Detroit Lions Rumors & News

Lions Sign Pierce Burton

  • The Lions have announced the signing of offensive tackle Pierce Burton to an undisclosed contract. Burton, who went undrafted in 2014, previously spent time on the practice squads of the Vikings, Falcons, Panthers and Colts. The ex-Ole Miss standout hasn’t yet appeared in an NFL game.

Lions To Make Major Splash At Tight End?

  • It’s possible the Lions will do something significant at tight end this offseason, per ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein, who lists the Patriots’ Martellus Bennett as a potential target in free agency. Signing Bennett, who appears likely to leave New England, would cloud starting tight end Eric Ebron‘s future in Detroit. Still just 23, Ebron set career highs in receptions (61), targets (86) and yards (711) last season, though he finished toward the bottom of the league in drops (seven) and only caught one touchdown. The Lions must decide by May whether to exercise Ebron’s fifth-year option for 2018.

Lions Hire Ex-Texans OC George Godsey

The Lions have hired former Texans offensive coordinator George Godsey as a defensive assistant/special projects, the club announced today.George Godsey (vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Detroit Lions]

The Detroit title means Godsey will be coaching/analyzing from a different side of the ball given that he’s spent the entirety of his career on offense, but he won’t be the first coach to switch his specific focus. Longtime NFL offensive coach Juan Castillo, for one, spent two years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator (with admittedly poor results), while current Falcons wide receivers coach Raheem Morris came up through the defensive ranks.

While the Lions didn’t announce Godsey’s exact duties, he’ll likely have a role similar to that of Randy Edsall, the current UConn head coach who spent the 2016 campaign as Detroit’s director of football research/special projects. Edsall assisted in gameday preparation (scouting future opponents, searching for tendencies), and also aided in draft and free agency work. Given that Godsey is an offensive mind, he’ll presumably help the Lions’ defensive staff see the game from a different point of view.

Godsey, 38, first entered the NFL with the Patriots in 2011, and had spent the past three seasons with the Texans, serving as offensive coordinator from 2015-16. After being let go by Houston earlier this year, Godsey was a candidate for the Jets’ OC vacancy, and was also linked to the University of Alabama.

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OL Geoff Schwartz Announces Retirement

Longtime NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz announced his retirement today, writing on SB Nation today that he’s decided to hang up his cleats.Geoff Schwartz (vertical)

Schwartz, 30, spent last summer on the Lions’ offseason roster after signing a one-year, minimum salary benefit deal with Detroit. Expected to serve as a reserve at several positions along the line, Schwartz was waived at the end of August. As he writes in his retirement piece, Schwartz fully expected to land another contract after parting ways with the Lions, but after weeks passed with no contact from interested clubs, Schwartz realized his career was likely over.

Nevertheless, Schwartz’s seven-year NFL run can’t be considered anything other than a success, especially given that Schwartz entered the league as seventh-round pick and suffered a devastating hip injury soon after becoming an established starter. After bouncing around with the Panthers and Vikings, Schwartz played his best ball with the Chiefs in 2013, grading as one of the best guards in the NFL.

After parlaying his seven-game starter stint in Kansas City into a four-year deal with the Giants, Schwartz dealt with injury once again, managing to play in only 13 games over two seasons thanks to ankle, toe, and leg issues. Having struggled to stay on the field, Schwartz was released by New York last February.

Schwartz has already begun his post-NFL career in media: not only does he pen excellent pieces at SB Nation, but he’s co-authored a book with his brother, Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz. For offensive line junkies, Schwartz’s Twitter account is a must-follow, as is his podcast.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 3 Offseason Needs: Detroit Lions

In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Detroit Lions, who managed to make the playoffs for the second time in three years and third time this decade. But the team backed into the NFC bracket, closing the regular season with three losses, and did not fare well in a wild-card loss to the Seahawks. This leaves many offseason questions ahead.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2017:

Other:

  • Projected cap space (via OverTheCap): $32,797,575
  • Twenty-first pick in draft
  • Must exercise or decline 2018 fifth-year option for TE Eric Ebron

Three Needs:

1.) Stock the second level: Since signing the four-year, $33.74MM extension prior to the 2015 season, DeAndre Levy has contributed staggeringly little to the Lions’ cause. Playing in just six games and making only 21 tackles the past two seasons, Levy can no longer be counted on to be available. But he’s still Detroit’s best linebacker and has three years and almost $19MM remaining on his deal. The Lions will likely see if Levy can retain the form that led the team to extend him, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes a Levy pay cut request could be forthcoming after the soon-to-be 30-year-old weak-side man’s observed his value depreciate. Levy, however, won’t need further surgery on his right knee, which plagued him in 2016 after a hip injury harpooned his 2015 slate. Just $1.75MM of Levy’s 2017 salary ($5.75MM) is guaranteed against injury for 2017, becoming fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year. But thoughts of cutting the previous outside standout would basically mean starting over at linebacker, because the Lions are reeling here.

Levy’s extension thus far burning the Lions gives them no surefire answers on their defensive second level. Despite his 122 tackles far and away leading the team, Tahir Whitehead encountered mixed reviews. Pro Football Focus did not think the statistics gelled with Whitehead’s play level, ranking the 26-year-old as the league’s second-worst full-time linebacker last season. Whitehead is signed through 2017 after inking a two-year, $8MM extension last March. The Lions’ second-leading tackler among linebackers, Josh Bynes, is a pending UFA. A fifth-round pick from 2016, Antwione Williams, and a former waiver claim (Thurston Armbrister) represent the only other ‘backers under contract.

A group that appeared solid a couple of seasons ago, with Levy and the since-released Stephen Tulloch manning positions, could use reinforcements. Football Outsiders ranked the Lions last in defensive DVOA in 2016, and although Detroit’s defense ranked 18th in terms of rushing yards allowed, this is a primary need area.

It’s not a great year to need a non-rush linebacker, particularly if a team is seeking outside help in a 4-3. Assuming Levy returns to commandeer the weak-side spot (big if, obviously), the Lions may need two new starters. As far as 4-3 OLBs go, it’s an incredibly thin contingent.

Malcolm Smith now profiles as player with significant starting experience compared to his initial free agency foray in 2015, when he was coming off a stay as a Seahawks contributor. Smith, though, did not impress much in Oakland despite being the Raiders’ most-used pure linebacker the past two seasons. Beyond that, Bynes, Keenan Robinson and Barkevious Mingo loom as undesirable options. Bob Quinn‘s former team traded for Mingo last year, but the former No. 6 overall pick made little impact. The 27-year-old Bynes could conceivably be back on a cheap deal. He signed a two-year pact with Detroit in 2015 but saw an injury lead to his release. The Kyle Van Noy trade re-routed Bynes to the Motor City, where he started eight games last season and earned a middling PFF grade — but tops among Lions linebackers. The Lions still may be better off targeting a rookie in the early rounds to fill this need.

If the team would be open to converting a 3-4 inside man to the outside, more options are available. Zach Brown and Kevin Minter are each coming off quality seasons and will be looking to cash in, Brown (149 tackles with the Bills in 2016) especially after settling for a one-year deal as a UFA last year. A middle linebacker in the Raiders’ base 4-3 set but a player used on passing downs as well, Perry Riley stands to be available after re-emerging last season. Settling for one of the other talents here — unless it’s Lawrence Timmons, whom the Steelers are considering keeping — doesn’t make much sense. It could be time for an early-round investment.

The Lions have mostly avoided linebackers in Round 1, with Ernie Sims (2006) representing the last such selection. They went for Van Noy in Round 2 three years ago, but he’s the only second-rounder the franchise has used on this position in the past nine years. A 2009 third-round choice, Levy joins many modern non-rush linebackers in showing that filling this spot with later-round draft picks can work. However, his own standing with the team presently could induce an early selection to help tilt the odds in the Lions’ favor.

Most mainstream mock drafts do not have the Lions going for a linebacker with their No. 1 pick, but Detroit has talent at every other level of its defense that will return. Be it Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, or Glover Quin. This defense needs help at multiple spots, but if Levy can’t return to regular duty, no such cornerstone cog exists at linebacker. And even if the ninth-year player does return to form, counting on it to last may be asking too much.

A chasm exists between Reuben Foster and the rest of the traditional linebackers in this rookie class. Jarrad Davis could be the No. 2 pure ‘backer on the board by the time No. 21 comes around, and the ex-Florida talent’s ankle troubles — which will force him to miss Combine workouts — could scare off teams in the teens from making that pick. Of course, the Lions themselves dealing with a chronically injured linebacker may make drafting Davis a difficult proposition. He of 125 tackles (16.5 for loss) in 13 games, Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is viewed as a late-first-round talent as well. It’s doubtful Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan will be there when the Lions’ second-round window opens. Foster’s lesser-regarded teammate, Ryan Anderson, could be, however.

This is not a bad need to have when it comes to bringing in young talent, as recent Day 2 picks Deion Jones and Jordan Hicks showed in becoming instant contributors the past two years.

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Birkett: Cole Wick Could Play Significant Role In 2017

  • The Lions signed tight end Cole Wick as a UDFA last offseason, and he managed to stick on the team’s 53-man roster, catching two passes in sporadic playing time over six regular-season games before spending the final two months on IR. But as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes, Wick could find himself with a more significant role in 2017, as he and Eric Ebron are the only tight ends under contract who played a down for Detroit last year.

K’Waun Williams To Meet With Lions, Jets

Former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams is already making the free agent rounds. As a rare February free agent, he has visits scheduled with the Lions on Monday followed by a meeting with the Jets, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Williams is also on the Saints’ radar, tweets The Advocate’s Joel A. Erickson, though he notes that other teams seem to have more interest in the defender.K'Waun Williams (Vertical)

[RELATED: Josh McCown Eyeing Future Coaching Career]

Williams, who had ankle surgery in November, was recently given full clearance by Dr. Robert Anderson. In theory, the young cornerback could sign with a team right away and give a club a quality option to consider in the slot.

Last summer, Williams was embroiled in a high-profile spat with the Browns organization. The Browns suspended Williams for “conduct detrimental to the team” when he said that he independently decided that he could not play in the team’s first preseason game because of the ankle condition. Ultimately, Williams had to have an operation to remove painful bone spurs and he is now pushing for the team to reimburse him for his 2016 $600K salary. In between all of this, Williams had an agreement with the Bears that was scuttled by a failed physical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dan Orlovsky Done In Detroit?

The Dan Orlovsky era may be over in Detroit, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Orlovsky sent out a fairly cryptic tweet yesterday in which he wrote, “Detroit Vs Everybody. It’ll always be where it started for me. It’ll always have a piece of my heart.”

Dan Orlovsky

[RELATED: Anquan Boldin Contemplating Retirement]

Orlovsky, of course, spent the last three seasons as Matthew Stafford‘s backup, but with his contract set to expire next month, he is considered a long shot to return to the Motor City.

After all, the Lions promoted Jake Rudock, whom they selected in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, to the active roster in November in an effort to prevent him from signing with the division-rival Bears. Although Rudock was considered too raw to serve as a primary backup in his rookie campaign, he did put together an impressive showing last preseason, and the team envisions him as Stafford’s next backup.

The 33-year-old Orlovsky did not appear in a game last season, and since entering the league as a fifth-round selection in 2005, he has started just 12 games, compiling a miserable 2-10 record in the process (seven of those losses came during the Lions’ infamous 0-16 season in 2008). Like fellow career backup Josh McCown — who has started 60 games in his 14-year career — Orlovsky has expressed a desire to coach in some capacity once his playing days are done. However, when he made those comments towards the end of the 2016 campaign, he indicated that he was not ready to hang up the cleats just yet.

Orlovsky said at that time, “I don’t want to hang them up anytime soon. I’ve been around football since I was 8 so I don’t know if I can get away from it. I don’t want to get away from it. What my wife wants to do will have a say in it as well.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 2/10/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Browns have re-signed exclusive rights free agent wide receiver Rannell Hall, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Cleveland originally signed the 24-year-old Hall off Tampa Bay’s practice squad near the end of the 2015 campaign, but a broken fibula caused him to miss the entirety of the 2016 season. Hall, who’s appeared in just a single NFL contest, will make league minimum salary as he attempts his comeback.
  • The Bears have signed tight end Justin Perillo, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Perillo, 26, finished the year on the Packers’ practice squad injured reserve after spending eight games on the active roster. All told, Perillo has managed 15 receptions and one touchdown during his three-year career.
  • Linebacker Trevor Roach has retired from the NFL, the Bengals announced today. Roach, 25 next month, originally signed with Cincinnati as an undrafted in 2015, and subsequently bounced between the practice squad and active roster for the next two years. The Nebraska alum appeared in an NFL game for the first time in 2016, ultimately playing in four contests.
  • The Lions announced that they’ve signed safety Rolan Milligan, who spent last offseason with the Cowboys. A 2016 undrafted free agent out of Toledo, Milligan worked out for the Bears, Falcons, and Giants during the season but never landed a contract.

Former Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew Arrested

Former Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew was arrested early Sunday morning in Oklahoma City and charged with disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, as Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. Pettigrew, police say, shoved his friends as they tried to get him to leave the establishment. When police intervened, Pettigrew still refused to leave the premises and continues to push his friends around while also threatening to harm them. Brandon Pettigrew (Vertical)

Pettigrew, who will turn 32 on Feb. 23, has already been released from jail, but his legal situation remains open. He’s also likely to face league discipline for his actions, though he’ll have to first find an NFL home for the 2017 season before worrying about a potential suspension. The veteran was unable to take the field for the Lions in 2016 and he was ultimately released in December.

Once a target for Matthew Stafford in the passing game, Pettigrew has been used mainly as a blocking tight end for the last few years. Pettigrew caught only 17 passes for 137 yards between 2014 and 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.