Katzenstein: Missing on Okung not a big loss for Lions

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Russell Okung (76) was the top left tackle available in free agency. He visited the Lions, among others, before signing with the Broncos.

Free agency is more than a week old, but the Lions have been relatively quiet.

Here are some thoughts about what they have done and how it will impact the team.

News: Russell Okung signs with the Broncos after visiting the Lions, among others.

Views: Fans shouldn’t be too upset about missing out on one of the top offensive linemen available in free agency.

It’s hard to improve the left tackle spot in the NFL, and considering Okung’s injury history, there’s no guarantee he would have been an upgrade over Riley Reiff. While Reiff has been far from great, he’s been durable, starting all but one game the past three years.

It looks like the Lions will be content with Reiff at that spot next season, and that’s basically been the case the last three years. It’s just rare for a franchise left tackle to reach free agency without some kind of concerns.

The best-case scenario for the Lions is Reiff, who will be a free agent in 2017, remains the durable player he’s been while finding a way to improve in pass protection. The Lions likely won’t find an immediate upgrade at No. 16 in the draft, but if they find rookies capable of improving the right tackle or center spot, the line certainly would be better.

News: The Lions haven’t improved defensively.

Views: In a way, they have. It might be a stretch, but the return of DeAndre Levy is just as important as any acquisition the Lions could make this offseason.

With Levy back, the Lions will have at least one difference-maker at each level — Ziggy Ansah on the line and Glover Quin or Darius Slay in the secondary. As much as the Lions could have used an influx of new talent, the defense has ample potential with Levy’s return.

The only real loss for the Lions was safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, but recently signed Rafael Bush played ahead of Abdul-Quddus with the Saints in 2013.

Free-agent WR Jordan Norwood visiting Lions

At defensive tackle, there were a couple upgrades available, but the Lions chose to re-sign Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata and add Stefan Charles. If Charles can be a key member of the rotation, that position should be slightly better.

The Lions ended up re-signing Tahir Whitehead, but were willing to let him test the market because a defense that mostly goes with the nickel package, a linebacker duo of Levy and Josh Bynes — or a high draft pick — would have been better than one mixing Bynes, Whitehead and Stephen Tulloch.

News: After signing Marvin Jones, the Lions don’t need to look for a wide receiver in the first round.

Views: While Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman and Josh Doctson could help, nobody should expect the Lions to look for a wide receiver in the first round.

During Bob Quinn’s 16 years in New England, the Patriots never drafted a wide receiver in the first round. The Lions would like to improve their No. 3 receiver, but at this point, the pick should be used for an offensive or defensive lineman.

The Lions probably can’t find a left tackle, and in theory have a full defensive tackle rotation, so the best bet might be a defensive end.

Devin Taylor looked capable last season starting opposite Ansah, but drafting someone better would give the Lions a solid three-man rotation at end. Someone like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson would fit well.

News: The Lions are set at backup quarterback after re-signing Dan Orlovsky.

Views: The coaches and Matthew Stafford trust Orlovsky, which is why he signed a one-year deal. Don’t be surprised, however, to hear about the Lions having quarterback visits.

The backup spot has been a lot like left tackle — they hoped to find a developmental option in the draft, but saw the players they liked go before they selected.

If the Lions can find a value pick, because it’s not necessarily worth reaching for a backup, expect them to add a quarterback. If not, they’ll probably still be content with Orlovsky for another year.