According to the Chicago Tribune, the Lions have just signed outside linebacker Justin Durant to a two-year deal. This comes on the heels of news that the Lions are also working hard to convince Tennessee Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch to sign with them as well.
Without a doubt, if the Lions can get both Durant and Tulloch in free agency, they will be well on the way to creating a fearsome front seven.
The Tribune also indicated that Durant was a target of the Chicago Bears. This, of course, makes this alleged signing even sweeter because the Lions seem to have stolen a player from under the nose of a bitter division rival.
Durant will be a strong addition to Detroit's linebackers corps, and possesses the versatility to play either outside linebacker position. He is still only 25 years old and is expected to continue to improve as he gains strength.
As he stands, Durant is a supreme athlete who also weighs 240 lbs. He has good awareness and instincts, which when combined with his 4.5 speed and agility means he is almost always around the ball to make a play.
Durant is at his best defending the run. Last year, he was in the top 10 linebackers in run defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and is also a capable blitzer. He can pursue ball carriers sideline-to-sideline with his speed and also has the frame too make plays between the tackles.
However, he is not without weaknesses. Durant has struggled with injuries a bit during his career and is a liability in coverage at the moment. Although this may improve as he matures (he certainly has the athleticism to cover), at the moment he is a two-down linebacker. He also needs to get stronger, which will allow him to be an even greater force against the run.
The Lions are unmistakeably a good situation for Durant. First, the quality of the defensive line will free him up to play his game. He will be able to play untouched a lot and not get bogged down by blockers.
Also, the presence of Ashlee Palmer, a good coverage linebacker who can sub in for Durant on passing downs, will help his confidence and shield his great weakness most of the time.
As well as shielding Durant from coverage, it would also shield Palmer and rookie Doug Houge from being thrown in the fire for a whole season. While Houge has great potential and Palmer is a good backup, they would probably been found out by coordinators if they started a whole season.
Durant also provides the Lions with another quality starter on defense who will help them stop teams running on them. He will lessen the load on DeAndre Levy to carry the back seven and this should mean that Levy will start to play better.
All in all, this has the makings of another great Martin Mayhew signing. All the Lions need is Tulloch and it would not be that hard to argue that the defensive front seven would be complete.
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