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 an updated look at the Lions' offensive guards and centers.
Under contract: Rob Sims (2014), Dominic Raiola (2014), Larry Warford (2016), Rodney Austin (2015), Darren Keyton (2015)
Free agents: Dylan Gandy (UFA)
The Lions' decision to release Leroy Harris on Monday didn't come as a shock to anybody considering the move saved them nearly $2 million in cap space. It did slightly alter the outlook for the interior of their offensive line, though, so let's take a second look at the Lions' offensive guards and centers.
When it comes to the starters, what was said in our original post on the guards and centers is still true. Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola and Larry Warford are back and form a pretty strong group. Raiola and Warford are coming off outstanding seasons, and although Sims had a bit of a down year, he was considered the Lions' top offensive lineman in 2012. If he bounces back and Raiola and Warford maintain their level of play, the Lions should have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL in 2014.
From a depth standpoint, the Lions are not in very good shape. Rodney Austin is currently the top backup after spending a couple seasons on the practice squad, and the only other player under contract is Darren Keyton, who signed a futures deal with the Lions this offseason. Dylan Gandy isn't expected to be re-signed, so there aren't any veteran backups in the mix right now for the interior of the O-line.
Need going forward?
With Harris being released, the Lions need to find a new backup center. Austin has the ability to play center, but the belief is that he's better suited for guard. As a result, perhaps the Lions will spend a draft pick on a center who could be groomed to take over for Raiola in a year or two, or perhaps they will simply add somebody via free agency. It remains to be seen how they will bring in more depth, but I can't imagine they will stand pat with only Austin and Keyton as their backups.