The Detroit Lions have tendered offensive tackle Jason Fox today, ending any speculation of his future in Detroit. At the beginning of the month, the Lions also re-signed offensive tackle Corey Hilliard on a two year deal. With the Lions using their first round pick on Reilly Reiff last season, Jeff Backus’ future with the club is in jeopardy.
Backus has been a fixture at left tackle, starting every game since his rookie season for the Lions. Last season, Backus ended his 186 consecutive game streak by sitting out with a Hamstring injury in week five.
After the season, rumors swirled about Backus potentially retiring, although neither the club nor Backus confirmed these rumors were true. At the NFL Combine, Jim Schwartz said his team is prepared to move forward with his young offensive linemen.
“I think that we’ve drafted on the offensive line, last year with Reilly Reiff, and a couple years before that with Jason Fox. We’ve developed those guys and if we can plug them in, we’re prepared to do it. All of those guys are guys that we think a lot of and we think that they can go do the job if called upon.”
Martin Mayhew has stated many times this off-season his desire to be a player in free agency. With only 6.68 million in cap space, heading into the start of free agency on Tuesday, the Lions will have to make some shrewd moves.
“We were a non-player in free agency last year, so we’ll definitely be a bigger player this year than we were last year,” Mayhew said. “Obviously, things aren’t going in the right direction… We’ve got to make some changes. We’ve got to improve our roster and we’ll definitely make some moves in that direction this offseason.”
If the Lions were to cut Backus, they would save $2.25 million off his base salary and an additional $500k as a roster bonus, totaling $2.75 million in savings.
Mayhew addressed what Fox brings to the Lions in his press conference at the NFL combine.
“Jason Fox obviously had the injuries in his first couple seasons,” Mayhew said’t stay healthy all season, Fox would have played.. “He was able to stay healthy all last year, but we also stayed healthy at the tackle position. He didn’t play very much for us. We think he has starter-type talent level. He has the size. He’s a strong enough guy. He’s a good technician. He’s a hard worker. We think he has the ability to start for us.”
If the Lions hope to pursue Reggie Bush, re-sign Chris Houston, and be a player with second-tier defensive ends, it may be time they have a youth movement along their offensive line.