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Top 5 offensive needs for the Lions heading into 2017 free agency

A look at the Lions roster as it currently stands and their top five needs on offense.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

We’re exactly one month away from the start of the negotiating period for free agency. For the Detroit Lions, it could be a very active free agency period. Not only does the team have 20 players set to become unrestricted free agents, but they also have a ton of holes on the roster, and a good amount of cap space to work with.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the Lions offense as it currently stands with players under contract. Players who are exclusive-rights free agents are included because they are almost certainly going to be back.

QB: Matthew Stafford | Jake Rudock
RB: Ameer Abdullah | Theo Riddick | Zach Zenner | Dwayne Washington | Mike James
WR: Golden Tate | Jace Billingsley | TJ Jones (ERFA)
WR: Marvin Jones Jr. | Ryan Spadola | Jared Abbrederis | Andrew Turzilli
TE: Eric Ebron | Cole Wick | Kennard Backman | Khari Lee
OT: Taylor Decker | Corey Robinson
G: Laken Tomlinson | Joe Dahl | Matt Rotherham | Brandon Thomas
C: Travis Swanson | Graham Glasgow

Key free agents:

  • WR Anquan Boldin
  • TE Tim Wright
  • OT Riley Reiff
  • OT Cornelius Lucas (restricted free agent)
  • G Larry Warford

Five biggest needs (in order of priority):

Right tackle - With Reiff’s future still up in the air, the Lions only have two tackles currently signed to the roster—although Joe Dahl could technically slide over, if necessary. Cornelius Lucas can—and probably will—be brought back in a backup role, but the Lions need to figure out who they want starting on the right side. Reiff may be the Lions’ biggest free agency priority.

Tight end - Eric Ebron will be your clear leader out of the gate, but the Lions have nothing behind him which is why Tim Wright is listed as a key free agent. Cole Wick, Kennard Backman and Khari Lee have a combined three catches between themselves.

Guard - Though the Lions are pretty thin at guard, Detroit could have both of their starting guards under contract now if they decide to keep Graham Glasgow at left guard and slide Laken Tomlinson back to his natural position to the right. However, Tomlinson’s play has not been up-to-snuff lately, and that would leave them very thin if Glasgow, Tomlinson or Travis Swanson were ever injured.

Wide receiver 3 - While the Lions are talking up Jace Billingsley right now, he’s not ready to make the kind of jump to make up for the loss of Anquan Boldin, should he retire or choose to go to another team. While it may not seem like WR3 is an important position, consider that Boldin played in 80 percent of snaps in 2016. If the Lions don’t retain Boldin, they’ll have some serious production to replace.

Running back - This is one of the more hotly contested needs for the Lions. Some think Detroit needs to go aggressively for a potential workhorse back while others think the Lions are set with their duo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. The two were productive in the first two games of the 2016 season, but when Riddick had to shoulder the load, he was ineffective as a runner. The other issue is deciding whether a guy like Zach Zenner can be Detroit’s bruising short-yardage back, or if the Lions need to pursue someone else. Considering all of Detroit’s other needs, I don’t consider this a “must-address” position this offseason.

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