Earlier in the week, we looked at some of the free agents on the market at the offensive line position. The Detroit Lions could use a little depth there, but by the team’s own admission, the interior offensive line has a pretty good set of players.
Jonah Jackson had a promising rookie season. Frank Ragnow is on his way to becoming one of the best centers in the game—if he’s not already there. Joe Dahl has served as a nice, versatile piece, and last year’s fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg has a good chance to impress the new coaching staff with his gritty style of play. And if the Lions view Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a guard going forward, the Lions may already have their starting lineup set on the interior.
But when it comes to the offensive line, there is no such thing as too much depth. So does that mean Oday Aboushi, an upcoming free agent, could still be a part of this team’s plans moving forward?
Expectations heading into 2020
Aboushi was a relatively minor signing in the offseason, agreeing to a one-year deal worth just $1.2 million. Given that Detroit drafted two guards shortly thereafter and they still had veteran Kenny Wiggins on their squad, his roster spot on the 53-man team was anything but guaranteed.
However, injuries forced Aboushi into first-team reps during training camp, and he used the opportunity to convince the coaching staff to hold onto him heading into the regular season. Even then, he wasn’t expected to be anything more than a veteran depth piece with minimal upside.
Actual role in 2020
16 games (8 starts)
PFF grade: 66.6 (27th out of 92 qualifying OGs)
Aboushi was one of Detroit’s most pleasant surprises of 2020. As Detroit tried to figure out what exactly they wanted to do with the oft-injured Vaitai and the rest of the team’s depth, Aboushi stepped into a starting role in the second half of the year, and provided some much-needed consistency at the right guard position.
Aboushi essentially jumped Joe Dahl on the depth chart for the final half of the season, and based on the overall level of play he provided, it was an earned promotion.
Outlook for 2021
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
As mentioned at the top, the Lions are in a pretty good spot with their depth right now. However, Dahl is a potential cap casualty that could save the Lions $2.875 million in cap space. Aboushi could be re-signed for less than that, and if Detroit believes Stenberg is ready to take a step towards being a primary backup, they’d be in pretty good standing on the offensive line.
That being said, they’d be in just as good of a position keeping Dahl and deciding to move on from Aboushi. Dahl is younger (about to be 28 to Aboushi’s 30) and brings a little more versatility as a potential backup center.
Of course, there’s little harm in keeping both. It worked fairly well for the Lions in 2020, and with offensive line coach Hank Fraley returning, I’d say there’s a fairly decent chance of that happening.