New Orleans was also in the running for Kevin Zeitler, a sure sign the club was hoping to improve the interior of its offensive line. Given that quarterback Drew Brees is on the shorter side, keeping him away from interior pressure is key, and a central factor in why the Saints have always invested in guard play. Warford will slot in at right guard opposite former first-round pick Andrus Peat, with Max Unger at center.
Warford, 25, is a former second-round pick, and though he’s been a full-time starter for the entirety of his career, he’s never been able to match the production exhibited during his rookie campaign. In 2016, for example, Warford started 15 games for the Lions and graded as the league’s No. 20 guard, per Pro Football Focus. That’s solid production, to be sure, but not evident of the elite level of talent Warford displayed in 2013.
Detroit was hoping to retain Warford, who ranks as PFR’s No. 4 free agent guard and No. 21 free agent overall. Instead, the Lions have now lost Warford and aren’t likely to re-sign fellow free agent offensive lineman Riley Reiff. Detroit hasn’t stopped paying for offensive lineman, however, as the team made Ricky Wagner the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle yesterday.
Warford’s addition in New Orleans likely signals the end of veteran Jahri Evans‘ run with the Saints. Evans, who had spent 11 season with New Orleans, only plays right guard, so he probably wouldn’t make sense even as a backup option.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.