Lions Sign Rugged Former Michigan State Defender to Futures Deal

Joel Heath

Getty Joel Heath goes after a Saints player in 2016.

The Detroit Lions are beginning to scour the free agency market for some value buys coming up, and they may have found one who used to play right in their own backyard.

Thursday, the team signed defensive lineman Joel Heath, formally of the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. Heath has been a solid rotational player in the NFL since his days playing with the Michigan State Spartans. Heath broke into the league as an undrafted free agent, but has carved out a role for himself with some solid play in the trenches thus far early in his career.

Up front, the Lions have had trouble with depth the last few seasons and are looking for some value buys to help bolster their front. Heath could help in this being he is a veteran player who has some solid years under his belt in the league and would seem to be a good plug and play piece for a team in need of such depth.

If anything, Heath is a good value buy on the future market for the Lions at this point in the offseason just ahead of free agency.


Joel Heath Stats

The 27 year-old Heath originally hails from Cincinnati, Ohio where he was an excellent prep player. Heath committed to Michigan State and played a solid role for the Spartans from 2012 to 2015, where he was a part of one of the winningest classes in Spartan football history which culminated in the 2015 Big Ten title as well as an appearence in the College Football Playoffs. In college, Heath put up 4.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 60 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for-loss. When he transitioned to the NFL, Heath has managed to put up 34 tackles and 3 sacks. He played with the Texans from 2016 to 2019 and signed with the Broncos for 2020, but sat out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Detroit, Heath can be a guy who clogs the lanes and provides a bit of pocket push for the Lions if he is able to fight his way on the roster. Given the depth concerns and uncertainty with the salary cap, that could be what the team is counting on him to do.


Lions Defensive Line Needs Depth

Nobody is pretending Heath is going to make the whole difference for the Lions, but after how the team was pushed around last season and in previous years up front, adding any kind of value help is a good move for the team. Detroit has suffered a lack of consistency up front and has paid the price for it in terms of getting pushed around in the trenches lately. Someone like Heath won’t be a star player, but he could be just the kind of depth the team needs in order to help things out up front for consistency sake.

The Lions have more work to do, obviously, but someone like Heath is a good value buy for the team at this point in time at one of the neediest spots on the roster this offseason. With a weaker draft class in the trenches, this could quietly be an important signing.


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