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Is outside linebacker really a need for the Lions?

Do the Detroit Lions really need to make an upgrade at outside linebacker this offseason?

David Banks

The Detroit Lions are headed into free agency and the draft this offseason with some obvious holes that need to be filled. They need a No. 2 wide receiver, for example, and they may also be in need of extra help at positions like tight end, defensive end, cornerback and safety depending on who is re-signed and who is released.

Outside linebacker has also been mentioned quite a bit as a position of need for the Lions despite the fact that last year's starters, DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer, are both under contract for 2014. The thinking has been that the Lions could benefit from making a talent upgrade at Palmer's spot, especially if they went out and added somebody with more pass-rushing skills.

As it turns out, the Lions may not have any plans to actively pursue an upgrade at outside linebacker this offseason, at least not from a pass-rush standpoint. As noted by MLive, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said this during his press conference last week when asked about blitzing linebackers:

"Yeah, we're going to probably stay more in a 4-3 in terms of what we have personnel-wise. So, our pressures with our linebackers will be coming from different angles, different things that way instead of a per se ‘rush' linebacker that I'm used to dealing with. I think we have some guys that probably have some ability to rush the passer from off the ball, and we'll look at those things as we get going in our offseason and OTAs."

Now, if someone like Buffalo's Khalil Mack were to fall to the Lions in the 2014 NFL Draft, I'm sure they would have no problem selecting him if he's the top player on their board. Just because they aren't actively seeking a rush linebacker doesn't mean that they will pass on someone who would clearly make them better.

But it doesn't exactly seem like finding someone to start in place of Palmer or even fill in for him situationally is all that high on the Lions' list of priorities. Obviously their plans could change as the new coaching staff gets more comfortable with the roster, but with Levy, Palmer and several backups still under contract, perhaps outside linebacker isn't as big of a need as originally thought.