I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a free agent so universally desired by Detroit Lions fans as former Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. The Lions struck out in re-signing Haloti Ngata last week, leaving a big hole at defensive tackle, and Hankins—who would fit almost too perfectly as a potential nose tackle—seemingly fell into their lap last week when the Colts released him just a year into a three-year, $27 million contract.
Lions fans are in a good news/bad news situation right now.
The good news is that the team that got the first shot at meeting with Hankins (Washington) did not close the deal with him on Monday, and his visit appears to be over.
An update: Both Johnathan Hankins and Pernell McPhee have left Redskins Park. And now ... the waiting game.— John Keim (@john_keim) March 19, 2018
The bad news is that there are still no indications that the Lions have serious interest in Hankins.
Now that’s not to say that the interest isn’t there; we just haven’t heard of any yet. Thus far, the Lions have been pretty sneaky about their free agent targets. There were no rumors of interest about Kenny Wiggins, Devon Kennard nor Christian Jones before they signed with the team, so perhaps they just prefer to work in the darkness.
Because it just makes too much sense for Hankins to be on their radar. The Colts released Hankins mostly because of a scheme change (from 3-4 to 4-3) on defense. Colts owner Jim Irsay basically admitted as much on Twitter Saturday night:
We really appreciate Johnathan's contributions to the Colts. Great young man. Scheme changes are hard.— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 18, 2018
While the Lions aren’t going to be a pure 3-4 defense, it’s clear they’ll have plenty of those looks in 2018, and Hankins has plenty of experience and success in that role.
Additionally, Hankins is only 25 years old right now (he turns 26 at the end of the month). Rarely do you get the opportunity to have a guy who has already established himself as a very good player with so much football ahead of him.
Finally, Hankins has plenty of reason to come to Detroit. Not only do the Lions have an exciting new defensive-minded coach, but Hankins hails from Michigan. He was born in Dearborn Heights and went to school in Detroit. The Lions even signed his former Giants teammate, Devon Kennard, earlier in the offseason, and Kennard is hoping for a reunion:
So while there are still no clear signs if the Lions are interested in Hankins, the door is still very much open for a return to Michigan. All the Lions need is for Bob Quinn to open that door.