As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, we are going to take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. We continue the series with a look at the Lions' offensive tackles.
Under contract: Riley Reiff (2015 + team option for 2016), LaAdrian Waddle (2015), Corey Hilliard (2014)
Free agents: Jason Fox (UFA)
This position was actually a pretty big question mark going into last season. Riley Reiff was in his first year starting at left tackle, and three different players ended up making starts at right tackle, including an undrafted free agent. Despite the overall inexperience and the instability on the right side of the line, the Lions' tackles performed quite well in 2013.
Going into the 2014 season, Reiff is penciled in to once again be the starting left tackle. There was definitely some inconsistency during his first season as a permanent starter, but he should improve with that year of experience under his belt.
At right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle looks like the favorite to start. He took over halfway through last season when injuries piled up, and he played so well that he remained atop the depth chart even when Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox got healthy. Despite being an undrafted free agent, Waddle was outstanding as the starting right tackle, and that starting spot appears to be set as a result.
Fox is set to become a free agent, and considering he's had such a tough time staying healthy over the years, it's unknown if he will be re-signed. For now, Hilliard is set to serve as the top backup at the position since he's the only other tackle under contract. I suppose Hilliard could get into the mix to start at right tackle with a strong training camp, but I'd be surprised if he beats out Waddle and is anything other than a backup if everybody stays healthy.
Need going forward?
Martin Mayhew may have left the door open for the Lions to make an upgrade at tackle, but on paper, there is no need here. Reiff is back as the starting left tackle, and Waddle should move into a full-time starting role at right tackle. Could the Lions draft a tackle if one of the top ones falls to the 10th overall pick? Sure, but the only real need at this position is for an additional backup, and the Lions could simply fill that hole by re-signing Fox. Offensive tackle may have been considered one of the Lions' top needs a year ago, but this position is in excellent shape right now.
Previously: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end