Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew continued his stance from February’s combine at the owners meetings Monday, telling reporters he has yet to make a decision on the fifth-year option for left tackle Riley Reiff.
On the surface, it seems somewhat bizarre that Mayhew and the Lions would not automatically want to pick up their starting left tackle for a fifth year. Unlike Nick Fairley last season, Reiff has not caused any trouble for Detroit. He has not had problems with his weight or anything else. He has been durable as well, only missing one game due to injury in three seasons – although it was almost two full games since he was injured early against New England in Week 12 this season.
There are a couple of different reasons why the Lions could be waiting on Reiff’s option, and none of the obvious ones screams him not being part of Detroit’s franchise in the future.
The first is the team is trying to work on a longer-term deal with him, eschewing the fifth-year option and instead tying him up for the next three to four seasons for a deal that works for everybody involved. This would seem to make sense for a 26-year-old who has been one of Detroit’s better linemen the past couple of years.
He graded out as the No. 23 tackle in the league last year by Pro Football Focus – and was in the middle of the grades for starting left tackles.
The second reason is Detroit might still want to figure out exactly what it wants to do with Reiff before it commits to him fully. At the combine, Mayhew wasn’t set on Reiff being the team’s left tackle in 2015. So the Lions might want to make sure they know where he’ll play before signing him to a long-term deal.
If Detroit chooses to move him – either to right tackle or inside to guard – the franchise might want to kick around how that idea would work before settling on a long-term deal.
As of Tuesday, Detroit’s starting offensive line for 2015 would be Reiff at left tackle, an open space likely to be filled by a veteran at left guard, center Travis Swanson, right guard Larry Warford and a potential competition at right tackle between LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas. Among the left guard candidates are Rob Sims and Justin Blalock, but either player would likely be brought in on a short-term deal to groom a drafted replacement for 2016.
But there is little reason to think the Lions won’t pick up the option on Reiff because unlike Fairley, motivation and health are not concerns. The only potential worry is where Reiff might end up playing on a retooled Detroit offensive line.