- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.
To view the entire series to date, click this link.
Free agent to be: John Wendling
Years in the league: 7
What he made last season: $938,334 (cap number); $715,000 (base salary), $15,000 (roster bonus)
What he did last season: Wendling wasn’t needed at all defensively in 2013, playing one snap the entire season with the defense. But his real role is on special teams, where he made 14 tackles and was one of the team’s most used and effective special teamers. That was part of why he was brought over from Buffalo after the 2009 season and why he made an impact with the Lions over the past four seasons.
His potential market value: Could be decent, although not as a priority free agent by any means. He will be a player who will eventually be brought into a camp by a team that struggled on special teams coverage last season. The Washington Redskins, for example, was one of the worst teams in the league on both punt and kick coverage.
Will he fit the Lions still: No. It initially looked like Wendling could be a candidate to return to Detroit through free agency because of his role on special teams and familiarity with John Bonamego’s coverage systems. However, once the Lions claimed Isa Abdul-Quddus off waivers earlier this year and then kept him off the restricted free agent market by giving him a one-year deal that counts $695,000 against the cap, that likely took Wendling’s potential special teams spot. Bonamego was the person general manager Martin Mayhew said went into his office to campaign for Abdul-Quddus. At the NFL combine, Mayhew said Wendling would not be back with Detroit in 2014.
What happens: As mentioned above, Wendling will likely find a spot in a training camp because of his special teams prowess, not any potential he has as a safety. At 30 years old, Wendling is likely on his last few years in the NFL as player who specializes in special teams play, but he should still be productive enough for a team to take a look at him and give him a shot to make a roster.