Why He Could Stay
As I said in my Larry Warford Prediction article, continuity is one of the more important aspects of successful offensive lines in the NFL. And with Warford leaning towards free agency, the Lions are facing the possibility of having to replace the entire right side of their offensive line.
Reiff has been a steady player in his five seasons with in Detroit but he hasn’t been a dominant player. He is an average to above-average starter who has shown the versatility and willingness to help the Lions succeed wherever they need him. While he missed three games this season – an illness in week nine, and a hip injury in week 17 and the playoffs – it’s worth noting he has only missed one other game in the previous four years.
While Reiff has had a steady career, 2016 was inconsistent to say the least. Most of his problems can be attributed to making the adjustment to the right side. This doesn’t seem hard to do on paper, but switching sides is a complete overhaul to his stance, movement and reads. If he stays at right tackle, it can be expected that several of these problems will be corrected with time.
Why His Athleticism Helps Him
Bob Quinn has set a precedence on improving the athleticism of the team and it has shown in his additions to the offensive line. In the Larry Warford article mentioned above, I identified a benchmark that I believe Quinn uses in evaluating offensive lineman: a player having a Short Shuttle time of 4.77 seconds or less.
Riley Reiff’s short shuttle time: 4.75 seconds.
The short shuttle drill measures the lateral quickness and explosion of a player, and Reiff falls within the range Quinn has previously targeted. Meeting this benchmark keeps Reiff in the conversation to be retained. But it’s plays like this, that further illustrate his athleticism and help his case:
Cost to Re-Sign Him
This is where things get a little sticky. If the Lions can’t reach a deal with him before free agency they have the ability to place use the Franchise Tag to retain him for 2017. This would cost the Lions approximately $13.5 million if they chose that route. That would be out of character for Bob Quinn.
Realistically, Quinn likely views Reiff as a Top-10 right tackle and will be willing to pay him the market value of other top right tackles in the league. That cost would average between $5.5 and $6.75 million per year. Last year, the highest paid right tackle free agent, Mitchell Schwartz, was given a five-year deal averaging $6.6 million a year. Last month, New England re-signed their right tackle, Marcus Cannon, to a five-year deal averaging $6.5 million per year.
Now for the tricky part. Because Reiff played three seasons as the Lions left tackle, his agent will likely try to sell teams on him being a left tackle and thus increase his market value. Last offseason, left tackle Kelvin Beachum signed a five-year deal averaging $9 million, and Russell Okung‘s deal averaged $10.6 million over five-years. Donald Penn accepted a shorter two-year deal that averaged $7 million per.
With such a gap between the market value of the two positions, determining Reiff’s true value will surely be highly debated by the Lions and Reiff’s agent.