Now that we’re in full offseason mode, we’re going to review every single Detroit Lions player that finished the 2016 season under contract. We’ll look at their expectations coming into the season, whether they met those expectations and what to expect of them going forward. We will begin with the upcoming free agents, as they are the most intriguing and time sensitive.
Expectations before 2016
In the aftermath of the 2016 NFL Draft, one of the most surprising selections general manager Bob Quinn made was drafting Jimmy Landes, a long snapper from Baylor in the sixth round. It was unexpected for a few reasons, but what was most surprising about the move was the fact Don Muhlbach, the one of only two players remaining from the infamous 2008 season, was still on the roster with a contract through the 2016 season.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 16 games
Needless to say, with Quinn drafting a long snapper, it seemed as though Muhlbach was living on borrowed time as a Detroit Lion. He outperformed Landes during training camp however, and that continued into the preseason. His snaps had more velocity, hit the mark with more regularity and the Lions kicking team seemed to have a comfortability with Muhlbach as the unit’s snapper.
When Landes was placed on IR after the Lions third preseason game, it became clear the job belonged to Muhlbach as he entered his 12th season with Detroit.
Sam Martin was one of the best punters in the NFL, averaging the fourth-most yards per punt (48.5) this season and it was Muhlbach snapping him the ball. There was this kick, this kick and this kick where the Lions needed late-game heroics from Matt Prater to keep hope afloat, and once again, it was Muhlbach firing it back to the holder Sam Martin.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
As the team turns its focus towards the 2017 offseason, Muhlbach’s role with the team seems less than certain. As previously mentioned, the Lions placed Landes on IR before the 2016 season. Assuming rehab has gone according to plan and his shoulder has healed, it seems like the job will be his in 2017. Muhlbach will be 36 years old when the 2017 season starts, so Father Time is knocking on the door, but it’s hard to say his career hasn’t been successful.