Lions Rumors

Lions Won’t Rule Out Ezekiel Ansah Return

The Lions are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Ezekiel Ansah, but GM Bob Quinn won’t rule out a return. When asked about the possibility recently, Quinn seemed to leave the door open to a new deal at a lower price. 

[RELATED: Lions Unlikely To Pursue Golden Tate]

Part of that is the medical,” Quinn said after the season (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “Part of that is the, ‘How long is he going to be out? What do we think when he gets recovered? Is he going to be the same?’ So all these things kind of factor in, so I don’t have an answer today. I’ll say this about Ziggy. Ziggy fought through some things this year. Ziggy’s extremely, extremely tough and I’m proud of him being a Detroit Lion because he, like Matthew Stafford, he played through some things that a lot of guys wouldn’t and I appreciate that.”

Ansah would make $20.57MM if he were tagged for a second straight year. There’s no realistic chance of that happening Ansah missed 9 games and finished out with just four sacks.

Ansah has suffered two serious shoulder injuries in his six seasons with Detroit and was pretty much a non-factor for the Lions’ listless defense last year. However, he’s flashed in the past. In 2015, he recorded a career high 14.5 sacks en route to his first career Pro Bowl selection. In 2017, he has 12 sacks across 14 games.

In theory, an incentive-laden one-year deal could make sense for both parties. However, his spotty history could give the Lions pause, and Ansah’s camp may prefer to roll the dice on the open market where teams pay a premium for accomplished pass rushers.

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Lions Unlikely To Pursue Golden Tate

While the Lions are in need of a slot receiver, a reunion with Golden Tate isn’t a likely outcome for the club, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Detroit shipped Tate to the Eagles at midseason in exchange for a third-round pick, and now the veteran pass-catcher is scheduled to hit the open market next month. After moving Tate, the Lions deployed T.J. Jones as their slot receiver, but they’re expected to pursue an upgrade either through free agency or the draft. Other free agent options who spend most of their time in the slot include Adam Humphries, Jamison Crowder, and Cole Beasley, but those receivers could be just as expensive as Tate.

Lions Lose Assistant Coach

  • Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the tight end position “is definitely a priority” for the team this offseason, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Quinn further emphasized it was a “position of need” and said they’re deep into scouting the tight end’s available in this year’s draft. Detroit got pretty much nothing out of their tight ends this year, so this isn’t a surprise. The team drafted Eric Ebron tenth overall back in 2014 but let him walk in free agency this past year, only to watch him have a career year with the Colts and make the Pro Bowl. Adding a real tight end would be a massive boost to the Lions’ offense.
  • Speaking of the Lions, they lost an assistant coach. Assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons is leaving to take a job at Vanderbilt, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News (Twitter link). Fitzsimmons had been with Detroit for the past five seasons. After the Lions fired Joe Marciano midway through last season, Fitzsimmons served as the team’s interim special teams coordinator for the final eight games.
  • The Lions aren’t the only team who made an assistant coaching change. The Patriots are hiring Youngstown State offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo to be their new assistant offensive line coach, according to Brian Dzenis of The Vindicate. Dzenis writes that Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini earlier this week, and Belichick has some connections to the area.

Lions Release S Glover Quin

The Lions released safety Glover Quin, according to a team announcement. In related moves, wide receiver Bruce Ellington and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby were also cut from the roster. 

We thank Glover for his countless contributions to the Detroit Lions during his six seasons with our team,” Lions GM Bob Quinn said in a statement. “Since joining the organization in 2013, Glover exemplified everything it means to be a true professional in this league — as both a competitor on the field and a leading voice in the community. Coach [Matt] Patricia and I have the utmost respect for him as a man and player, and we wish him nothing but the very best in the future.”

Quin, 33 in January, started all 16 of the Lions’ games in 2018, but saw some of his play time eaten into by rookie Tracy Walker down the stretch. Meanwhile, it has been speculated that the ten-year veteran may retire. The 2014 Pro Bowl selection was due a $5.25MM base salary with an extra $1MM in bonuses for 2019. By cutting Quin, the Lions saved $6.25MM in cap space.

Quin joined the Lions before the 2013 season and played in every game over six years for Detroit. His 148-game starting streak leads all active safeties in the NFL, but that could soon come to a stop.

Quin enjoyed the best season of his career in 2014 when he earned a Pro Bowl nod and registered seven interceptions. Over his decade in the NFL, Quin recorded 24 interceptions and 740 tackles in total.

Without Quin, the Lions will now likely have 2018 third-round pick Tracy Walker start alongside Quandre Diggs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Work Out RB Mike Gillislee

The Lions hosted and worked out free agent running back Mike Gillislee on Thursday, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Lions showed interest in him after he missed the Patriots’ cut in 2018, Rapoport notes, so this could be a good fit for the 28-year-old. 

Gillislee enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 101 handoffs with the Bills. In the following offseason, the Pats signed him to a two-year, $6.4MM deal, but he didn’t get a ton of opportunities in 2017, outside of his three-touchdown performance in Week 1. After missing the cut in 2018, Gillislee hooked on with the Saints. He averaged just 2.7 yards in the first four games of the year and was pushed aside after Mark Ingram returned from suspension.

The Lions could view Gillislee as a decent backup option behind star Kerryon JohnsonLeGarrette Blount didn’t do much last year with the Lions and he’s scheduled to reach free agency on March 13. Like Blount, Gillislee also has experience with coach Matt Patricia dating back to their days in New England.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Re-Sign LS Don Muhlbach

The Lions announced re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach, according to a press release. This has become something of a yearly tradition for the team as Muhlbach has been routinely retained on short-term deals.

Muhlbach first joined the Lions as a free agent in the 2004 season. He’ll now return for his 16th season with the club. He’s just one of three players in franchise history to play 15 seasons for the club and has appeared in the second-most career games with 228.

Last year, Mulhbach earned his second-career Pro Bowl, a significant personal achievement after a woeful season for the franchise.

Kicker Jason Hanson holds the Lions’ all-time record with 327 games played, so the 37-year-old Muhlbach is unlikely to take the crown unless he plays into his mid-40s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Willing To Draft QB In First Round?

Matthew Stafford was not particularly good in 2018, as he threw for fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time since an injury-shortened 2010 campaign, and he tossed just 21 TDs against 11 interceptions. His pedestrian numbers, when coupled with the Lions’ disappointing 2018 season, have led to plenty of speculation that Detroit could be looking for a new QB sooner rather than later.

As we detailed in late December, Stafford’s contract situation makes cutting or trading him this offseason a dubious proposition at best. But he did just turn 31, and while he has put together some nice statistical seasons, he has not guided his team to a single playoff win in his 10 seasons under center. The blame for the Lions’ playoff shortcomings by no means falls squarely on Stafford’s shoulders, but as a quarterback with a $135MM contract to his name, he is subject to some scrutiny.

The odds are that the Lions will retain Stafford for at least one more season, especially now that they have a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell. But GM Bob Quinn said yesterday that he is open to drafting a quarterback with the No. 8 overall selection in this year’s draft, even if Stafford will almost certainly be on the roster at that point (via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com).

Quinn said, “We’ll consider any position in the draft at any point in time, whether it’s the eighth overall pick or we have multiple picks later in the draft. We’re in a position now with the eighth overall pick that the whole draft board is really wide open to us. We’re not going to really eliminate any prospects.”

Of course, no general manager is going to explicitly rule out a position or player in advance of the draft and needlessly give away a competitive advantage, no matter how slight. On the other hand, it is interesting that Quinn’s statement comes just a few weeks after Quinn said Stafford was, and would continue to be, the Lions’ quarterback.

Although this year’s class of rookie QBs is considered to be weak relative to the 2018 group, it did get an injection of intriguing talent yesterday, when Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray announced his intention to pursue an NFL career. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is viewed as 2019’s other top collegiate signal-caller, and either player could be available when the Lions are on the clock in the first round. Haskins and Murray have decidedly different styles than Stafford, but both would benefit from his tutelage and from serving as his backup in 2019.

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ERFA Signings: 2/11/19

With free agency barely a month away, teams have begun to make moves regarding their exclusive-rights free agents. Here are Monday’s ERFA decisions:

Detroit Lions

New Orleans Saints

Lions, Charlie Weis Discussed OC Job

The Lions have a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, but they checked in with an interesting name before making the hire. Former Notre Dame head coach and Patriots assistant Charlie Weis “talked” with Matt Patricia about the job, Weis tells Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

[RELATED: Lions LB Trevor Bates Arrested]

We talked, but it never got to that point,” Weis said. “There was no interview. Matt and I are too close to go through an interview. If it ever would have happened, it would have been, ‘Hey, you want to come?’ And I would have said yes or no. It wouldn’t have been anything other than that.”

Weis put himself on the map as the Patriots’ OC from 2000-2004 and he parlayed that into the head coaching job at Notre Dame. After a spotty run with the Fighting Irish, Weis became the Chiefs’ OC (2010), then took the same job with the University of Florida (2011), and later coached at Kansas (2012-2014).

These days, Weis is working in radio, but it sounds like he’s at least open to a return to coaching.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.