Many expect the Detroit Lions to be scouring the defensive end market this weekend, as the team is desperately low on players. Though the final cuts have yet to be made, it’s looking like Detroit will be carrying at least two rookie defensive ends on the roster. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but we’re talking about very low rookie prospects. Seventh-round rookie Pat O’Connor, and undrafted rookies Jeremiah Valoaga and Alex Barrett are all in the mix to make the team.
On Saturday morning, Adam Schefter reported that the New York Giants have released Devin Taylor. Taylor was a fourth-round draft pick for the Lions in 2013. Just last year, he started all 16 games for the Lions opposite Ezekiel Ansah. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that he played very poorly. Pro Football focus ranked him as the second least effective edge defender in the NFL. Also, at no point in free agency did the Lions seem interested in bringing him back. Taylor went unsigned through the draft all the way until late May.
But the circumstances are a bit different for the Lions now. For one, they’ve lost Kerry Hyder—Taylor’s replacement—for the year with an Achilles injury. They’ve also lost a potential backup in Brandon Copeland to a season-ending torn pectoral.
Taylor obviously represents a quick-fix. He knows the system, is familiar with his coaches and has enough experience to know what to do. He should also come relatively cheap. The Giants signed him to the veteran minimum contract this offseason (one-year, $855,000).
But the Lions weren’t particularly strong at defensive end back when they moved on from Taylor, and his play in 2016 speaks for itself. It seems Detroit made their decision on Taylor back in March, and I doubt the injuries to Hyder and Copeland have changed their mind.
Interestingly enough, Taylor isn’t the only former Lions defensive end on the market. On Tuesday, the New Orleans Saints released veteran Jason Jones. Jones was with the Lions from 2013 to 2015, starting 34 games along the way and picking up 9.5 total sacks. Last year, he played in 14 games with the Dolphins (started five) and had 3.5 sacks.
But Jones is on the wrong side of 31. Entering his 10th season in the league, Jones failed to make the cut on a Saints team that isn’t exactly known for their defensive talent.
There’s also George Johnson, who spent one year with the Lions in 2015. He is being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, he started five games for the Bucs and picked up 23 tackles and two forced fumbles.
It’s worth noting that all three of these former Lions players are vested veterans. That’s important for two reasons. First, it means they are not subject to the waiver wire. The Lions have the 21st priority on the waiver wire, so there’s a good chance they’ll miss out on a lot of talent because other teams ahead of them will put in claims. But with these three veterans, they can sign anywhere at any time.
The other point is that the salary of vested veterans becomes fully guaranteed if they are on the roster for Week 1. However, if they sign after Week 1, that clause is not in their contract. For this reason, a lot of teams wait until after Week 1 to sign veterans as a way to save money and back out of investments that don’t work out.
In other words, even if the Lions are interested in bringing back one of their former players, there’s a good chance they may wait a week into the season to save a little cash.
Which former Lions defensive end should the Lions consider re-signing?
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None of the above