The Detroit Lions took guard Larry Warford in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. After failing to address the tackle position, the Lions now look to shift Riley Reiff over to left tackle and let several inexperienced players battle out the right tackle position. That could be changing if the team agrees to terms with free agent Winston Justice.
Justice, a free agent after being let go from the Indianapolis Colts, met with the Lions this week. In the last six years, Justice has played in 59 NFL games, including 43 games started. Last season, Justice started 12 games for the Colts. In those 12 games, he allowed 3.5 sacks and was penalized for four false starts and one hold. Despite these weaker stats, Justice has the experience needed for the Lions.
Justice will compete with Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard for the open right tackle position. Hilliard did not play in any games in 2012, due to depth ahead of him. In 2010 and 2011, Hilliard did play in all 16 games. The Lions re-signed Hilliard in the off-season, showing they believe in him. Fox, on the other hand, has played in only five games over the last three seasons.
The Lions have several ties to Justice. In a game last season, Justice suffered a concussion from a block by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. One of Justice’s Colts teammates accused Suh of taunting after the play. There could be chemistry problems between Justice and Suh as teammates.
The Colts saw Justice as expendable, after signing Lions’ offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus in the off-season. The two teams could essentially be switching Justice for Cherilus before the 2013 NFL season.
While at USC, Justice blocked on an offensive line that crowned three Heisman Trophy winners. Quarterbacks Carson Plamer and Matt Leinart both won the annual college football award, as did running back Reggie Bush. While Bush’s Heisman was vacated, the fact that Justice blocked for three winners shouldn’t go unnoticed. Signing Justice would re-unite him with Bush, which could pay off for the Lions and their offensive line.
The retirement of Jeff Backus and departure of several offensive linemen left the Detroit Lions depth chart up in arms. I think the team needs to sign Justice to bring some more experience and depth to the line that blocks for Matthew Stafford and Bush.