The Lions are somehow a comedy and tragedy at the same time. They’re like the Forrest Gump of NFL teams, if Forrest Gump didn’t entertain anyone. Despite several very talented players throughout their history, the Lions have never won a Super Bowl let alone played in one. Hell, they’ve only won one playoff game in the Super Bowl Era. All that being said, Detroit is stirring up a nice concoction and nobody is giving them props for it until now.
Before I get into the Lions, I want to talk about the Colts first. Are the Colts Super Bowl contenders? Borderline at best. Maybe if Carson Wentz can return to his 2017 form, they’ll be formidable. Now, let’s play pretend. Pretend for a moment that Matt Ryan, or Baker Mayfield, or Kyler Murray was the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. All of a sudden, that team goes from borderline playoffs to potential AFC Champs, right? The Colts have one of the most complete rosters, top to bottom, in the NFL. They’ve built an incredible offensive line and a strong defense. Just those two factors have propelled Indianapolis to the top half of their conference without a bona-fide star at any skill position. It’s one of the best ways to build a team that contends for several years.
Back to Detroit. It appears the Lions are taking a page out of Indianapolis’ playbook by building its team the same way. Although Detroit may be doing it even better. Nobody is going to say that Jared Goff is a Super Bowl caliber quarterback (yes, I know he led the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance, but the Rams made it there in spite of Goff, not because of him). Goff is obviously not the future for Detroit, just someone to keep its heads above water until the appropriate signal-caller comes along. And when that moment does come, the Lions will be lying in the grass, ready to pounce.
Building your offensive line is key to success in the NFL. Don’t believe me? Then explain to me how, over the last five years, 58 percent of teams with a top-10 offensive line (in terms of adjusted sack rate, per FootballOutsiders) made the playoffs, while only 24 percent of teams with a bottom 10 O-line reached the postseason. The Lions just extended center Frank Ragnow with a 4-year deal worth $54 million ($13.5 million per year), making him the highest-paid center in NFL history.
Ragnow is coming off a season where he earned second-team All-Pro honors and was Pro Football Focus’s second highest-graded center. Detroit now has him locked up until 2026. The Lions’ left tackle, Taylor Decker, who earned an 82.0 PFF grade in 2020, is signed through 2024. Throw in the fact that the Lions just drafted tackle Penei Sewell, regarded by many as a can’t-bust prospect from the 2021 draft class, for the next four years as well as a fifth-year option, and the Lions are pretty much set up front.
Plus, both Decker and Sewell will be playing on rookie contracts, giving the Lions tons of room for extensions should they want to. They’ve also got a young, talented running back in D’Andre Swift who’s ready to take a big leap forward next season (especially since they’ll be relying on the ground game much more with Matthew Stafford gone), solid weapons in the pass game such as Pro Bowler TE T.J. Hockenson, Breshad Perriman, and the newly drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown, and a great front seven on defense which includes Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Levi Onwuzurike, Jahlani Tavai, and Jamie Collins.
Former head coach Matt Patricia was obviously not doing the Lions any favors. And while Dan Campbell’s coaching credentials are suspect to say the least, there’s no denying the talent that’s been lying dormant in the Motor City for the last 3-plus years. There are still many holes to be filled in Detroit (that secondary is atrocious; hopefully Jeff Okudah can break out this year), but this Lions rebuild is built to withstand another 2-3 years of last-place finishes; and the Lions’ front office should be more than capable of finding solid players with their FOUR first-round draft picks over the next two years. They may not be ready next season, or in 2022, but some time in the not-too-distant future, the Lions will be Kings of the NFC North jungle ... it just won’t be with Jared Goff at quarterback.