It’s no secret Detroit needs to bolster their pass rush this offseason. Illustrative of just how desperate the team is for help here, designating Ezekiel Ansah as the team’s franchise player was essentially a necessity for the Lions—even with the question marks lingering about his durability and lack of production to garner a $17.1 million deal in 2018.
The Lions have six picks in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, but with so many areas to improve and shore up, the team will surely look first to free agency to improve, but it won’t be by way of a splash. The Dallas Cowboys applied the franchise tag to Demarcus Lawrence, taking the number one target of any team looking to upgrade their pass rush from the edge off the market.
So instead, Detroit could turn their attention towards other, less expensive options. Lions general manager Bob Quinn did this last offseason when he added players like Cornelius Washington, Akeem Spence, and DJ Hayden in the early stages of free agency. Players who all showed promise, but due to injury, changes in scheme, or failing to meet expectations, all failed to make an impact with their former teams.
Jeremiah Attaochu, an edge defender who played three seasons with the Chargers, fits the flavor profile of the type of player Quinn would take a chance on this offseason.
According to Chris Burke of The Athletic, Detroit makes sense as a landing spot for Attaochu for a few reasons:
Slightly under-the-radar name I was told to “keep an eye on” if the Lions take a flyer on an edge guy in free agency: Jerry (Jeremiah) Attaochu. Injury issues, needs a change of scenery. Patriots reportedly had him in for pre-draft visit in 2014.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) March 5, 2018
Attaochu is a former second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Chargers, a player the team actually moved up in that round to select for good reason: during his time at Georgia Tech, it’s hard to imagine how he could have been a more productive defender for the Yellow Jackets. Attaochu owns the school’s sack record with 31.5 total sacks in his four years at Georgia Tech.
Though Attaochu’s athletic profile—6-foot-3, 252 pounds—seems to lend itself better to a 3-4 defense, which he played in during his first three years at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets switched over to a 4-3 front under Ted Roof his senior season, but the production didn’t stop. Attaochu tallied 45 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks that season.
Since being drafted, his time with the Chargers has been marred by injuries and a lack of availability. The 2015 season was his most productive, appearing in 15 games—starting in 12—and totaling 42 tackles, 6.0 sacks, and a forced fumble. In the 2016 and 2017 season combined, he’s played in just 12 games total, notching 12 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
In Detroit, Attaochu would have an opportunity to hit reset as Burke mentions in his tweet. Both Quinn and new head coach Matt Patricia would also get a shot at a player their old organization had interest in a few years back during the pre-draft process. With a shallow market of true difference makers available at defensive end via free agency, and Detroit’s depth at the position still in a state of flux, taking a chance on a player like Attaochu is exactly where the front office could have its sights set on.