Earlier in the week, the Detroit Lions were linked to free agent running back LeGarrtte Blount, being one of two teams interested in the big back. Though there hasn’t been any movement on that front, the Lions are reportedly widening their scope, inviting former Vikings running back Matt Asiata for a workout, as first reported by USA Today’s Tom Pelissero:
Former #Vikings running back/fantasy football TD vulture Matt Asiata has a workout scheduled with the #Lions, source said.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 2, 2017
But here’s where the story gets a little weird. Asiata isn’t just coming to Detroit for a workout, he’s apparently going to be trying out as part of rookie minicamp:
To add to this, Asiata is scheduled to take part in the Lions' rookie mini-camp, per source. Veterans do take part in these on occasion. https://t.co/xaEOnEqwPC— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 2, 2017
There’s a little known rule that veteran free agents can try out with teams during rookie minicamp, even if they aren’t rookie and remain unsigned. In fact, years ago, while there was a limit on how many players could participate in these rookie minicamps, there was no limit on the percentage of veterans eligible to tryout. The NFLPA was not a fan of this and finally put a cap on that number in 2014, when they filed a grievance against 14 teams. Interestingly, the Lions weren’t among those 14 teams... but the New England Patriots were. This is likely a process Bob Quinn is quite familiar with, even though it seems like a foreign concept in Detroit.
As for Asiata himself, he would bring a power back skillset similar to Blount’s, but without all of the impressive statistics over the past few years. Asiata did manage six touchdowns last season, but he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, and has never rushed for over 4.0 YPC in a single season.
It’s unclear if the Lions are looking for a real contributor to challenge Zach Zenner for the power back role in this defense or if they’re simply trying to add some low-level competition, like they did with Stevan Ridley last year. Either way, it’s becoming clear the Lions aren’t satisfied with the backend of their current running back corps, especially after choosing not to use one of their nine draft picks on one.