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Where the Lions roster stands: Tahir Whitehead is the key to Lions’ future at linebacker

What will become of Tahir Whitehead in Detroit? 2017 is key.

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In the leadup to the Detroit Lions preseason, we are breaking down the current and future statuses of the roster by position. Today we continue with the Lions’ linebackers.

Previously: Quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive tackles, offensive guards, centers, defensive ends, defensive tackles

(The final year of each player’s contract is listed in parentheses.)

Starters: Tahir Whitehead (2017), Jarrad Davis (2020/2021*)

Backups: Paul Worrilow (2017), Antwione Williams (2019)

On the bubble: Jalen Reeves-Maybin (2020), Steve Longa (2018)

Long shots: Thurston Armbrister (2017), Nick Bellore (2017)

*Lions have a fifth-year option with Jarrad Davis


The situation at linebacker is actually fairly clear for the Detroit Lions in 2017. Though the outlook was scary after Detroit parted ways with DeAndre Levy, when the Lions drafted Jarrad Davis in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, their plan seemed to fall into place.

Paul Worrilow, who projected as a pretty awful starter, now sits comfortably on the roster as a veteran backup with a good locker room presence. Linebackers Antwione Williams and Jalen Reeves-Maybin now have some time to develop their skills while contributing on special teams.

The question with the Lions 2017 linebacker corps isn’t who will contribute, but how many will the Lions decide to keep. If they stick with six linebackers, the outlook seems pretty clear, although that sixth spot is up for grabs between Longa, Armbrister and Bellore.

Need going forward?

The Lions’ need for linebackers beyond 2017 is almost entirely dependent upon Tahir Whitehead. Whitehead is entering the final year of his contract and coming off his worst season with the Lions. There’s optimism that he’ll return to a much more reliable form now that he’s shifting to the weakside position, but he’ll still have to show major improvement to warrant a third contract in Detroit.

If the Lions move on from Whitehead, they could potentially replace him with one of their young in-house options, Williams or Reeves-Maybin, but that may be too early for those third-day draft picks to assume such a large role. The Lions would be wise to add another veteran linebacker should they let Whitehead hit free agency.

If Whitehead impresses in 2017, the Lions could add him to their potentially long list of re-signs next offseason. That would scratch off linebacker as a need for the foreseeable future.


Will this be Tahir Whitehead’s final season in Detroit?

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