2019 was a hugely disappointing year for the Lions and head coach Matt Patricia will be desperate to oversee an upturn in fortunes over the coming months. There are a number of questions to answer ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft including whether to stick with the inconsistent Tyrell Crosby at right tackle. The 24-year old stepped up for the final three games of the season, although his performances were patchy and many fans believe that he could be best utilized as a replacement next year.
General manager Bob Quinn must make some tough decisions over the next few weeks. The Lions have agreed to terms with nine players as they look to restructure a faltering defensive unit and plug other holes in the team with a big push in free agency.
— NFL (@NFL) March 16, 2020
The majority of Lions fans view Crosby as an adequate deputy; however, very few are convinced that he can step up in 2020 and become a regular starter. His best assets are versatility and durability, therefore deploying him as a replacement could be a sensible option. There are ample free-agents currently available although with a number of offseason trades having been completed over the last couple of weeks, options in this area are beginning to looking increasingly limited. Bryan Bulaga was just one of the names linked with a switch to Detroit, but the former Packers star has recently agreed terms with the Chargers.
Although Rick Wagner was widely predicted to leave Detroit during the off-season, the veteran’s departure does leave a fairly sizeable hole in the roster, and fans are understandably concerned about the lack of options at right tackle. The 30-year old’s release will save them around $6million towards their cap, and also allow the Lions to bring in ample reinforcements this spring. After a stellar first season at Ford Field, Wagner’s numbers dropped and despite having two years left on his contract, the decision to release him may prove to be a savvy one. With the injury-prone Matthew Stafford still under contract, Vaitai’s arrival does at least give them a little more depth in this area and go some way to justifying Wagner’s exit.
The Detroit Lions announced today that they have released T Rick Wagner. pic.twitter.com/pGihTqQAkC
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) March 13, 2020
There are also a number of other areas to address during the offseason with the sheer lack of wide receivers being an immediate concern. There are plenty of candidates available in the draft with Jerry Jeudy just one of the names linked with a switch to Motor City. However, several franchises are likely to be chasing the talented 20-year old over the coming weeks and the Lions may miss out on his signature.
A change of quarterback could also be in the offing with the enigmatic Tua Tagovailoa a potential option. The talented signal-caller is a projected top-five pick and will be one of the most sought-after players in the 2020 draft. He sustained a hip injury in mid-November which ruled him out of the remainder of the season and he was sorely missed by Alabama as they failed to qualify for the end-of-season play-off for the first time in six years. They are 9/2 in the latest American football odds to win the NCAAF Championship game in 2021, although they will need to find an adequate replacement for the outgoing Hawaiian.
It’s a vitally important couple of months for Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn as they aim to rebuild the Lions squad. Despite making a fast start to the 2019 season, their campaign was over by Thanksgiving, and they must avoid making those same mistakes all over again. Wagner’s departure makes financial sense, however, it leaves a significant void and it remains to be seen whether Tyrell Crosby is the man to make that position his own, or whether Vaitai’s arrival will result in him resuming his role as replacement over the coming months.