Monday, February 27, 2017
Tennessee Titans defensive end Karl Klug (97) during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
By Paula Pasche
February 24, 2017
The interior of the Lions’ defensive line should get attention from general manager Bob Quinn through free agency, the NFL draft or both.
Haloti Ngata and A’Shawn Robinson could start in 2017. Ngata played younger than his age (33) last season while Robinson got off to a slow start as a rookie but his improvement was clearly visible.
Khyri Thornton, a restricted free agent, and Anthony Zettel, a sixth-round pick in 2016, could fit in the rotation.
Tyrunn Walker, who had eight starts in 15 games for the Lions in 2016, and Stefan Charles who played in a dozen games for the Lions last season could both become free agents.
NFL teams can start discussing contracts with free agents on March 7 and sign them starting at 4 p.m. on March 9.
Here are five possible free agent defensive tackles who might be good fits for the Lions:
1. Karl Klug, 28, could be a good rotational guy at defensive tackle or end. He’s 28 which is younger than many of the free agent candidates. However, he tore his Achilles’ in Week 15 and is unlikely to be ready for the start of training camp. He’s spent the last six seasons with the Titans who could bring him back on an incentive-laden deal. In 2016 he had 26 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 14 games.
2. Tyson Alualu, 29, is an ironman of sorts missing just two games in the last seven seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blackandteal.com reports that he’s never lived up to his 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft but “has been a consistent presence in the defensive line rotation. Filling in at defensive tackle (where he was originally drafted to play) and also stepping in at defensive end on occasion.” It’s possible he could test the open market and while many teams could show interest he’s not expected to break the bank.
3. Alan Branch, who is coming off another Super Bowl win with the Patriots, has said he is not ready to retire. The 32-year-old defensive tackle, who played at Michigan, had 49 tackles (a career high) and two sacks last season when he made $2.4 million. Patsfan.com reports that Branch has been solid on the practice and playing fields. He was the Patriots’ most consistent tackle last year, as noted by coach Bill Belichick. It’s uncertain if the Patriots will bring him back or go with the younger Malcom Brown.
4. Sylvester Williams, 28, is not expected to return to the Denver Broncos where he has anchored the line for the past three years according to the Denver Post which also reported he was a part of Denver’s struggles against the run. That could be a red flag for the Lions. Last season William had 29 tackles and one sack in his fourth season in Denver.
5. Dontari Poe, 26, could be the odd man out for the Chiefs who may have to pick between him and safety Eric Berry due to salary cap limitations. He could be pricey as CBSsports.com reported he could be looking for a six-year, $85 million deal. He’s young, but that’s a big payday and might be too much for the Lions. A first-round pick by Kansas City in 2012, he had a career low in tackles (27) in 2016. Pro Football Focus wrote: “His movement skills at 346 pounds, coupled with the huge durability he has had in playing over 4,500 snaps in his five seasons in the league, will get somebody interested, because there simply aren’t many human beings on the planet that can tick those boxes. Poe, though, has struggled to live up to the potential he showed back in 2013.”
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