The Detroit Lions have added depth to their offensive line.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on May 23 that the Lions have signed veteran offensive lineman Germain Ifedi.
The Lions made the transaction official on May 24. In a corresponding move, the team waived linebacker Isaac Darkangelo.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old was a first-round pick for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 NFL draft. He played four seasons for the Seahawks, starting 60 games at right guard and right tackle.
Last season, Ifedi played 17 games for the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta released him on May 16.
Lions Sign Veteran Offensive Lineman Germain Ifedi
Ifedi has arguably underperformed for being the No. 31 pick in the 2016 draft, but he’s still put together a solid resume for a depth offensive linemen.
After four seasons with the Seahawks, he joined the Chicago Bears in free agency. He started all 16 games at right guard and right tackle in 2020.
Ifedi only missed four games in his first five years in the league. But a knee injury during Week 5 in 2021 knocked Ifedi out for eight contests. He returned in late December, finishing the season with seven starts and nine games played for the Bears.
Week 16 in 2021 was the last time Ifedi started. He dressed in all 17 contests for the Falcons in 2022 but played mostly on special teams.
In fact, Ifedi appeared on the field for 72 special teams snaps in 2022, which was just two shy of his career high. He played eight snaps on offense, which was, by far, a new career low.
In seven NFL seasons, Ifedi has started 83 games and played in 102 contests. All but 10 of his offensive snaps during his career have been at right tackle and right guard.
How Ifedi Fits With the Lions
The Lions offensive line has grown into one of the stronger trench units around the league.
Detroit’s line excels particularly well at run blocking. Pro Football Focus ranked the Lions ninth-best in run blocking last season. But depth because of injuries could be a concern.
The Lions are bringing back four of their five starting offensive linemen from last season. In free agency, they lost offensive lineman Evan Brown, who wasn’t a starter going into last August but started 12 games at guard during 2022.
To replace him, the Lions signed veteran guard Graham Glasgow. Guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was slotted in front of Brown on the depth chart last August, is also projected to return after spending 2022 on injured reserve.
There’s no indication that Ifedi is going to compete with Vaitai for the starting job, but his presence gives the Lions another option with starting experience. The Lions can also easily plug him in at guard or tackle on the right side of the line.
That versatility is usually key for depth offensive linemen on NFL rosters.
Detroit’s offensive line depth could prove to be key this season. Center Frank Ragnow suffered a tear in the plantar plate of his left foot in 2021 and then sustained the same injury in Week 1 last year.
Ragnow shared with the media on May 18 that he “has no healthy tissue left” in his toe and called the injury “inoperable.”
Glasnow was likely signed to push Vaitai for the starting right guard job, but depending on how Ragnow can manage the pain in his foot, Glasnow could see time at center.
Vaitai is also returning this season after undergoing back surgery in October. Back recoveries in the NFL can be unpredictable.
Ifedi could prove to be invaluable for the Lions because of his experience and ability to play more than one position. He will likely compete with Matt Nelson, Colby Sorsdal, Ryan Swoboda, Kayode Awosika and Max Pircher for a roster spot this summer.