Lions' Reiff might not be locked in at left tackle

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Riley Reiff

Phoenix — Asked what position he envisioned offensive lineman Riley Reiff playing in 2015, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Monday that would be a better question for coach Jim Caldwell.

On Wednesday, Caldwell didn't provide many specifics for Reiff's role next season, but did say he prefers him more as a tackle than a guard.

"Not today I don't," he said when asked if he thought Reiff could move inside. "But like I said, you never say never."

Reiff has played left tackle the past two seasons, taking over in his second year after Jeff Backus retired. In 2013, he started all 16 games, and in 2014, he started 15, but was the team's most consistent lineman. Granted, right guard Larry Warford missed three games and portions of others due to injury, aging veterans Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola occupied the left guard and center spots, respectively, and injuries wreaked havoc at the right tackle position.

The Lions gave up 45 sacks in 2014, a career high for Matthew Stafford. The only sure change to the group was the decision not to re-sign Raiola. Sims is a free agent, but the Lions are interested in re-signing him.

The No. 23 overall pick in 2012, Reiff has shown steady improvement, but his performance in 2014 wasn't enough for the team to commit to him as the franchise left tackle. If the Lions can find an upgrade at the spot in the draft, don't be surprised to see him move to right tackle.

"It really depends on where we think he's best suited for us at this stage," Caldwell said. "We'll take a look at it, see where we are. He can play left for us and played it very well. I have no problems with that. He can play right for us and would play it very well. He's that kind of guy.

"Any time you put a guy at your left tackle position, he can play right — trust me. And this guy can play left."

Mayhew said the Lions have yet to decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Reiff's deal. If he moves to right tackle, his value could diminish slightly, making the option less appealing.

With Stafford a right-handed quarterback, the Lions' left tackle blocks his blindside and is considered by most to be the most important lineman and among the most important players on the team.

In addition to Reiff, the Lions also have tackles LaAdrian Waddle, Cornelius Lucas and Michael Williams on the team. Waddle is still recovering from knee surgery after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in Week 15. Lucas played 15 games and started three as a rookie, including one at left tackle. Williams has yet to play an NFL snap and is a converted tight end.

"At this time of year, what we try and do is just make certain that we worry about the health of those guys," Caldwell said. "We get them back; we see where we are once we get them all together collectively after the draft. (Reiff) does have some ability to play a number of different spots, which I think all offensive linemen do, so we'll kind of see what happens."

Caldwell intently watched offensive linemen, including LSU's La'el Collins and Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings, at the Senior Bowl and said he thinks the draft has some solid offensive line prospects. The Lions have the No. 23 pick again this year.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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