Lions Predicted to Add 7-Year Veteran to D-Line: ‘True Difference-Maker’

Dan Campbell

Getty Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions have been predicted to sign a veteran defensive lineman.

The Detroit Lions haven’t added one defensive lineman in free agency this offseason. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger suggested general manager Brad Holmes change that.

In an article where he identified the best landing spots for the top remaining NFL free agents, Spielberger predicted the Lions to sign seven-year veteran defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis.

“A good veteran pass rusher on the interior next to Alim McNeill could be a key addition to a young Lions defensive line that boasts depth but needs a true difference-maker like a healthy Ioannidis,” Spielberger in the story published May 2.

“Ioannidis has missed time in recent seasons with injuries, but he’s been a consistently strong pass rusher from the interior, earning pass-rush grades of 69.1 or better in each of the past six campaigns with a pressure rate of around 10% in each of the past two. He can help a lot of teams make things tough on opposing quarterbacks.”

Ioannidis played last season for the Carolina Panthers. In 13 games, all of which were starts, he posted 37 combined tackles, including 5 tackles for loss and 9 quarterback hits. He also had a sack, a pass defensed and a forced fumble.

How Matt Ioannidis Could Fit With the Detroit Lions

Ioannidis, 29, is an obvious fit for the Lions because Detroit could use additional depth along the interior of its defensive line. They re-signed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal after a productive season last year. And they have Alim McNeil slated to play left defensive tackle after he started 17 games last year in his second NFL season.

The Lions could be able to bring in Ioannidis on a one-year contract, just as they did with Buggs and the Panthers did with him in 2022.

Ioannidis began his career with the then Washington Redskins as a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. In six seasons in Washington, Ioannidis recorded 24.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 73 games.

During both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he eclipsed the 7-sack plateau. Ioannidis experienced a career season with 8.5 sacks, 64 combined tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits in 2019.

Currently, the Lions are projected to start former second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike next to McNeill on the interior of the defensive line. Onwuzurike experienced a decent rookie season in 2021, but he spent all of last season on injured reserve because of a back injury.

Signing Ioannidis would give the Lions defensive line not only depth but also insurance for the recovering Onwuzurike.

Is Ioannidis Detroit’s Last Free Agency Piece for 2023?

The Lions have made quality additions at a lot of levels of their defense this offseason.

The biggest free agency signing was former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton. He agreed to come to Detroit on a three-year, $33 million deal.

Holmes also brought in cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in free agency for the secondary. At outside linebacker, the Lions signed Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

To bolster the middle of the defensive line, Holmes selected Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin in the third round. He could become a quality piece to Detroit’s defensive line rotation.

But as Spielberger wrote, Ioannidis can be a “true difference-maker,” and immediately give the middle of the Lions defense a boost.

Over seven NFL seasons, Ioannidis has made 53 starts and played in 86 games. He has recorded 212 combined tackles, including 30 tackles for loss, 25.5 sacks, 68 quarterback hits and 1 forced fumble.

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