Mobile, Ala. — If general manager Bob Quinn employs the New England Patriots’ strategy for roster building, don’t expect the Detroit Lions to overpay to retain their own free agents beyond the team’s top five or six players.
That was the vibe around the Senior Bowl when it came to the team’s two free agent offensive linemen, Larry Warford and Riley Reiff. And after the New York Jets gave guard Brian Winters, a player viewed as less talented as Warford, an extension valued at more than $8 million per year, it only strengthened the idea the Lions will move on from Warford.
Detroit has some backup options at both spots. At tackle, Corey Robinson has shown he’s ready to step into a starting role. Guard is a bit trickier. There’s former first-round pick Laken Tomlinson, who has failed to live up to his draft standing and was benched last year. There’s also 2015 fifth-round draft choice Joe Dahl, whom the team likes but has minimal experience.
That’s why you can’t discount filling the hole through the draft.
Quinn has shown no hesitation to invest in his offensive line, spending three of his first five picks on the unit last year. And if he’s looking for a plug-and-play guard in the first two rounds, there are two options at the Senior Bowl — Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp and Indiana’s Dan Feeney.
Lamp was a four-year starter at left tackle with impressive pass-blocking stats, is destined to move inside because of his frame, namely his short arms. It’s a transition several top college tackles have made in recent years, including first-round picks Zach Martin and Brandon Scherff.
“Obviously, I like playing tackle. That’s where I’ve played, that’s where I’m comfortable, but I’ll play anywhere,” Lamp said. “With tackle, I have three or four steps to set and see what’s going on. At guard, it’s one or two steps and they’re right there. It’s just something I’ve got to get used to.”
Lamp suffered a high ankle sprain during the first practice and had to pull out of the event. He hadn’t met with the Lions to that point, but the team did meet with Feeney.
A three-year starter at guard, Feeney got some work at right tackle as a senior. He has the optimal build to play inside at the professional level at 6-foot-4, 304 pounds. He regularly dominated his competition in one-on-one drills during the practices.
The biggest hang-up for Feeney might be the Orland Park, Ill. native is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, something he elaborated during a media session. The Bears are coaching Feeney and the North team at the event.