After assessing the roster, new Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn noted how he believed the roster on the offensive line is in a decent place.
“Right now I think that’s our deepest unit,” Lynn told the media earlier this month. “We can use a little more depth at tackle, but I like the guys that can play inside.”
That comment carries a lot of weight and is extremely telling. Saying that he likes the interior offensive linemen but wants more tackle depth could suggest that they view Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a guard. If that’s the case, Detroit may not need many, if any, bodies on the interior, but will definitely need depth on the outside.
Even if this was just an off-hand comment, the Lions have some work to do on the offensive line this free agency period. Here are five free agent linemen with ties to the team’s current staff.
OT James Hurst
Connection: 1 year with the Saints (Dan Campbell)
Hurst has made a nice little career for himself after going undrafted in 2014. After spending the first six years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens—serving as both a guard and a tackle—the Saints picked him up last year.
He served a four-game suspension at the beginning of 2020 for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy but was a great depth piece for New Orleans for the rest of the year. He made a few starts at left tackle and one at left guard, while also serving as the sixth offensive linemen several times throughout the year. By PFF grades, it was his best year in the NFL (69.6).
Hurst will be a cheap option in free agency, as he signed just a one-year, $1.05 million deal last year. His ceiling would be a nice backup behind Tyrell Crosby.
OT Sam Tevi
Connection: 4 years with the Chargers (Anthony Lynn)
If the Lions are looking for someone who will compete for the starting right tackle job, Tevi may be one of the better options. For the past three years, Tevi was a starter on Anthony Lynn’s offense with the Chargers. In 2018 and 2019, he was the team’s right tackle. In 2020, they shifted him to the left side.
His performance hasn’t been great in Los Angeles, but the former sixth-round pick certainly exceeded expectations for his draft position. Even better for the Lions, he can probably be had for a fairly affordable contract in free agency. Still, it would be hard to get too excited over a tackle who has never graded higher than 59.8 from PFF.
OT Kendall Lamm
Connection: Signed by John Dorsey’s Browns in 2019
Lamm had a breakout season in 2018 as the Texans’ right tackle, and it earned him a nice two-year deal with the Browns when John Dorsey plucked him from free agency. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well in Cleveland. In his first season, he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of 12 games. Last year, he was demoted to a backup role but played very well in his one start at left tackle in Week 16 (74.6 PFF grade). He also filled in at both tackle positions during Cleveland’s playoff run.
Lamm would be good depth with starting potential, but would not be a bonafide starter.
G/C Austin Blythe
Connection: Drafted by Rams in 2016 (Brad Holmes)
Austin Blythe is certainly a guy Brad Holmes will know pretty well, and he’s coming off a great year with the Rams as the team’s center. He also brings proven versatility after serving as the team’s starting right guard in 2018—his highest-graded season from PFF (75.0).
If Vaitai is the Lions’ starting right tackle in 2021, Blythe would be an excellent addition to compete for the starting right guard job and give Detroit an experienced option to back up Frank Ragnow at center. The issue here is cost. After a solid year in Los Angeles, Blythe is expected to come with a price tag around $7-9 million per year.
G Nick Easton
Connection: 2 years with Saints (Campbell)
Easton was released earlier this month, a move that granted the desperate Saints nearly $6 million in cap relief. He’s already had at least four teams contact him, but there are a handful of concerns here. In 2020 alone, he suffered two concussions, missing four regular season games and two additional playoff contests in the process.
His play, too, has been inconsistent. A better pass blocker than run blocker, he may not exactly be the kind of player Detroit is looking for right now. Still, if they’re looking for an experienced lineman that is available to sign for a reasonable deal right now, they could do worse than Easton.