The Detroit Lions’ offensive line seems set at first glance. They have their two great tackles in Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. Frank Ragnow will obvious start at center, too. The guards are were things get a bit murky. Jonah Jackson is coming off a Pro Bowl season and his job seems safe. Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s status is where it gets hard to predict.
Vaitai had a decent 2021 season after moving inside from tackle. He earned a 68.4 PFF grade and received consistent praise from the coaching staff. Still, his contract seems to be overpaying him for the output. The Lions did restructure his deal this year and that points to the probability that he will be returning, but the Lions do have an out this year if they chose to get his contract off the books.
Today we have five free agent offensive linemen that the Lions should consider when the new league year starts in less than two weeks.
- 5 free agent quarterbacks to watch
- 5 free agent running backs to watch
- 5 free agent wide receivers to watch
- 5 free agent tight ends to watch
G Austin Corbett
If the Lions decide to part with Vaitai, Corbett is a logical replacement. He is a couple years younger than Vaitai and graded out just a little bit better in 2021 at 68.8. He also has a connection with Lions GM Brad Holmes and assistant GM Ray Agnew. Agnew was the Rams director of pro personnel when the Rams signed Corbett in 2019. After helping the Rams win the Super Bowl this past season, Corbett might be looking for a new opportunity somewhere else.
G Laken Tomlinson
You may remember that the Lions drafted Tomlinson with their first-round pick in 2015 and things ultimately didn’t work out. He was traded after just two seasons with the Lions. Since then, Tomlinson has become a steadily decent guard for the 49ers. In his last two seasons in San Francisco, he became one of the better graded guards in the league. Last season PFF ranked him 13th in the league at the guard position, and he made the 2021 Pro Bowl.
So what if the Lions decided to part with Vaitai and take a swing at redemption with Tomlinson? Seems like a big swing for all parties involved. Do the Lions want to pay Tomlinson? And would Tomlinson want to come back to Detroit? It’s a swing alright, but a swing worth taking if the situation is right.
C/G Evan Brown
The Lions must make sure they try to bring this kid back. Brown was a big surprise in 2021. After Frank Ragnow went down with a season-ending injury, it seemed like the Lions were going to be in big trouble at center. All they had was this Evan Brown kid who had bounced around the league before he got to Detroit and had never started a game. Brown wowed everyone with a pretty decent season that saw him graded out at 66.8 on PFF. That’s not elite or anything, but it’s pretty good for a guy who had never started before and would be a great player to flex in off the bench in 2022.
Brown is a restricted free agent, so the ball is in the Lions’ court here. But, as our own Jeremy Reisman explained last week, things can get weird when you tender a player. If a team decides to offer a deal you’re not willing to meet, you’re going to have to pass and say goodbye. This is an under-the-radar situation to watch for the Lions.
OT Mike Remmers
Let’s talk depth. The Lions lack it at the tackle positions. Matt Nelson had some moments and Tyrell Crosby seemed like he was going to be a great long-term player before trade rumors and an injury caused an apparent rift between him and the team. Now they’re both free agents—although Nelson is an exclusive-rights free agent and likely to be back. Detroit also has Dan Skipper, but he has played just nine offensive snaps (and 10 defensive snaps!!!) in Detroit since being added to the roster mid-2019 season.
With that in mind, why not bring in a veteran tackle who can help in relief off the bench and maybe even help guys like Penei Sewell continue to develop? Remmers, 32, has been in the league since 2013 and has played all over the league, most recently with the Chiefs. Remmers should be a cheap option, and the Lions should take a look.
OT/G Joseph Noteboom
Noteboom is probably going to be a looking for a starting job after a decent season as a backup with the Rams. He earned a solid 76.0 PFF grade in two starts and 173 total offensive snaps. The 26-year-old former third-round pick will have some options in free agency. If Andrew Whitworth decides to retire, he may want to stay with the Rams for a shot at a starting job. If he decides to leave, like we said before, he’ll probably want to be a starter elsewhere.
If the market isn’t a fruitful as he may think, the Lions should consider a short-term deal in which Noteboom can show his stuff again before getting another opportunity to cash in. Or the Lions could pitch to Noteboom a move him back to guard, where he started six games in 2019 before suffering an injury. This one seems the most unlikely, but maybe Brad Holmes, who scouted Noteboom for the Rams, can work his magic.