We're over a week into free agency and the Detroit Lions still only have two defensive ends under contract: Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor. This seems particularly absurd considering that includes players signed to futures contracts and any awaiting exclusive rights free agents. Taylor and Ansah provide a fairly competent pair of starters, but every team runs with at least some sort of rotation at the defensive end position. The Lions don't just need depth at the position, they need players expected to contribute.
But the free agency field is completely bare. According to NFL.com's top 99 free agents of 2016, the only defensive end left from the field is Greg Hardy (NOPE). So what should the Lions do? What CAN they do? Here are few remaining options.
Priority #1 - Re-sign Jason Jones
At this point, this seems like a no-brainer. Jones has started 31 of the Lions' last 32 regular season games. He has racked up 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles over that time period. Those numbers may not be outstanding, but Jones provides easy depth, familiarity and reliability. The Lions need to make re-signing him the biggest remaining priority of free agency. Jones has already visited with the Dolphins, so the Lions need to get moving fast.
After signing Jones, the Lions will still need to add more depth. They could re-sign Darryl Tapp (26 tackles, 2.0 sacks in 2015) and/or Corey Wootton (16 tackles, 1.0 sacks) as depth. Or they could go outside of the box and sign a player from another team. A few options are Jack Crawford from the Cowboys, Ricardo Mathews of the Chargers and George Selvie from the Giants.
Priority #2 - Draft a defensive end
Again, this is not a suggestion, this is a must. While Taylor and Ansah are two young, blossoming ends, the Lions still need more youth, and more importantly, more bodies at the position. The Lions could choose to pick a defensive end early in the draft, like DeForest Buckner or Emmanuel Ogbah. But the Lions may be best served getting a Day 2 or 3 rotational option, like Penn State's Carl Nassib or Matt Judon out of Grand Valley State (whom the Lions have shown interest in already).
Priority #3 - Swing a trade
The New England Patriots, after a quiet first week in free agency, made a couple of huge splashes by trading away Chandler Jones then later acquiring Martellus Bennett. Just because the field of free agents is woefully thin doesn't mean the Lions can't upgrade their defensive line still.
The more and more I consider why the Lions still have Stephen Tulloch on the roster, the more it becomes clear to me that the only logical reason is as tradebait. Lions fans like to bag on Tulloch for his coverage skills, and rightfully so. But this is still a player who excels at run stuffing and led the Lions with 107 tackles in 2015. That has value in today's NFL. Tulloch's contract remains the biggest hurdle in trading him, but if they can find a team desperate enough (maybe Jim Schwartz wants him back in Philadelphia), the Lions may be able to find themselves a contributor on the defensive line.