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The Detroit Lions need to make a serious run at DT Johnathan Hankins

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A big, run-stopping DT is now on the market, and the Lions should go after him.

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Chicago Bears v New York Giants Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts made a fairly surprising move on Saturday afternoon. The team announced that they are releasing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins just one year into the three-year, $30 million contract he signed last offseason:

According to Pro Football Talk, Hankins’ 2018 salary of $4.5 million was due to become guaranteed tomorrow, forcing the Colts to move and save cap room (perhaps to go for Ndamukong Suh?)

Hankins has had a pretty successful career since entering the league as a second-round draft pick for the New York Giants in 2013. Here’s a look at his stats from his first four years in New York:

(PFF Grades taken from here)

2013: 11 games (0 starts) - 1 tackles PFF Grade: 79.5
2014: 16 games (16 starts) - 51 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble PFF Graded: 85.9
2015: 9 games (9 starts) - 30 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble PFF Grade: 80.9
2016: 16 games (16 starts) - 43 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble PFF Grade: 47.1

You may be wondering two things: If Hankins was so good, why did the Giants let him hit free agency? And why was his PFF grade so bad in 2017?

To answer the first question, the Giants reportedly did try to re-sign Hankins. They offered him a four-year, $28 million deal, but Hankins chose the Colts’ three-year, $30 million deal instead.

Part of the reason the Giants didn’t match that offer likely had to do with the acquisition of All Pro defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison. When the Giants added him in 2016, they moved Hankins from nose tackle to the 3-tech, and that’s part of the reason why you saw a big drop in Hankins’ PFF grade (he was also coming off surgery for a torn pectoral).

As for his time in Indy, Hankins was as good as ever. Our friend from PFF, Brett Whitefield, describes Hankins as an “absolute animal” defending the run, and the stats seem to support that. In 2017, Hankins earned an 85.0 grade from PFF and was second on the team with five tackles for loss, per ESPN.

The Lions have a pretty severe need at nose/defensive tackle after losing Haloti Ngata to free agency. Hankins would probably cost a pretty penny, but considering the first wave of free agency is over and the Lions have a manageable amount of cap space, there’s no reason they shouldn’t make a run at. Hankins is even a local product, having grown up in Dearborn Heights and gone to Southeastern High School in Detroit.

Go get him, Bob!

Edit: New Lions linebacker Devon Kennard, who played with Hankins in New York, is already trying to recruit him!