Phoenix – There is no position group in football where continuity is more important than along the offense line. But given the option to maintain continuity, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn opted instead to rebuild the right side of his offensive line via free agency.
The right tackle decision was easy. The Minnesota Vikings believed Riley Reiff could help them at left tackle and paid him accordingly, making him overpriced for the Lions to retain. But the team was able to replace him with Rick Wagner, considered by most as a better option on the right side.
The right guard decision was more curious. The Lions let Larry Warford go and brought in T.J. Lang. For all intents and purposes, the money was similar. Warford got an extra year from the New Orleans Saints, but that’s understandable given he’s four years younger.
Strictly from a talent perspective, the two players are comparable. Warford has had minor durability issues, but Lang is coming off offseason hip surgery. So what separated the two in Quinn’s mind that led to foregoing continuity?
“Just some of that veteran, gritty toughness,” Quinn said. “He’s a guy that I’ve always admired and he’s a guy that was, you know, a middle- to late-round draft pick that’s really made himself a tremendous player. So that’s something where I like his work ethic and those things.”
Quinn also wanted a locker room leader, a role that Reiff filled last season, but not with the same fiery demeanor Lang will bring to Detroit.
“We have a pretty young offensive line,” Quinn said. “When you look at who’s in that room right now, I think to add a veteran that has some personality that’s been through some wars, been to a lot of playoff games is something that’s really important.
“I mentioned at the combine that you can’t have all rookie and second-year offensive linemen. You need some guys in there that can kind of lead those guys and kind of show them how to do that. Looking back to this year, I think Riley did an exceptional job of that in his own way and Larry did as well. I want to thank those guys for how they led our young guys in my first season.”
While transitions are rarely seamless, Quinn is confident that Lang’s teachings will help him easily fit in up front in Detroit.
“You know, T.J.’s a guy that’s a really good scheme fit for us in terms of the way he’s been schooled, especially in pass protection in Green Bay,” Quinn said. “The techniques that they taught in Green Bay are very similar to what we teach here.”
The additions of Wagner and Lang completed Quinn’s total retooling of Detroit’s offensive line from the time he joined the organization in early 2016. It’s a change he’s hopeful will pay off in 2017 and beyond.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Quinn said. “These guys haven’t a played a game for the Lions. I like both players, obviously, with us going out and getting them early in the process. We like their skill set, we like what they bring to the table. We’ll see if they’re an upgrade or not.”