Jared DeVries Returns; Depth Chart Deep Six'd

>> 4.13.2010

UPDATED! Check the bottom for more.
It’s officially official: Jared Devries has returned to the Detroit Lions.  With 16.5 sacks in 32 starts over ten seasons, nobody’s going to confuse DeVries with Kyle Vanden Bosch.  However, DeVries did have a bit of a ‘breakout’ season in 2007, when he racked up 6.5 of those sacks.  He’s also been a player who gets pressure and forces hurries much more often than he actually closes the deal.
Listed at 6’-4”, 275 pounds, DeVries is another prototypical Schwartz defensive end: big, strong, tenacious, snap-to-whistle effort guy, contains the run well and can get after the passer a little bit.  When he left, he was the starting left defensive end, and he made clear to the local media he wants to start again:

"My vision is to be the starting left end, but obviously, I'll have to compete for that like I do every year. That would've been my role last year had I not gotten hurt but, like I said, it's good to be back around the fellas and the competition is good and I look forward to it."

Unfortunately for Devries, Iowa’s all-time leading sackmaster, the LDE spot is a little more crowded than when he left.  Besides Cliff Avril and Jason Hunter, who took turns being #1 and #2 throughout 2009, returning DE/DTs Turk McBride and Andre Fluellen took snaps at left end, also.  As cloudy as the Lions’ DE depth chart was, it’s now opaque.

What’s interesting here is that beyond Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Lions don’t have much financial commitment to anybody.  Cliff Avril and Andre Fluellen are both on the third years of their third-round rookie deal, Hunter’s on a one-year RFA tender, DeVries is now on a one-year deal, and McBride was a street free agent.  The draft will almost certainly fetch at least one defensive lineman—possibly an inside/outside penetrator like Ndamukong Suh (and McBride/Fluellen)--who’d presumably take snaps away from the pure LEs as well.

So, who's the odd man out?  I cannot believe that the Lions will carry three full-time left ends, plus two (or more) DTs that kick out to left end, nor can I believe that they’d bring a veteran like DeVries, rehabbing from something as brutal as an Achilles rupture, if they weren’t considering keeping him around. 

Here are some possiblities going forward:

  • The Lions either have no interest in Suh, or have no plans to flex Suh outside.
  • Cliff Avril will see 20-30 rotational snaps a game, splitting time between right and left.
  • Cliff Avril will be traded to a 3-4 team, possibly on draft day.
  • Turk McBride and Andre Fluellen will be competing for a roster spot.
  • Either Jason Hunter or Jared Devries will be switched to the right side, and their role will be purely to spell KVB.
  • The Lions draft a 270-something-pound pass rusher like Northwestern's Corey Wootton, and all of these guys are put on notice.
When I say these are "all possiblities", I mean it: the Lions could draft Suh and Wootton, trade Avril, cut Fluellen, and put Hunter on the right side. Any or all of the above could happen in any combination, and I'd believe it (except, of course, the Lions both trading and rotating Avril).

By the way, I didn't pull Wootton's name out of the air. He is the prototypical Schwartz DE: size, strength, intelligence, speed, toughness, it's all there. He's going to be available at a bargain, thanks to an injury hampering his senior season. Keep an eye out for him.

Tom Kowalski over at Mlive.com confirms that KVB will be playing the right side, Hunter and DeVries will be competing to be the two-down "starting" left end, and Avril will see situational/rotational snaps on both sides.

Technorati Tags:
nfl, nfl draft, ndamukong suh, jared devries, corey wootton, cliff avril, detroit lions


Neil,  April 14, 2010 at 2:23 AM  

It's nice to have options.

Adam,  April 14, 2010 at 3:58 AM  

I'm just surprised how at the end of the season the D-line was so thin and now it is completely the opposite. Exactly like our linebacker situation last year. And if you remember you stacked up on LBs and then didn't draft Curry like many people wanted us to. I wonder if the D-line is going in the same direction.

SportsGuy,  April 14, 2010 at 9:41 AM  

Neil, I think you hit on something larger. You could say that "developing options" is one of Mayhew's defining characteristics.

In this particular case the eventual decisions I think will hinge to a great extent on the draft day offers he can get for #2. If the offers are poor, draft Suh. If there is a good enough offer, deal it and the DL is still better than LY.

And will Mayhew be able to play the contract game he did LY? If there are no good offers for #2, can he hold a gun to Suh's head and tell him that a contract must be signed or he is going elsewhere? Since serious offers for #2 aren't likely to come until very, very late in the process I doubt this can be done.

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