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Detroit Lions nearly added Patriots DE Chris Long in 2016

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The Lions almost had the defensive end help they desperately needed last offseason.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Opening Night Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest criticisms of Bob Quinn’s first year as the Detroit Lions general manager was his neglect of the team’s obvious need for a defensive end. As it turns out, Quinn did try to fill the position in free agency. Patriots defensive end Chris Long told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that the Lions pursued him last offseason.

“Coach [Jim] Caldwell was awesome throughout that whole free agency process,” Long told the Free Press. However, he decided to go with the Patriots, believing that to be the superior opportunity for him.

Long would have made a welcome addition in Detroit. The Lions entered the 2016 NFL Draft with just three defensive ends under contract: Ezekiel Ansah, Devin Taylor and Wallace Gilberry. They would only end up adding Anthony Zettel in the sixth round of that draft. After Ansah suffered an ankle injury early in the season and Taylor failed to shine, the Lions relied heavily upon Kerry Hyder, who wasn’t even expected to make the team.

To be fair, there were some questions surrounding Long coming into last season. His last two years with the then-St. Louis Rams were plagued with injuries and he only had 4.0 sacks in 18 game appearances.

With the Patriots, Long saw a small resurgence in his career, but he wasn’t exactly phenomenal. He played in all 16 regular season games with seven starts, 35 tackles and 4.0 sacks.

He likely would have had a larger role with the Lions in 2016, but he clearly made the right decision last offseason. On Sunday, he will be playing in the first Super Bowl of his career in the hopes that he can bring home a ring.

Long is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent again in 2017.