Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers discuss the Detroit Lions as training camp continues, with the New York Giants in town for three practices and the second preseason game. The Detroit News, The Detroit News
Allen Park -- The Detroit Lions haven’t haven’t added a player to the roster in nearly two weeks. The team has certainly had good fortune with injuries, at least heading into Friday night’s game with the New York Giants, but it’s also a sign they like what they have. Plus, coach Matt Patricia aims to give recently-signed players a fair shot to prove themselves before making a change.
But roster cuts are looming, two weeks from Saturday, and as always, there figures to be a handful of difficult decisions. On paper, the Lions face their biggest challenge at running back, where they have more capable contributors than justifiable roster space.
That’s where the trade market could come into play.
For the past three years, the Lions have dealt at least one player in the days before final roster cuts. In his two years on the job, general manager Bob Quinn has made three such moves, shipping wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to the 49ers for offensive lineman Brandon Thomas in 2016, and trading guard Laken Tomlinson and cornerback Johnson Bademosi to the 49ers and Patriots last season, for future draft compensation.
It takes two to tango, and there’s no guarantee the Lions have an equally desirable asset to shop this offseason, but here are five players who could potentially draw interest.
Running back Ameer Abdullah
Let’s start with the obvious option. Abdullah struggled last season after he was handed the starting job, but the blocking scheme and slew of offensive line injuries played a significant role in his depressed production.
Still young (25) and nearly two years removed from a devastating foot injury, Abdullah offers good open-field elusiveness, above-average pass-catching ability and a resume that includes kick returning, all with a dirt-cheap contract ($876,745 cap hit for acquiring team).
Running backs aren’t often coveted trade chips, but Abdullah’s skill set and price tag should generate some interest if he's put on the block.
Safety/linebacker Miles Killebrew
Currently in the midst of attempting a difficult position change late in the process, keeping Killebrew as a developmental project might be a luxury the Lions can’t afford. But throw on the tape and you’ll see a player with a desired build (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) who situationally thrived his first two seasons and can be a force on special teams.
Quarterback Jake Rudock
Two years ago, as a rookie, the Lions cut Rudock and he went unclaimed on waivers. It wasn’t until late in that first season that a team attempted to poach him off the practice squad, leading to his promotion to the main roster.
Rudock served as the Lions' backup last season after showing promising development on the practice field. There’s been some regression in that performance this offseason, notably holding on to the ball too long and his downfield accuracy.
Quinn and Patricia come from New England, a franchise that’s made a habit of trading young quarterbacks for draft assets. With veteran Matt Cassel (ironically one of those QBs New England traded) in line to win the Lions' backup job this year, the team might as well get something for Rudock, if the market bears it.
Offensive tackle Corey Robinson
In the final year of his contract, Robinson is locked in a battle with rookie Tyrell Crosby to be the team’s swing tackle, the versatile backup active on game days.
Robinson has battled injuries his entire career, which has slowed his once-promising development. If the Lions can find a tackle-needy team willing to throw a late-round, or even a conditional pick their way, it should be considered. Rostering Brian Mihalik or a developmental rookie wouldn’t be the same downgrade it would have been in years past.
Wide receiver Jace Billingsley
A practice and preseason star, Billingsley might lose out on the numbers game once again. The Lions are top-loaded at the receiver position and could easily get away with carrying four into the regular season, allowing the team to keep extra depth at another spot, such as tight end, linebacker or defensive line.
Billingsley has cleared waivers more than once, and there’s plenty of reason to believe it would happen again, but if a team with a late claim, say New England, who could need extra insurance during Julian Edelman’s suspension, wants to ensure Billingsley’s services, a trade is the best option.
Plus, it woudn’t be an offseason without Quinn making some kind of trade with his former employer.