Detroit — The 2015 offseason has been a new experience for Lions guard Rob Sims.
After nine NFL seasons, Sims is a free agent for the first time, and even though he wants to return, the Lions have been mostly non-committal publicly about whether they want to re-sign him.
On Thursday, though, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said he hopes to bring back the man who started the last five seasons at left guard.
“Rob is an outstanding young man, an outstanding Lion, and I’d love to have him come back,” Mayhew told The Detroit News Thursday evening at an event honoring Sims and his wife Natalie for donating more than $80,000 to the Detroit Police Athletic League.
Sims joins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, cornerback Rashean Mathis and kicker Matt Prater as the unrestricted free agents Mayhew has said publicly he’d like to re-sign. Now, it’s just a question of whether the Lions and Sims’ camp can agree to terms on a contract, which might have to wait until the team knows what's happening with Suh..
“Time will tell,” Mayhew said.
Though Sims has made Detroit his home since the Lions acquired him in a trade from the Seahawks in 2010, he’s spending this offseason in Georgia. His wife, Natalie, is a Miami native, so to escape the Michigan winter, Sims and his family — including a 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter — found a countryside house to rent this year.
“She’s kind of got me in the country away from everything, so I’m fishing and with my kids and doing all that fun stuff and just keeping my mind off of business and football for right now,” Sims said. “You couldn’t find me if you had to.”
Although Sims has tried to escape this offseason, he has heard the news that some of his teammates won’t return. The Lions don’t plan to re-sign center Dominic Raiola, who has been the man lined up next to Sims the past five years, and on Wednesday, they cut running back Reggie Bush.
“That’s tough,” Sims said. “Me and my wife went out to Reggie’s wedding. He was a great teammate, good friend when he was here. And me and Dom, we can’t be closer than brothers.
“So yeah, that stuff stings, but that’s part of the business. One day, we’ll all have our curtain call, so to speak. You keep that in the back of your mind, and then every chance you get you try to put on a show.”
And Sims hopes those chances are in Detroit next season. Since the Lions traded defensive end Robert Henderson and a fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Sims and a seventh-round pick in April 2010, he’s started all 80 regular season games and two playoff games at left guard. The Lions signed Sims to a four-year, $14.2 million extension in October 2010, ensuring he wouldn’t hit the market as a free agent after the season.
In 2012, he was undoubtedly the team’s best offensive lineman, but injuries have affected his play the last two seasons. In 2014, Sims struggled at the start of the season, but improved over the course of the year.
With Raiola leaving, the Lions project to have a young offensive line group with right guard Larry Warford, 23, center Travis Swanson, 24, and tackles Riley Reiff, 26, LaAdrian Waddle, 23, and Cornelius Lucas, 23. Re-signing Sims, 31, would keep a veteran presence in the locker room, which could be necessary with Raiola — the group’s vocal leader in recent years — gone.
“Nothing concrete yet,” Sims said of the negotiations with the Lions. “We’ll see what happens.”
Whether the Lions re-sign Sims, they’ll likely look for someone who could be a long-term replacement at left guard in the draft. If Sims is on the team, he could mentor a rookie as Raiola did with Swanson when the Lions drafted him in the third round last year. The Lions also have a couple inexperienced interior offensive linemen on the roster with Rodney Austin and Darren Keyton.
But Sims hopes he’s still the one manning the left guard spot in 2015.
“We would love to be back,” he said. “We built a life here. … We want to be able to finish our work here that we started with this. We have businesses (real estate) here. We’ve played good ball here.
“If (my career) stopped tomorrow, Detroit would have a huge place in my heart because of the things we’ve been able to do here. We would love to finish what we started.”