Most of the Detroit Lions' attention has seemingly been on the defensive tackle position since free agency got rolling, but let's not forget about another top need: offensive guard. The Lions are in a situation where starting left guard Rob Sims is now a free agent, and there has been no solid indication that they plan on re-signing him. As a result, they are exploring their alternatives, and one of their other options is apparently Justin Blalock.
G Justin Blalock does plan to visit Rams, but Detroit also in mix
— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 11, 2015
A former second-round pick, Blalock has been with the Atlanta Falcons for his entire NFL career so far (2007-14). On top of that, he's been a starter for the Falcons throughout that entire span. Aside from two games in his rookie season and one game last year, Blalock has always been in the starting lineup going back to 2007.
On Pro Football Focus, Blalock received a +3.8 grade for his work at left guard in 2014. This put him 25th among all guards. By comparison, Sims was 40th with a -1.0 grade during the regular season, although it needs to be noted that over the final six weeks of 2014, Sims was actually the eighth-best guard in the entire NFL (+8.6). Over that same span, Blalock was 41st (-0.1).
At this point, it's unclear if the Lions are actually a legitimate threat to sign Blalock or if they're just readying a backup plan in case Sims doesn't re-sign. (Per Josh Katzenstein, "numerous teams" have expressed interest in Sims.) In any case, Dave Birkett reports that this is the Lions' plan at left guard:
Whatever vet the Lions sign at LG - Blalock, Sims, whoever - it'll be a short-term deal (1-2 years) & he'll groom a rookie like Dom last yr
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) March 11, 2015
In other words, the Lions are likely going to draft an interior offensive lineman for the third year in a row. When they added Larry Warford, he stepped in as a starter at right guard as a rookie, but Travis Swanson waited for a year behind Dominic Raiola at center. This year, I suppose the Lions could go either route, but clearly they want a veteran of some sort at left guard so they aren't forced to go with an unproven player.