Top 5 Detroit Lions unrestricted free agents

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) walks off the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Lions win 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the 2017 NFL season is in the books (at least for the Detroit Lions) and there are sure to be some drastic changes prior to the start of the 2018 campaign.

The biggest change, of course, is that the Lions will have a new head coach as they have decided to move on from Jim Caldwell. They will also have a new defensive coordinator as Teryl Austin has accepted a job with the Cincinnati Bengals.

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In addition to coaching changes in the organization, the 53-man roster will also look different by the time the regular season rolls around. With free agency and the NFL Draft, you can bet general manager Bob Quinn will be doing whatever he can to improve his roster.

That being said, the Lions will have 17 unrestricted free agents this offseason and you can bet your bottom dollar that many of them will be playing elsewhere or not at all in 2018.

Here is a list of the top 5 unrestricted free agents for the Detroit Lions

Ezekiel Ansah (DE)

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Prior to the start of the 2017 season, I said Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah would be playing his final season in Detroit. The reason for that thought was because I thought he would have a double-digit sack year and would demand a ton of money in free agency. Well, I was correct about the sack total as he managed 12 but that number was rather inflated as six of those came in the final two weeks. Overall, Ansah was very inconsistent as far as pressuring the quarterback. That being said, it would be in the Lions best interest to work out a deal with Ansah if the price is right. Detroit’s defensive line struggled this past season and though Bob Quinn will be looking to add some pieces via free agency and/or the draft, Ansah would be a nice piece to keep IF the price is right.

Haloti Ngata (DT)

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Many thought 2017 would be the final season for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Heck, even Ngata considered retiring before the start of the season by elected to finish out the final year of his contract. Unfortunately, the 33-year-old FUTURE HALL OF FAMER tore his bicep in a Week 5 loss to the Carolina Panthers and was placed on IR. Now reports are that Ngata is not quite finished with football. Yes, he is getting older but with the Lions defensive line depth almost non-existent, Ngata could still play a role while helping to coach up the youngsters Quinn will draft. (Yes, I am banking on Bob Quinn addressing the defensive line early in the draft)

Tahir Whitehead (LB)

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Tahir Whitehead has been a nice piece for the Lions over that past couple of seasons as he has been able to play on both the inside and outside. He has racked up over 100 tackles in each of the past two campaigns and has been a solid defender against the run. Depending on the scheme the new coaching staff wants to run, and if they believe Whitehead can improve in pass coverage, will determine if the Lions bring him back for the 2018 season.

D.J. Hayden (CB)

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In his first season with the Detroit Lions, cornerback D.J. Hayden seemed to revive his career a bit. Though he did not have any interceptions, the 27-year-old did not give up a single touchdown in 16 games played. Don’t be surprised if Hayden re-signs with the Lions during the offseason.

Tavon Wilson (S)

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Whether or not Tavon Wilson is re-signed by the Lions will largely depend on what the new coaching staff wants. If they decide to go with Quandre Diggs, who filled in admirably when Wilson was shut down for the season with injury, Wilson could be the odd man out. If I were a betting man, Wilson returns and Diggs goes back to playing cornerback.