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Friday, February 7, 2014
Lions make smart move keeping Raiola

By Michael Rothstein

The Detroit Lions solved one of their biggest offseason questions this week, locking up their center position for at least one more season.

Bringing back veteran Dominic Raiola was the correct move for Detroit at this time. He was an anchor on the offensive line last season, and had perhaps the best season of his career.

Raiola
Considering the other holes the Lions will need to fill -- wide receiver, tight end, cornerback and safety -- bringing back Raiola gives the team one less thing to worry about, especially as the offense learns Joe Lombardi’s new offensive system.

In theory, the Detroit offensive line will remain intact for a second season, giving the Lions continuity with the men blocking for Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

Plus, Raiola never wanted to go anywhere else. He has spent his entire career with Detroit. He was more than willing during this season to take a leadership role even though he didn’t have the captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey. Though the Lions struggled through the second half of the season, he attempted to keep things positive and focused on continually trying to turn things around.

He is one of the few Detroit players left from the 0-16 season in 2008, and has been completely focused on trying to return to the playoffs for the second time in his career. He thought he might get there last season, especially when the Lions were 6-3.

But now, as his career will likely be winding down at some point in the near future, he will be even more focused on obtaining that this season.

The second benefit for Detroit bringing back Raiola for another season is he can now play the role of mentor to his replacement. There is a decent chance the Lions could draft a center this season in the later rounds of the draft. By bringing Raiola back, there will be no pressure on that player to start from the beginning.

He can learn for a year and get used to the speed of the NFL -- and what Lombardi and Stafford are comfortable with -- before he really competes for the starting job. That can be invaluable to the Lions as they make that transition.

That Raiola will be around for that grooming process, whether it is for one season or more, will be extremely important for whatever rookie the team is likely to bring in.