Detroit Lions: Post-draft developments on offense

Dec 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) hands the ball off to Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) against the St. Louis Rams during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) hands the ball off to Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) against the St. Louis Rams during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Detroit Lions have recently invested significant resources into building a better defense, it’s clear that there is still a lot happening on the other side of the ball in the team’s post-draft landscape.

Even in the aftermath of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions have remained in the headlines. After adding future contributors like Jarrad Davis and Jalen “Teez” Tabor in the league’s annual selection extravaganza, general manager Bob Quinn has remained active and focused.

While Quinn’s draft strategy was largely centered on improving the Lions defense (he spent six of the team’s nine picks on that side of the ball), this doesn’t mean that Quinn is ignoring the offense altogether. In fact, many of the most recent developments around the organization pertain to coordinator Jim Bob Cooter‘s crew.

Three news items, in particular, best exemplify this unfolding situation.

Lions Pick Up Ebron’s Fifth-Year Option

After much debate and offseason hand-wringing, the Lions ultimately decided to commit to Eric Ebron, picking up the young tight end’s fifth-year option, and keeping him under contract through the 2018 season.

While Ebron has been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny over his three years in the Motor City, it’s clear that his production has increased year-over-year, and that his incredible potential is still largely untapped. Even though the former North Carolina star is often criticized for his lack of touchdowns and occasional mental lapses, players of his ability are incredibly difficult to find, and the Lions are well aware of this.

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The team wisely opted to pass on highly-touted prospects at the position like O.J. Howard and David Njoku in favor of beefing up the stop unit and, as such, waited until the fourth round to select Toledo tight end Michael Roberts. Roberts is expected to contribute immediately as a blocker, but clearly, Ebron’s role as a pass-catcher is secured for the immediate future.

Per The Detroit News, Ebron’s 2018 salary under the option will be $8.26 million, a hefty sum indeed, but a worthwhile investment in a 24-year-old player of his talent level.

Lions Commit to Abdullah as Starting Running Back

Contrary to media prognostications, the Lions ultimately declined to select a runner in the NFL Draft, in favor of moving forward with the stable of backs currently on the roster. This is clearly great news for third-year tailback Ameer Abdullah.

So great, in fact, that Quinn recently endorsed the former Nebraska standout as the team’s 2017 starter (Per ESPN):

"“There were a couple running backs we looked at in the middle part of the draft but just no one we felt was going to come in and really unseat any of the guys that we have on our roster. So we feel good about that spot.”"

Abdullah has struggled with injuries over his first two professional campaigns, but if he can remain healthy, he is set for a big role in the backfield. Certainly, Theo Riddick will retain his role as the team’s primary pass-catching back, and Zach Zenner will have his share of touches as well, but Abdullah is clearly set to lead the charge. The season ahead will go a long way to determining his ultimate career trajectory.

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Stafford Extension is In the Works

Things have been reasonably quiet in regards to the ongoing contract negotiations between the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford, but recent reports indicate that things are slowly progressing in the right direction. While it is still far too soon to expect anything concrete, it is clear that the two sides have a running dialogue, and are working towards an extension.

In fact, during a recent interview with Sirius XM’s Alex Marvez, Quinn stated the following (Per The Sporting News):

"“It’s really too early to kind of give any update but we’re going through the process. These things don’t happen overnight.“I feel confident we can get something done.”"

Clearly, nothing is imminent, but Quinn’s confidence is encouraging, and the fact that discussions are continuing is a positive sign as well. Finalizing a new deal with Stafford will be tricky, especially considering the explosion of the quarterback market in recent years.

It’s unfair to speculate what his demands might be, and it is equally unjust to try to project how the team values him financially, but one thing is certain: Stafford’s next contract will be lucrative. It remains to be seen when or where he will sign it, but the likeliest outcome continues to be an extension with the team that drafted him first overall in 2009.

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While the NFL’s post-draft environment tends to lead to a bit of a lull as it relates to breaking news items, it’s clear that the Detroit Lions aren’t done making waves just yet. The 2017 season may not open for another four months, but Bob Quinn and the team’s brass remain hard at work. It won’t be easy to get back to the playoffs in a competitive NFC North, but the organization’s commitment to strengthening all aspects of on-field performance should be encouraging to Lions fans everywhere.