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.
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.