On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions announced that they have re-signed reserve offensive lineman Matt Nelson. The Lions had the option to tender Nelson as a restricted free agent, but opted to forgo the tender and re-sign him to a new contract instead.
Even the most basic level of RFA tender was around $2.67 million, so it’s very likely the team brought him back at a lower financial number—which is a common practice.
Nelson, originally a defensive lineman at Iowa, converted to the offensive line as an undrafted free agent with the Lions in 2019. Though he has mostly played at right tackle—even starting 12 games over the past three seasons—Nelson has shown the ability to contribute in different roles.
One of the most impactful roles Nelson has played is as a sixth offensive lineman in “big sets”. His athleticism allows the Lions to use him as a big tight end, but recently, we have seen the Lions keep him at right tackle in these sets and shift Penei Sewell to the big tight end role.
The addition of Nelson gives the Lions 11 offensive linemen on their roster, including four pure offensive tackles—Sewell, Taylor Decker, Nelson, Obinna Eze—and guard/tackle Darrin Paulo. Look for the Lions to continue to add players on the offensive line, most likely through the draft (or after), as they look to enter spring camp with 15 linemen—allowing them to rotate through three lines.
Track all of the Lions free agency moves here and you can see all the latest rumors here.