Defensively, the Detroit Lions have a huge rebuilding job to do this offseason before 2021 begins, and it starts in the trenches with a defensive line that has struggled to find any shred of consistency in recent years.
If the Lions have had one major problem lately, it’s been getting after the quarterback and finding enough pressure up front. The team has also been inconsistent at stopping the run and clogging lanes. This is going to have to stop in a big way if Detroit wants their defense to improve at all.
Building the team inside to out should be a huge goal of the Lions, and they could kick off this work with a modest addition or two along the defensive front. What names should they be looking closest at when all is said and done? Here’s a look at the rundown.
Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s been a handful of years since Suh departed Detroit and left plenty of Lions fans miffed at how he left, but clearly, plenty of time has passed since that moment and the veteran defender has only matured. Now, he has only good things to say about the city and the team, which is nice to note. In terms of production, Suh is probably on the downside of his career at this point in time, but as he proved in helping the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl, he can still get it done with 6 sacks in 2020. A return may be unlikely, but it would make a lot of sense of Suh came back to mentor the young players up front for Detroit.
Kawaan Short, Carolina Panthers
A recent release, Short is a player who has done a bit of everything in his NFL career and could fit in as a veteran piece on a short term deal who could give the rotation some depth. At 32 years old, Short’s elite days are probably far behind him but that shouldn’t matter as it relates to what he could give the Lions. Up front, Short could be a solid rotational piece for Detroit that could help a ton with run defense and stopping the team from getting gauged in the middle of the line.
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Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions
There would be absolutely no shame in the Lions simply deciding to bring back their best defensive lineman from a year ago in Okwara and calling it a day on the market. It wouldn’t be a situation where they were punting at all, If there’s been one dangerous pass rusher this past season for the Lions that has stepped up, it’s Okwara, who came alive at the right time for Detroit most of the 2020 season. As a whole this season, Okwara managed to collect the most sacks of any Lions player (10) and he also thrives on creating pressure and panic in the pocket. With this in mind, it’s fair to say that Okwara figures to drive the bus for Detroit in terms of pass rush and has been going it alone most of the time in Detroit. That could only boost his stock when all is said and done this offseason, but the Lions would be wise to get a deal done.
Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
If the Lions let Okwara walk and want to make a bigger splash in this market, Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn could set their sights on someone like Henderson of the Saints. A productive player who is going to get a significant raise, Hendrickson could look good in Detroit given his 20 career sacks already since entering the league in 2017. The Lions might have to spend a bit bigger, but if they are looking for a decent-sized buy, Hendrickson could be the right way to go. If the Lions can find a way to get Hendrickson in the mix, he could help the team and their toughness from day one.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, Kansas City Chiefs
A bit of a lower buy due to his production since coming into the league, Kpassagnon would be an interesting name for Lions fans to remember due to the fact that his former general manager John Dorsey is now on staff, which could mean he has a soft landing in Detroit. With only 75 tackles and 7 career sacks, Kpassagnon hasn’t panned out to be an elite talent worthy of a massive contract, but at 26, he still has all the tools to be a solid player for a team like Detroit that needs NFL ready depth up front to help rush the passer. Dorsey could see the value in Kpassagnon for this Lions team and want to see him as part of the rotation up front. For a cheap addition, the Lions could probably do a lot worse and he could be solid when paired with someone like Romeo Okwara coming back.