The Detroit Lions made the correct decision yesterday when word broke that the organization decided to release starting right tackle, Rick Wagner.
Moving on from Rick Wagner was something that became evident as the year wore on last season, he struggled mightily. When Bob Quinn decided to sign Wagner in free agency, he was the top right tackle on the market. Plenty of teams were lining up for his services, and Quinn landed him. It was a Detroit Lions signing most were excited about.
Last season Wagner managed an atrocious 59.0 overall grade courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF). For a starter, that’s simply unacceptable. Wagner produced a run-blocking grade of 60.2 along with a pass-blocking mark of 53.9, both well below average.
In 2018, he produced a solid 71.6 overall grade that included a 76.2 pass protecting mark. While that’s very respectable, his run blocking over the last two years have been awful compiling back to back 60.0 and 53.9 grades.
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It’s been a strange career for Wagner; during his first two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he was considered more of a run blocker, but in year three, his pass blocking ability became his better trait.
When Wagner became a free agent, he was coming off of his best performance. Bob Quinn saw a need and addressed it. In the end, it didn’t work out. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Quinn’s vision, but this signing wasn’t a bad one at the time. Sometimes in free agency, you strike gold; other times, it just doesn’t work out.
I applaud Quinn for realizing Wagner’s skill-set has quickly declined and rather than sending him out onto the field next season, hoping he regains his form. That would be a Matt Millen-like decision.
By releasing Wagner, the Detroit Lions will owe him $5.8 million in dead money against the cap. That’s $5.8 to go away rather than $11.9 million to stay.
What’s next for the Detroit Lions? After deciding not to negotiate a contract extension with starting right guard Graham Glasgow and releasing Wagner, Bob Quinn will once again continue to rebuild the offensive line. Something he’s appeared to be trying to do since he’s gotten to town with little success to this point.
The Detroit Lions may choose to address the OL in this year’s NFL Draft, or perhaps free agency. There are a few tackles available that would serve as a significant upgrade to Wagner. The first one that comes to mind is former Michigan State Spartan Jack Conklin, who is just 25 years old.
Perhaps Bob Quinn decides to use the cap savings he created by releasing Wagner to franchise tag Graham Glasgow? The franchise tag deadline is Monday, March 16th. The move will buy Quinn a year to negotiate or move on from Glasgow and allow Detroit to rebuild their OL over the next two years rather than trying to find both replacements this offseason.
For the record, I don’t expect Quinn to try and replace Wagner with Tyrell Crosby. According to PFF, Crosby earned himself a 62.4 grade while playing 397 offensive snaps last season. It wouldn’t be an upgrade, and one could argue much more problematic than running Wagner onto the field.