Sometimes—actually, quite often lately—the Detroit Lions just make you want to scratch your head. Whether it’s punting on the opponent’s side of the field, a boneheaded play-call with the game on the line, or a draft pick you’ve never heard of, it never gets any less frustrating from a fan’s perspective.
And that’s what many fans are currently experiencing when it comes to the future of the team’s interior offensive line. Despite being a rare strength in 2019, the Lions appear to be preparing for a massive—some would argue, unnecessary—overhaul. If there is some grand overarching plan at the position, it’s not yet evident. So let’s try to figure things out, shall we?
(Final year under contract in parentheses)
Under contract: Frank Ragnow (2021 + fifth-year option in 2022), Joe Dahl (2021), Caleb Benenoch (2020), Beau Benzschawel (2021), Casey Tucker (2021), Russell Bodine (2020),
Free agent: Graham Glasgow (UFA), Oday Aboushi (UFA), Kenny Wiggins (UFA)
The Lions have their starting center locked down, that much is clear. Frank Ragnow adjusted well to his shift back to center, and there’s a pretty good chance that’s where he stays for the remainder of his rookie contract.
The rest is unknown. Their starting right guard (Glasgow) and the two backups behind him (Aboushi, Wiggins) are all on their way to becoming unrestricted free agents, and with Glasgow in particular, it looks like there’s little chance he re-signs before the league new year.
At left guard, the Lions finally decided to give Joe Dahl a shot, and he performed... okay. His 64.9 PFF grade landed him in the top third of the league, just barely above the man who owned that job a few years ago, Laken Tomlinson (64.7). It appears Dahl may hold onto that job, as the Lions gave him a modest two-year extension with cap hits under $2 million for both 2020 and 2021. You’d think with that kind of bargain, the Lions may be willing to shell out a little more money for an above average player that can play both right guard and center, but what do I know?
The rest of the signed players are largely unproven, though hope always springs eternal for an undrafted free agent like Beau Benzschawel, who was considered a priority signing after last year’s draft.
Level of need: 9/10
Not only do the Lions need to figure out what exactly they’re doing at right guard, but they’re going to need some depth. It’s clear they like Kenny Wiggins, considering they gave him considerable playing time via an odd rotation every week. However, Wiggins underwent surgery in December, and the man will be 32 before next season begins.
It seems likely the team will target an interior offensive linemen somewhere in the middle of the draft, but that won’t be enough to address the depth of this position properly. They not only need players that can play the guard spots in a pinch, but someone who could slip under center. Finding a player that can do both is not exactly going to be easy in free agency, which makes Detroit’s current trajectory with Graham Glasgow so puzzling.
I’m willing to be patient and see how it all plays out, but consider me highly skeptical at the moment.