'Stout in the middle': Lions sign DT Sylvester Williams

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park —  It took a week, but the Detroit Lions finally addressed one of their biggest roster needs. On Wednesday, the team announced they signed veteran defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

It’s possible the Lions might not be done at the position. The team has been negotiating with Ricky Jean-Francois and ESPN reported they have visits lined up with Jonathan Hankins and Alan Branch.

Williams, a former first-round pick, spent his first four seasons with the Denver Broncos before signing a three-year deal with the Tennessee Titans last year. With a new coaching staff coming into Tennessee this offseason, Williams was let go after one season.

The 6-foot-2, 313-pound Williams will provide the Lions’ with some needed depth up front, after the team lost Haloti Ngata in free agency.

Williams said he’s comfortable playing in a one- or two-gap front and prides himself on stopping the run.

“I think one of thing I’m looking forward to bringing to the game is my ability to play the run and be stout in the middle,” he said during a conference call minutes after his signing was announced.

More: Ontario's Luke Willson happy to be closer to home with Lions

As for the other options, Jean-Francois is a nine-year veteran who was most recently with the New England Patriots. The team signed him in the middle of last season after he was released by the Green Bay Packers. The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder appeared in six games for New England, recording 10 tackles. He tallied another six spots, plus a sack, in the team’s three postseason games.

Hankins, like Williams, was released after one season with his most recent club, having spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts. A Detroit native, he is viewed a top-tier, run-stopping interior lineman. He’s also six years younger than Jean-Francois.

Branch, the former Michigan standout, is another veteran familiar with Patricia. The 33-year-old nose tackle played the past four seasons in New England.