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NFL free agency: Lions will reportedly visit with Johnathan Hankins, Alan Branch

Finally the news you were hoping for.

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The news Detroit Lions fans have been waiting to hear for days now has finally come. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Lions will be hosting free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins for a visit. And he’s not coming alone:

Hankins, as we’ve mentioned before, is a prototypical nose tackle that has been a monster in defending the run since drafted in the second round in 2013. The Colts let Hankins go a week ago in a cap-saving move because they were transitioning to a new defensive scheme.

Hankins was also born and raised in Michigan, so the Lions may have an edge up on their competition in terms of recruiting him. Hankins has met with Washington already this season. Washington’s advantage, however, is that they have more cap space to sign the defensive tackle.

Speaking of local products, former Wolverine Alan Branch will reportedly visit with the Lions this week, too. Branch, 33, spent his last four years under Matt Patricia with the New England Patriots. Like Hankins, he’s a pure nose tackle at 6-foot-6 and a whopping 350 pounds.

But Branch has slowly seen his role with New England decline over the years, which is likely why New England did not pick up the one-year option on his contract for 2018. Branch was a healthy scratch for the final three regular season games of the 2017 season and all of the playoffs. His 2017 PFF score of 67.7 was underwhelming to say the least.

Detroit has already visited with several interior defensive linemen, including Shemar Stephen, Quinton Dial ,Ricky Jean Francois, and Sylvester Williams. According to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, Williams is deciding between Detroit and Washington. But if the Lions can land Hankins instead, it would be a bigger upgrade, but almost certainly more costly.

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