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The biggest positional weaknesses on the Detroit Lions have been at CB and OLB. However, the OLB position is where the Lions have the most holes in the roster. The only players that are certain to be available are DeAndre Levy, Jordan Dizon, Zack Follett, and Isaiah Ekejiuba. The Lions also drafted OLB, Doug Hogue, in the fifth round.
The core of the linebackers from last season, Bobby Carpenter, Ashlee Palmer, Vinny Ciurciu, Landon Johnson, and Caleb Campbell are all free agents.
Realistically, Levy is the only player to have secured a starting position. Dizon, as reported by the Pride of Detroit, is not likely to be brought back and Ekejiuba is not expected to be competing for a starting job on the defensive line as he is mostly used on special teams. Zack Follett has signed his contract and was cleared to play again by his doctors after a severe neck injury but it is uncertain if he will be able to be a starter.
The Lions would need to resign all or most of their free agents just to have any players secured at the linebacker position, aside from Levy. This is not a very comfortable place to be in when heading into what could easily be a very promising season for the Lions.
Detroit showed that they were a team on the rise at the end of the season with four consecutive wins against difficult teams and throughout the season with several close games. This kind of momentum gave hope to long-standing, and some would say, suffering, Lions fans.
As a result, many of the Lions faithful want Jim Schwartz (head coach) and Martin Mayhew (GM) to go out and get who they perceive to be the best free agents out there. Hence names likes Asomugha and Stephen Tulloch (even though, technically the MLB position is not listed as a position of need).
However, the precedence of Schwartz and Mayhew has been to bring in just a couple of big names (DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and WR Nate Burleson) but mostly they have focused on very good players who did not command as much in salary (CB Nathan Vasher, and S Erik Coleman). In some cases they even signed players who were not well known at all (LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, WR Brian Clark and CB Kevin Hobbs.)
Several Lions fans have been clamoring all over Stephen Tulloch as a player Detroit should target this off season. The primary issue with signing Tulloch is that he could force current MLB (Mike) Levy back into the OLB position. In the 11 games he played in last season (and not at 100% healthy), Levy posted 72 tackles, 2 interceptions, (one brought back for a TD), 2 fumble recoveries and had 4 passes defended. This was his second season in the NFL and his first at the MLB position, where the Lions coaching staff feel he is better suited than OLB.
Tulloch (MLB) posted outstanding numbers last year for the Tennessee Titans (his fifth season) and is considered one of the best MLB's in the league. He started in all 16 regular season games and posted 160 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, and 6 passes defended. Where he definitely shines is in his ability to finish a tackle. I can absolutely see why he is attractive to Lions fans.
I am not convinced, however, that Schwartz would put his young MLB back outside just to make room for Tulloch. It would be essentially wasting the talents of the future of the Lions best MLB. This Lions front office are not about winning one season or patching together a team who could make a one year run for the Super Bowl. They are about building a team that will last for years and turning a losing legacy into a winning legacy. That doesn't happen with a "plug and play" mentality.
It is possible that they would bring Tulloch in to use to help keep Levy's legs fresh, just as they plan to do with DT Nick Fairley for Ndamukong Suh. It's an excellent idea that suggests the Lions have faith in the direction the team is going. So much so that they have to protect their most valuable assets from injury and fatigue.
Yes, I know that this brings up our QB situation and an issue that many have expressed concerns about: protecting Stafford. We'll get there, but not quite yet...this article is looking at the defensive line and there are other players at the OLB position who deserve consideration.