Where can Lions GM Quinn find DE depth?

The Detroit Lions can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to the defensive end position.

First, DE Armonty Bryant was suspended for four games, DE Kerry Hyder ruptured his Achilles tendon, and most recently, DE/LB Brandon Copeland tore his pectoral. Not to mention, DE Ziggy Ansah is still yet to see the field this preseason.

When will the suffering end?

One of the few highly scrutinized offseason moves–or lack thereof–was GM Bob Quinn passing on a high profile defensive end in both the draft and free agency. After a horrid 2016 season in terms of rushing the passer, the addition of Cornelius Washington didn’t instill much hope for a dramatic turnaround.

It looks like this minor miscue may come back to bite the second-year general manager.

Unless, of course, another shrewd acquisition is made.

With Quinn’s recent track record, he wastes no time in finding alternate plans of action. Let’s take a look at some possible scenarios:

FREE AGENTS

The top free agents still left on the market are all aging veterans. Despite their age, they still had considerable roles in the NFL last season. The players I speak of are former number one overall pick Mario Williams, longtime Eagle Trent Cole and sack artist Dwight Freeney. (Click on the player’s name for career stats and info)

They all are bigger names at this point in their careers than they are performers, but that’s not to say they can’t fill a specialized role in Teryl Austin‘s defense.

The Lions have roughly $7-million in current cap space. None of the aforementioned free agents should cost close to that amount considering their insignificant demand.

TRADE

Quinn is also no stranger to making trades.

Already striking a deal once this season for a floundering former second overall pick, another Patriot-like move could be in the works.

My personal choices would be to target the out-of-position defensive ends similar to what free agent Cornelius Washington was with the Chicago Bears.

For example, DE Kareem Martin and DE Tank Carradine play for the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers respectively. Both players have been shifted around in an effort to find a natural position.

Coming into the NFL, they were projected as more of 4-3 defensive ends by many draft gurus, but have played uninspiringly in the 3-4 defense. With San Francisco’s recent coaching change, Carradine is actually now in an attacking 4-3 under scheme–similar to the Seatle Seahawks. Despite the transition, he still finds himself on the roster bubble due to a few different factors.

Maybe a change of scenery and a scheme switch can be their catalyst to a successful NFL career.

Neither should carry too hefty of a price tag.

DEVELOPMENTAL

On the flip side, the Lions did have some healthy youngsters flash in Sunday’s preseason opener. Second-year sixth-round pick Anthony Zettel and three rookies, (Pat O’Connor, Alex Barrett, and Jeremiah Voloaga) all played well against a porous Colt’s offensive line.

Each of the rookies racked up a sack and both Barrett and Volaga accumulated six tackles each.

Zettel seemed to always be around the ball creating havoc.

Despite the encouraging performances, it would be ill-advised to go into a season expecting sizable contributions from such unheralded players.

 

In saying all of this, the Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has done an exceptional job at turning no-name players into respectable pieces. Add his coaching acumen with Quinn’s ability to find talent and the Lions appear to be in good hands.

Let’s just hope there is enough malleable DE material for them to mold.

Follow Lion Lowdown on Twitter @LionLowdown or Logan Lamorandier @LLamorandier

 

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