The Detroit Lions don’t appear done with free agency just yet. Earlier on Wednesday, reports surfaced that the team would be adding tight end Levine Toilolo. Now their focus has shifted to the glaring need along the interior of their offensive line.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Lions are meeting with free agent guard/center Wesley Johnson.
Source: #Jets versatile C/G Wesley Johnson is on a free agent visit in Detroit with the #Lions. Johnson was a 5th round pick in 2014 and has 24 starts in 41 games played. ... Last year’s center Travis Swanson remains unsigned.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 28, 2018
Johnson was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Steelers in 2014. He would only last a few months on the team before being waived and picked up by the New York Jets. In 2015 and 2016, he played in spot duty for the Jets. Johnson played well enough in 2016 for the Jets to offer him a restricted free agent tender for the 2017 season worth $2.7 million.
However, that’s when everything seemed to go south. Johnson took over full-time for All Pro Nick Mangold in 2017, and the results were disastrous. Our friends at Gang Green Nation called his play “brutal” and the folks at Pro Football Focus agree. His overall grade of 31.3 was dead last among all 35 qualifying NFL centers. Here’s more from PFF:
The same couldn’t be said for Wesley Johnson, who earned lowest overall grade in 2017 among 35 qualified centers. Johnson allowed 23 pressures across 518 pass-block snaps in 2017.
Though his 2017 was not good by any stretch of the imagination, some in New York thought it was smart to bring him back for another year.
But letting a young, versatile center hit the market would be a mistake. When the Jets gave him that RFA deal, they were hopeful he was the heir apparent to the great Kevin Mawae-Nick Mangold line of centers they had enjoyed.
Why would they give up on that idea now?
The Lions have already signed an experienced interior offensive lineman in Kenny Wiggins, but Johnson could be brought in to provide some competition at every offensive line position. That being said, it’s still a good possibility that even if the Lions end up signing Johnson, they’ll be eyeing a long-term solution in the NFL Draft.
The Lions’ starting center in 2017, Travis Swanson, remains unsigned and has had little reported interest since free agency began two weeks ago.