Lions trade for Greg Robinson, sign Kouandjio
Allen Park — Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn is showing he’ll leave no stone unturned in his search for Taylor Decker’s replacement.
The team announced two roster moves Thursday, prior to the start of the final mandatory minicamp practice, significantly revamping the team’s offensive tackle depth chart.
The Lions acquired two formerly highly regarded prospects, sending a 2018 sixth-round selection to the Los Angeles Rams for Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick from the 2014 draft. The team also signed former first-team All-American and second-round draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio.
“Yeah, they’re both good athletes who have ability and they’ve played a bit in the league,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’re happy to have them. Both guys give us an opportunity to get better and that’s the key.”
To make room, the team waived long snapper Jimmy Landes and offensive tackle Arturo Uzdavinis.
Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 332-pound behemoth, has failed to live up to lofty expectations, so much so that he was a healthy scratch for a game late last season. The Rams signed veteran Andrew Whitworth this past offseason and had planned on shifting Robinson to guard.
The deal came as a surprise to a bleary-eyed Robinson, who hopped on a plane in Los Angeles late Wednesday night, arriving in Detroit around 6 a.m.
“I found out last night, so a quick turnaround, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Robinson said.
Caldwell said he’s not worried about Robinson’s underwhelming body of work up to this point.
“I’m concerned about what he does for us, here and now, from this point forward. I don’t look back much,” Caldwell said. “For us, we know he certainly has ability, he’s very capable and we’re happy to have him. We’re looking forward, rather than backward.”
In three years with the Bills, Kouandjio appeared in 25 games, starting seven. He suffered a non-football hip injury this offseason, requiring surgery, and was involved in a bizarre incident this April where he was found by police wandering in a field with no pants just outside of Buffalo.
He was not arrested and he declined comment on situation Thursday. Kouandjio visited with the Lions last week and the team felt comfortable with the explanation they received.
“I think it goes right in line with how we’ve always done and what I’ve always believed — everybody certainly should have an opportunity to have a second chance,” Caldwell said. “No one’s perfect, but I think those things are behind him.”
Caldwell noted Kouandjio, because of the hip, is not currently physically able to participate in practice. Both he and the team expect he’ll be ready for the opening of training camp.
The moves signify the Lions are still looking for an ideal replacement for Decker, who underwent shoulder surgery last week. He reportedly suffered a torn labrum, and while the injury isn’t expected to end his 2017 season, it could keep him sidelined until December.
Contract terms weren’t announced for Kouandjio, but it’s likely to be a one-year deal at or near the league minimum with minimal guarantees. With Robinson, the Lions inherit the final year of the rookie contract he signed with the Rams, putting the franchise on the hook for his $3.3 million base in 2017. That kind of cap hit implies the move was made with a vision of Robinson contributing.
Joe Dahl, who has been working with the first-team offense at left tackle, could be moved back to guard, where he primarily worked earlier this offseason.
“Obviously some things will change in that regard, how we’ll move which guy and those kinds of things,” Caldwell said. “There are a few things we can do in terms of our adjustment and that’s one we’ll consider, but he has some flexibility, obviously. We’ll see.”
In addition to Robinson and Kouandjio, Cornelius Lucas and the currently injured Corey Robinson also are expected to be in the mix for the starting left tackle job and key backup role. While none would be characterized as ideal, the team certainly upgraded their options with the new additions.
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any question that the competitiveness of the group is heightened,” Caldwell said. “I think we feel good about it in terms of how we’re shaping up, anyway. I just think it’s going to be a situation where we’re going to improve. Anytime you can get a position that improves a significant amount in this league — 1 percent, 2 percent is big in this league.”