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 tackle position.
Under contract: Ndamukong Suh (through 2015, which is voidable year), Nick Fairley (through 2014 + club option for 2015), Ogemdi Nwagbuo (through 2013), Jimmy Saddler-McQueen (through 2014)
Free agents: Corey Williams (UFA), Sammie Hill (UFA), Andre Fluellen (UFA)
The Detroit Lions have really done a nice job of building depth at defensive tackle the last few years. They acquired Corey Williams via a trade in 2010, and they drafted Ndamukong Suh that same year. Nick Fairley was drafted in 2011, giving the Lions a solid top four when you add in Sammie Hill, who was drafted in 2009.
Suh and Fairley will be the starters at defensive tackle for the Lions in 2013. That much we know. Suh returned to a Pro Bowl level in 2012, and Fairley really had a breakout season. The Lions are set when it comes to starters at this position.
The main question right now is what the rest of the depth chart will look like at defensive tackle in 2013 for the Lions. Williams is set to become a free agent, and it's unknown if he will be back. He still played at a high level in 2012, but injuries were an issue. Hill, who is also set to become a free agent, could elect to sign with a team that offers more of a chance to crack the starting lineup.
The other three defensive tackles who finished last season on the roster are Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Andre Fluellen. All three players were signed because injuries piled up at defensive tackle toward the end of the season. Nwagbuo and Saddler-McQueen are still under contract and figure to be in the mix to make the 53-man roster. The same will go for Fluellen if he is brought back.
Need going forward?
If the Lions are able to re-sign both Williams and Hill, there won't be any need at defensive tackle. If one or both departs, then the Lions will have to find some depth via free agency or the draft. This position is in great shape at the top of the depth chart, but it's important to have quality backups as well in case of injuries, as the Lions found out last year.