Detroit Lions News: Were Offensive Line Signings Win-Now Moves?

Mar 1, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Lions news ponders the team’s recent offensive line signings in free agency as a sign of a win-now mindset in the front office.

General manager Bob Quinn said at his press conference at the NFL Combine that the Detroit Lions wanted to take a shot at some of the top free agents that would soon be available. They did that, ultimately signing Rick Wagner, the top right tackle on the market, and T.J. Lang, one of the top right guards available.

Cool, Quinn called his shot and got it done in the form of Wagner and Lang, simultaneously making up for the losses of Riley Reiff and Larry Warford in free agency while also getting better. That’s it, right? Well, pretty much, but I’ve been thinking about it in a bigger context of roster building and it’s got me wondering if these two signings say something more.

Signing Lang and Wagner could simply be chalked up to Quinn’s belief in building up front. I think he does believe that, by his words and actions, but after an offensive line-heavy draft last year, the signing of Lang in particular felt like a doubling down that suggests a win-now mentality.

The money it took to sign Wagner may have been a surprise but that they would target him shouldn’t have been – especially with Reiff getting left tackle money from the Minnesota Vikings. That left a starting right tackle job to be replaced without great in-house candidates to fill the hole. The Lions could have added one via the draft, but that’s a crapshoot and they have plenty of other needs. So, they sign Wagner and right tackle is locked down.

I was probably in the majority that felt like with Wagner in the fold, it would be left up to the likes of Laken Tomlinson and Joe Dahl to battle it out at right tackle. After all, by drafting both Graham Glasgow and Dahl in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Lions added depth for 2016 and options for 2017 and beyond.

But then the Lions and Lang agreed to a deal, locking down the right guard position as tightly for the near future as right tackle with Wagner. Suddenly, that depth and planning for beyond 2016 was all lumped together to compete for playing time at just left guard.

Is that just how it played out, or was making their splash on the offensive line always the plan? That’s where things get interesting. I’m not sure we’ll ever get an honest answer to that question, but it was notable how little buzz there was about the Lions being involved with other high-priced free agents. Despite needs, maybe even bigger needs, elsewhere, the Lions ponied up nearly $20 million annually for the right side of their offensive line.

That leaves other needs, like linebacker and defensive end, for the draft. And that is where I’m starting to see a win-now mentality. With Lang and Wagner they spent the money on two players who, if healthy, will play every offensive snap and solidified a solid pass blocking line in front of Matthew Stafford. Contrast that to positions like defensive end and linebacker that are often part of a rotation or mixed in situationally.

Maybe it’s just me, but that seems an awfully lot like addressing their needs with a win-now mindset.

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