In 2019, the Detroit Lions offensive line played at their highest level in several years. The running game showed signs of life, Matthew Stafford was on track for the fewest amount of sacks surrendered in several years, and the offensive was clicking.
But that doesn’t mean the offensive line didn’t come without its frustrations. Veteran guard Kenny Wiggins was the source of many of those frustrations, though it had little to do with the man himself. The Lions utilized a guard rotation for the majority of the season, which saw them shaking up their offensive line at seemingly random times in each game.
So what is the plan now for 2020 with several guards facing free agency? We already discussed what things may look like for Graham Glasgow, but now let’s focus on Wiggins.
Previously in this series:
- Miles Killebrew (click here)
- Rashaan Melvin (click here)
- Jeff Driskel (click here)
- Tavon Wilson (click here)
- A’Shawn Robinson (click here)
- Sam Martin (click here)
- Mike Daniels (click here)
- Danny Amendola (click here)
- Graham Glasgow (click here)
Expectations before 2019
It wasn’t clear exactly what Wiggins’ role would be after acting as the Lions’ backup right guard in 2018. His play that year in relief for T.J. Lang did not provide much optimism for taking that role as a starter, but with shuffling between him, Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow, it wasn’t clear where anyone would play in 2019. Wiggins’ versatile experience—playing significant snaps at both right and left guard—gave him an edge up, but Detroit brought in some healthy competition with Oday Aboushi, and 2016 fifth-round pick Joe Dahl was starting to catch the eye of Lions coaches. Hell, some even believed undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel had a chance at making the team over Wiggins.
In other words, nothing was certain with Wiggins at the beginning of training camp. He could have been a roster cut, he could’ve been declared a starter. He was truly going to have to fight for a role.
Actual role in 2019
2019 Stats: 14 games (3 starts)
PFF Grade: 61.8 (39th of 87 qualifying Gs—minimum of 20% of snaps)
I’m not sure anyone could have predicted what would end up happening with Wiggins. Not only did he make the team, but he was part of the Lions’ guard rotation from Week 1. For three or four series per game, Wiggins would replace either Joe Dahl at left guard or Graham Glasgow at right guard, much to fans’ dismay.
As for the results, Wiggins certainly took a step up from last year (2018 PFF grade 55.9), but he was still graded lower than both the players he was replacing (Glasgow: 74.1; Dahl: 64.9). Despite that, the Lions kept with the rotation for the entire year, until injuries to Dahl and Wiggins made it impossible.
Wiggins suffered a torn bicep that required surgery in December to repair.
What should the Lions do with him?
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
The case for re-signing:
While Wiggins’ rotation was undoubtedly frustrating from a fan standpoint, he still played at an average level when in the lineup. Detroit shouldn’t go into 2020 treating Wiggins as the starter, but with Graham Glasgow likely headed into free agency, the Lions need a backup plan for the right guard position that will additionally serve as competent depth in case of injury.
He can also likely be re-signed for a fairly reasonable deal. His last contract was just a two-year, $5-million deal, and now that he’s 31 years old and coming off a serious injury, he shouldn’t be due for much of a pay raise.
For a player that is now familiar with the system, can provide some stability and depth, and can even provide starter play at an average level, a one-year deal in the $2-4 million range is more than acceptable.
The case for letting him walk:
If the surgery isn’t scary enough, Wiggins’ age may be. We’re entering the twilight of his career, and it may be time to get much younger at the position, both in terms of a starter and a depth player.
While the Lions are looking awfully thin at the position right now—Glasgow, Wiggins and Aboushi are all potential free agents—they do have some in-house options right now. Lions coaches sounded optimistic about the progress Beau Benzschawel made his rookie season, and they just signed a former first-round pick, hoping to turn his fortunes around in Joshua Garnett.
Guys like Wiggins aren’t that hard to find in free agency, and many come with fewer risks than a post-surgery player.
I think keeping Wiggins around would be a wise move for Detroit. They can cross their fingers and hope Benzschawel or Garnett reach their full potential, but Wiggins is a known commodity. He’s not an All-Pro, but he’s talented enough to be on an NFL roster and should be part of this team’s depth, especially given his ability to naturally switch between right and left guard at the drop of a hat.
Detroit still needs to invest in the guard position for a more long-term approach, but giving Wiggins a one-year deal makes complete sense for them right now.
Should the Lions re-sign Kenny Wiggins?
This poll is closed