Phoenix, Ariz. — If there was an obvious roster concern the Detroit Lions have yet to upgrade this offseason, it’s been at defensive tackle.
The team was proactive in re-signing its own free agents, namely Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky, who splits his time between edge and interior alignments, but haven’t made any additions to a group that had modest success rushing the passer and played a key role in allowing opponents to average 5.2 yards per carry. But, with plenty of cap space remaining, the team is continuing to explore options on the market, including six-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell.
Lions coach Dan Campbell acknowledged the team’s previously reported interest during a Tuesday morning media session at the league meetings.
“Look, we turn the tape on, man, and I’ll tell you what, you talk about a lot of respect for a big man,” the coach said. “Oh, my gosh. I just keep watching it and I’m like, there’s no way he can feel good, that body can not feel good. But it looks like it feels good because he’s just a force to be reckoned with. You put him in a closed end, you’re not running over there. He can rush as a 3-technique, still, on third down. Man, he’s got length, he’s got size, he’s still quick. We’ll see. We’re not the only one who is on him.”
Campbell, 36, was released by the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month in a cap-savings move for that franchise, although the team expressed public interest in potentially re-adding him to the roster later in the offseason. In the meantime, he’s had — or is reportedly scheduled to have — visits with Atlanta, Jacksonville, Buffalo and the New York Jets, in addition to Detroit.
Despite his advanced age relative to the profession, Campbell has continued to produce at a high level. Last season in Baltimore, he logged 550 defensive snaps in 14 games, finishing the year with 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 35 quarterback pressures.
Detroit’s three primary interior linemen from last season, Buggs, Alim McNeil and Benito Jones combined for 3.5 sacks in 2022. The team prioritized re-signing Buggs after a breakout season last year, and there’s a belief he can contribute more than he did last year, but general manager Brad Holmes also stated this week he’d like to see the young veteran’s workload reduced after Buggs saw more than 750 snaps last year, more than doubling his playing time from the previous three seasons.
“Buggs is a very talented player,” Holmes said. “The real thing with Buggs is that I think he’ll be even better if everything works out in terms of — he had to play a lot of snaps last year, more snaps than we would have liked for him to play. But due to the circumstance he just had to.
“But, I thought he played really, really well,” Holmes continued. “He’s still a young guy that’s got a lot of talent and I believe that he really embraced our culture when he got here and he was a guy that wanted to be back and we wanted him back. I think that we’re gonna get a better version of Buggs.”