Similar to years past, the Detroit Lions are making it a point to bring back players that have met or exceeded expectations within their program, with reserve offensive lineman Matt Nelson being the latest.
Despite being eligible for an RFA tender, general manager Brad Holmes decided to give Nelson a new contract instead. And with specific contract terms not yet disclosed, we will have to wait and break those exact numbers down when they are released.
From a roster construction perspective, this move makes sense. When healthy, the Lions are aware of what Nelson brings to the table as a player. As an extra offensive lineman that was brought onto the field during heavy sets, Nelson excelled. And because of his past experience as a defensive end at the University of Iowa, Nelson has plus-athleticism for a man that stands 6-foot-7 and 318 pounds.
On the flip side, when asked to play long periods at tackle, Nelson struggled at times. That is to be somewhat expected for a player that has only been at the position for a handful of years since making the transition to the offensive side of the ball.
Like the re-signings of linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, Matt Nelson being back in the fold should not dissuade the Lions from taking an offensive lineman during the looming 2023 NFL Draft. We have seen what he can add in the run game as an extra tackle, and perhaps there is untapped potential that Lions’ offensive line coach Hank Fraley can unlock, but there is obviously still room for improvement for the unit as a whole.
My grade: Assuming the numbers aren’t wildly over market value once the specifics of the contract are released, I like this deal with Nelson and will give it a B.
At the very least, he gives offensive coordinator Ben Johnson the opportunity to get creative with motioning Nelson or right tackle Penei Sewell across the formation pre-snap, and in a pinch, we know what Nelson can and can’t do on an island against NFL-quality pass rushers.
How would you grade the Lions’ re-signing of Matt Nelson?
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