The Detroit Lions have re-signed 13-year veteran Dominic Raiola to a one-year extension. Raiola will receive a pay raise from last season, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, after taking a pay cut to stay with the team last season.
“He loves the team and the city,” agent Kenny Zuckerman said to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. “Most importantly, he is on a mission to get them to the postseason this season.”
Bringing back Raiola to Detroit was a need addressed by the team this offseason. This leaves only three starters, Willie Young, Rashean Mathis and Brandon Pettigrew, that have yet to re-sign with the Lions. Raiola had arguably one of his best seasons in his entire career in 2013. According to Pro Football Focus, Raiola was not charged a sack the entire year. He was also rated as one of the top centers in the NFL last season.
There were a few controversial moments for Raiola last year, despite all of the accolades received by analysts and media outlets. During a game against the Green Bay Packers in October, Raiola was seen making inappropriate gestures towards the University of Wisconsin marching band. He later apologized for the obscene gestures at Lambeau Field.
A former consensus All-American at the University of Nebraska, Raiola was selected by the Lions in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft. At that time, Raiola was the first center drafted by the Lions since 1996. Since his rookie year, Raiola has played in 204 games with the Lions, starting in all 16 games, in all but two years.
With Raiola guaranteed to stay for another year, the Lions have their anchor to an offensive line that was rated second best in the NFL in sacks allowed, with 23. He will also be able to help mentor the likes of Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle, both of which had terrific rookie seasons in 2013.
Raiola also has the leadership ability and knowledge as a football player that head coach Jim Caldwell wants out of his centers. He expressed his opinion about Raiola at the Senior Bowl in January.
“You have to be smart,” Caldwell said. “You have to be a guy that has a good understanding what’s going on offensively. You have to have leadership qualities. You have to be able to be a quick thinker. You have to be able to handle so many different things.”
“Obviously, we know he’s (Raiola) a talented guy. He had an outstanding year last year. He’s a veteran guy that has great leadership qualities.”
This now ends the possibility of the Lions drafting or signing a center in fee agency to fill the void if the team decided not to sign Raiola. Walter Football ranks Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns and Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Packers as the top free agent centers in the 2014 offseason.
The 35-year-old has only played in one playoff game in his career and is one of two players (Calvin Johnson) currently on the Lions roster that endured the 0-16 season back in 2008.