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2023 Detroit Lions roster preview: Is Graham Glasgow still a starter?

Graham Glasgow has been a starter for all 7 years of his NFL career. But in his return to the Detroit Lions, he will have to earn his spot on the starting five offensive linemen.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This year, the Detroit Lions signed three players in free agency who had previously played for the franchise: Graham Glasgow, Marvin Jones Jr., and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

Today, we’re going to talk more about Glasgow, the team’s 2016 third-round pick. After the Lions parted ways with Evan Brown in free agency, Glasgow seemed like a natural replacement. It didn’t take long for the Lions to go in that direction.

But Glasgow—who has been a starter for all seven years of his NFL career—is going to have to win a competition to keep that streak alive. Can he do it? Why did his time with the Denver Broncos end? Let’s take a closer look in our latest Lions roster preview installment.

Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, Obinna Eze, Greg Bell, Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Derrick Barnes, Jermar Jefferson, Brock Wright, Jerry Jacobs, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, and David Montgomery

Graham Glasgow

Actual role in 2022 (with Broncos)

17 games (13 starts): 929 offensive snaps (609 at center, 320 at right guard)
PFF offensive grade: 59.3 (25th of 31 centers with at least 600 snaps
PFF pass blocking grade: 62.7 (25th of 31)
PFF run blocking grade: 61.6 (18th of 31)

At guard (Weeks 1-5)

  • 59.7 overall grade (63rd of 111 iOL)
  • 72.1 pass blocking grade (26th)
  • 61.2 run blocking grade (52nd)

At center (Weeks 8-18)

  • 54.5 overall grade (97th of 126 iOL)
  • 72.1 pass blocking grade (26th)
  • 54.1 run blocking grade (98th)

Glasgow returned to action in 2022 after his 2021 season ended with a very serious ankle break suffered in November. He basically did nothing during OTAs and was limited in training camp. Add onto that a new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback, and last year wasn’t Glasgow’s best performance of his career.

Not only was his PFF grade the lowest since his rookie season but he was also called for a career-high 10 penalties and allowed a career-high five sacks. Of course, Russell Wilson has notoriously been the most sacked quarterback of this era, and the quarterback certainly takes some of the blame for that title.

In an interview on the Dungeon of Doom podcast, Glasgow noted that he wasn’t feeling very well physically coming off the serious injury.

“Body-wise, I’m feeling so much better (in 2023) than I did last year after coming off my injury,” Glasgow said. “I’m confident in my abilities, especially (with) how my ankle and everything was performing towards the end of last year.”

It’s also worth noting that two of Glasgow’s highest-graded games (68.9 and 80.0) came in the final two weeks of the season. It’s probably an oversimplification to say he played better because he was feeling physically better at the end of the year, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Despite the strong finish, the Broncos opted to cut Glasgow this offseason, saving $11 million in cap space.

Outlook for 2023

Glasgow returned to Detroit in March on a one-year, $2.75 million deal. He was motivated to come back to Michigan to play with familiar teammates in Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker.

However, he’s entering unfamiliar territory going into Year 8 of his career. He will have to fight not only for a starting job but for a spot on the overall roster. Glasgow has been a starter his entire career, but going into training camp, the assumption is that he is behind Halapoulivaati Vaitai for the starting right guard job. Glasgow is welcoming the competition, though:

“The expectation is to come in and compete for a job,” Glasgow said. “I’ve done it before, and that’s not something I’m opposed to. I’ve competed for a job here in the past. The game is very humbling, and I find that being able to have the opportunity to come back to a place where I have emotional and even some physical ties is important to me.”

The Lions renegotiated the contract of Vaitai in order to keep him around—a fairly strong vote of confidence for the veteran guard/tackle hybrid. He’ll count over $8.8 million against the cap over the next two years, even though his contract voids in 2024. Meanwhile, Glasgow is costing about half of that (he also has a void year in 2024).

That said, the Lions are not one to shy away from competition. They will let the best man truly win, and if Glasgow balls out when the pads come on in training camp, he could very well win the job.

Even if he doesn’t, Glasgow’s job seems fairly safe in Detroit. His experience at center should provide valuable insurance for Frank Ragnow, who is still dealing with a nagging toe injury. The Lions do not have much depth behind Ragnow, with only Ross Pierschbacher (zero starts) and Logan Stenberg (primarily a guard) getting significant center reps in practice this spring.

It may be an uphill battle for Glasgow to crack the starting lineup, but given his versatility, experience, and history of solid play, he’ll be a valuable depth who has a good shot of being the first player off the bench in case of injury.

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