Familiarity helped Lions land 'hard-nosed' Wagner

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ravens coach John Harbaugh had high praise for new Lion Rick Wagner, calling him "one of the best right tackles in the game."

Phoenix – The Detroit Lions have had an eye on Rick Wagner since October.

Knowing offensive tackle Riley Reiff would be a free agent at the end of the season, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn knew he needed a contingency plan if the team couldn’t re-sign the right tackle. Wagner was identified as a top option early in the process.

“I’ve said this before, you never know who is going to be available in free agency because teams re-sign guys or other things happen,” Quinn said. “But I’d say I felt very fortunate that we were able to get him.

“He’s going to bring a lot to the table. He’s going to bring a lot of toughness, size. I think he’s equally good as a run blocker and a pass protector. Coach (Jim) Caldwell has some experience with him from his last year in Baltimore, so that helped the process a little bit, too.”

Caldwell was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore during Wagner’s rookie year, a season he started just two games. Still, Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes it will make a difference as the lineman makes the transition to his new home.

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“I think it’s going to help tremendously,” Harbaugh said. “They were in the room together every day and I’m sure Rick understands Jim and Jim’s philosophy, how he wants things done, and that’s a big plus. It’s a good signing for him.”

Losing Wagner was tough for Harbaugh, who had overseen the development of the former fifth-round draft pick into one of the top players at his position. But the Ravens weren’t able to match the financial commitment the Lions made to the four-year pro, a five-year, $47.5 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed.

“The Lions are getting a hard-nosed, dedicated guy who cares,” Harbaugh said. “He’s quiet. You’re not going to get a lot of quotes from Rick Wagner. I’ll tell you that. But you are going to get a good, hard day’s work. I think, obviously, he’s one of the best right tackles in the game. That was a good signing for Jim and the Lions.”

Twitter: @justin_rogers