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 defensive end position.
Under contract: Ronnell Lewis (through 2015)
Free agents: Cliff Avril (UFA), Lawrence Jackson (UFA), Willie Young (RFA)
To say the Detroit Lions need to rebuild the defensive end position would be an understatement. After releasing Kyle Vanden Bosch, only one defensive end is even under contract for 2013 right now. Three are set to become free agents.
The most notable free-agent defensive end is Cliff Avril. After playing on the franchise tag in 2012, Avril is going to get to test free agency this year. He is hoping to land a big contract, but chances are he won't get one from the Lions. That's why the expectation is for him to sign elsewhere.
Lawrence Jackson will be the top priority for the Lions at defensive end if Avril does indeed sign with another team. Jackson didn't put up big numbers in 2012, but if he re-signs with the Lions, he will be a favorite to become a starter.
Another free-agent defensive end for the Lions is Willie Young. He's a restricted free agent, so the Lions will likely tender him an offer and re-sign him. He had a disappointing 2012 season, but hopes are still high for Young.
Ronnell Lewis, the lone defensive end under contract right now for next season, needs to make a big jump in the offseason after playing only one snap on defense last year. He actually only appeared in eight games, as his play on special teams wasn't enough to keep him active on a regular basis.
Need going forward?
If the Lions somehow are able to bring back Avril, they will only have to find one other starter at defensive end, and Jackson could really fill that role. Avril isn't likely going to be back, though. As a result, the Lions are probably going to be looking at a situation where they re-sign Jackson and Young. This would leave them looking for one starting-caliber defensive end. Even if they sign one in free agency, look for the Lions to use a draft pick on a defensive end to improve their depth at the position.