The Detroit Lions Curious Center Decisions

Photograph: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Photograph: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Detroit Lions planning to part ways with Manny Ramirez, their lack of depth at the center position will soon be even more barren. What gives?

The Detroit Lions didn’t get much production from their center position last year. They traded in the offseason for Manny Ramirez, but Ramirez served primarily as a backup this season. When he did play, he played well, grading out as one of the Lions’ better linemen. Even so, he was a backup.

Starter Travis Swanson was expected to excel, but things didn’t go out according to plan. Swanson was one of the worst linemen on Detroit. He wasn’t the weakest link – that honor went to the disfunction and inconsistency of the right tackle position for much of the year. Still, Swanson did little to instill confidence in his abilities moving forward.

The Lions also do not have a young center prospect waiting in the wings. If anyone was supposed to be that prospect it was Swanson, but when he got his chance – an entire season – to impress, he didn’t do much with it.

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With all that being the case, it’s hard to understand exactly why the Lions have already decided to let Manny Ramirez walk away. To be clear, Ramirez is no longer an upper-echelon player at his position.

And at the age of 32 his skills are likely soon to be on the decline. Even so, when he did play last season, he was dependable and serviceable. There’s no other center currently on the roster that you can say that about.

So what does that mean for the Lions offseason plans? It appears they’ve put themselves in a position to look for center help via free agency or the draft, or maybe both.

Stefen Wisniewski, Ben Jones, and Tim Barnes aren’t exciting names, but they’re the best of what’s available at the position in free agency.

Ryan Kelly, Graham Glasgow, and Nick Martin are good center prospects in this year’s draft, but the Lions already have plenty of other needs to fill, and only so many draft picks to do it.

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The main problem I have with letting Ramirez walk is that it leaves the center position anything but centered. Ramirez seemed like a decent short-term insurance plan if things continue to not work out with Travis Swanson. Getting rid of that insurance plan gives the Lions little room for error, and adds to an already lengthy offseason to-do list.