Slowly, but surely, the Detroit Lions are starting to take a deep look at some defensive line free agents. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Detroit hosted former New England Patriots’ defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois for a visit on Thursday:
Source: veteran DL Ricky Jean-Francois visited the Lions today. Familiar with new head coach Matt Patricia.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 15, 2018
Francois is a nine-year veteran in the NFL, having spent the last half of a season with the Patriots. There, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia became familiar with him. He only played in New England for six games, racking up 10 tackles and one start along the way. He also played in all three playoff games for New England, including a start in the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars. Previously, Jean Francois has spent time with the Packers, 49ers, Colts and Washington.
While the 31-year old’s statistics are not overwhelming, Jean Francois was able to establish himself as the number four option at defensive tackle behind Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. In this role, he played around a fourth of possible defensive snaps during his time with the team and became visibly more comfortable as the season progressed.
At 6-foot-3, 313 pounds, Francois has been a pretty solid run defender throughout his career. In 2016 with Washington, he had the 19th-best run stop percentage in the NFL, playing as their 3-4 defensive end. (You can see all of his PFF grades from 2011-2016 here.) However, his effectiveness may not be what it used to be. On three different occasions in 2017, he was released, including once by the Patriots.
Seeing as the Lions lost Haloti Ngata to the Eagles, Francois could come in and immediately take on a rotational role at defensive tackle. He’s not quite as efficient as Ngata has ever been, but he’s actually a little younger (31 vs. 34).