Impending Free Agents
When Josh Bynes re-signed midway through the season, he immediately impacted the depleted unit. He took a starting role next to Whitehead and held down a pivotal role even after Levy returned from injury.
Ideally, Bynes wouldn’t be relied upon to be an everyday starter but he has value as a depth piece because of his versatility to play all three linebacker positions. He is best suited as a team fourth linebacker who makes his impact by rotating in for minimal defensive snaps and special teams work.
When Bob Quin was in New England he traded for Jon Bostic. Then he did it again when he came to Detroit. The deal was for a conditional pick to New England, if Bostic was active for eight games in the 2016 season. Because he was not, the Lions keep the pick and no compensation is owed to the Patroits. In the end, he neither team profited from the deal, except for the fact that Detroit is able to negotiate a possible new deal with Bostic prior to league wide free agency.
Because Quinn traded for Bostic twice in two years, it’s clear he likes what he sees in the player. That being said, I doubt Quinn offers him more than a veteran minimum deal and a chance to compete for a job in training camp.
Existing Players’ Roles
DeAndre Levy is the biggest name in this group, but he is coming off yet another injury riddled season, and people are speculating if the Lions will want to retain him under his cap hit of up to $8.225 million. If they release him, the Lions would have a cap hit of $7.2 million, which means they only save around $1 million. That is why some are speculating that the Lions will ask him to
at a lower cost instead.
Right now Levy holds the leverage and I would be surprised if he is willing to renegotiate. He is done with his surgeries and is working his way back to full health. If he can return to even 80% of the player he was in 2014, when he went to the Pro Bowl, he will likely earn the right to play out his contract through 2019.
Tahir Whitehead was the only true starting caliber linebacker the Lions had last season. And he was asked to do a lot. He made the play calls, the adjustments, and needed to cover the deficiencies of the players around him. This is a tall task for any player and he predictably struggled by trying to do too much. Ideally he is the teams third linebacker, still technically a starter, but with his responsibilities scaled back to better suit his skills.
Antwione Williams is a project but he succeeded when asked to play in situations where was attacking the ball. Ideally he would be the teams number five or six linebacker next year, allowing him to further develop. He has starting potential a few years down the road, but he needs to continue to grow as a player.
Thurston Armbrister is primarily a special teams player and could end up as the teams six linebacker just as easily as he could be released. Steve Longa and Brandon Chubb spent the season on the practice squad and are currently signed a “futures deal”, which means they will likely make it to camp to compete. Longa is the most likely of the two to jump Armbrister for a roster spot, as Bob Quinn thinks highly of him. When another team tried to poach him off the Lions practice squad, Quinn signed him to an active roster pay scale in order to persuade him to stay in Detroit.