The Detroit Lions have one main area “in need of reinforcements” left this offseason, according to Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger — the defensive line.
That’s why Spielberger called for the Lions to target defensive lineman Shelby Harris as their “one last offseason move.”
“A reliable veteran on the interior next to 2021 third-round pick Alim McNeill could be a key addition to a young Lions defensive line that got gashed up the middle at times in 2022, and Harris earned a 76.9 run-defense grade in 2022 while logging more than 25 quarterback pressures for the fourth straight season,” wrote Spielberger.
“Detroit does not have many holes left, but not significantly addressing the interior of the defensive line this offseason would leave an area in need of reinforcements.”
Harris is entering his ninth NFL season. Last season with the Seattle Seahawks, Harris posted 44 combined tackles, including 5 tackles for loss, 6 quarterback hits, 2 sacks and 4 pass defenses in 15 games.
UPDATE: The Lions signed defensive lineman Christian Covington on May 10. Covington has eight years of experience, mostly playing at defensive tackle.
How Shelby Harris Fits With the Lions
As Spielberger noted, McNeill has developed into a quality starter for the Lions at defensive tackle. McNeill has recorded 80 combined tackles, including 9 for loss, 10 quarterback hits and 3 sacks in two seasons.
During his first full year as a starter in 2022, McNeill had 6 tackles for loss, 7 quarterback hits and a sack.
This offseason, the Lions re-signed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year contract after he turned in a productive 2022 campaign. Furthermore, the Lions selected Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin in the third round of the draft.
Both are projected to be in the defensive line rotation along with starting defensive tackles McNeill and former second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike.
Detroit also has Benito Jones and two undrafted free agents (Cory Durden and Chris Smith) on the depth chart at defensive tackle. But another veteran at the position could be useful for the Lions.
Onwuzurike is returning from a back injury that knocked him out for the entire 2022 season. Buggs was a key re-signing for the Lions, but of the other four reserve defensive tackles, only Jones has dressed for an NFL game.
He has recorded 261 combined tackles, including 40 for loss, 52 quarterback hits and 24.5 sacks in 98 career games.
Matt Ioannidis is Another Potential Free Agent Target for Lions
This wasn’t the first time this month Spielberger called for the Lions to target a defensive tackle in free agency.
On May 2, Spielberger argued the Lions were a top landing spot for 7-year veteran defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis.
“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,” Spielberger wrote. “He can help a lot of teams make things tough on opposing quarterbacks.”
Harris has more experience than Ioannidis, but the latter is still on the right side of 30 (Ioannidis turned 29 in January). Harris will turn 32 in August.
Last season with the Carolina Panthers, Ioannidis posted 37 combined tackles, including 5 tackles for loss and 9 quarterback hits. Prior to joining the Panthers, he spent six seasons with Washington.
Either Harris or Ioannidis would be a quality addition to the interior of the Lions defensive line.