Despite trade rumors, Tyrell Crosby still can be 'great piece of the puzzle' for Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley is well aware of the rumblings that one of his guys is on the trade block.

But, if a market doesn't develop, and Tyrell Crosby sticks for the 2021 season, Fraley still sees the lineman as a key piece to what the team wants to accomplish up front this upcoming season. 

Offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby has started 18 games in his first three seasons with the Lions.

Fraley said he's talked with Crosby about the rumors the fourth-year offensive tackle is on the block, but would prefer to keep the details of those conversations in house. Fraley ultimately won't have much say in the matter if the Lions decide to part ways, but like any reasonable position coach, he'd always rather have more capable talent to work with than less. 

"Crosby can be a great piece of the puzzle for us," Fraley said. "He’s seen it, you guys have seen it, he’s proved it. Last year, unfortunately, he had to miss the last couple games of the year, but he was playing pretty good. And the guy’s a competitor.

"He’s always had to compete for everything," Fraley continued. "Went to Oregon, competed. He got here, competed. And that’s all I’m looking forward to is him coming in and competing, and we’re gonna try and play the best five, maybe six sometimes on the field. Shoot, we’ll go seven. I’ll be greedy and put all those guys out there if I can."

For the second straight offseason, the Lions have appeared to block Crosby's path to a starting job before he even got a chance to earn it. Last year, it was the big-money signing of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. This year, the Lions drafted Penei Sewell, coincidentally the man who replaced Crosby at Oregon after he was selected by the Lions in the fifth round in 2018. 

Fraley doesn't prescribe to that thinking. He operates under the mentality that jobs need to be earned every offseason, which is a reasonable approach, but the Lions didn't take Sewell with the No. 7 pick with the intention of sitting him. And Vaitai has far more experience playing guard, the only potential opening along the line if everyone is healthy. 

Of course, health is the reason Crosby has started 18 games in three seasons, including a career-high 11 last season after Vaitai suffered a foot injury in training camp. Few teams in the league are fortunate to have that kind of versatile talent available off the bench. 

Of course, the trade talk, first reported by ESPN, does make sense. If the rebuilding Lions can find a market for a capable, low-cost starter on the final year of his contract, it would be foolish not to listen. Because the odds are, based on what he's already put on film, the team won't be able to afford keeping him once he hits free agency next offseason. 

"He’s still a young man in this league (25) and he’s gonna come in and help us get better," Fraley said. "Conversations I’ve always had, because I’ve been in some of those shoes, trade rumors, not trade rumors, you can only control what you can control. Just keep working."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers