, but it has kept him active on game day as well.
Need going forward?
In free agency and/or the draft, the Lions need to bolster their depth at both center and guard. While they may be high on the abilities of Nagy and Austin, I'd like to see them add someone else into the mix to compete for the starting job at right guard and to push Raiola at center. Even if Nagy proves he can stay healthy and Austin proves he is a starting-caliber player, the Lions will need some additional depth inside.