Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
Allen Park— In a perfect world, the Lions would lock in DeAndre Levy at middle linebacker and concentrate their offseason efforts toward filling the gaping holes at the two outside linebacker positions.
But, as Levy well knows, the world is anything but perfect. That’s why he is ready and willing to move back to outside linebacker.
“Whatever happens, I am willing to play any position,” he said while cleaning out his locker back on Jan. 3. “I am always ready. I know both positions and I have no preference.”
Levy, in his second year last season, certainly gave the Lions no reason to move him out of the middle. Once he got healthy, he validated the coaching staff’s belief that he could lead the defense.
In the team’s last four games, all wins, Levy delivered a game-saving interception against Green Bay, a winning pick-six at Miami, and a pair of 11-tackle performances at Tampa Bay and against Minnesota.
So why would the Lions consider moving Levy? Because the Lions presently have no true starter at either outside linebacker position and it’s possible that a quality middle linebacker will be easier to acquire than two outside linebackers.
Certainly there’s no guarantee the Lions will be able to acquire a middle linebacker, especially one who would be an upgrade from Levy, but it is one of the scenarios the Lions would consider.
Presently, the only outside linebackers on the roster are Bobby Carpenter, Ashlee Palmer and Caleb Campbell, none of whom the Lions consider a full-time starter. General manager Martin Mayhew said that two-year starter Julian Peterson would not be back. Opening-day starter Zach Follett’s career is in jeopardy because of the neck injury he sustained in Week 6. His replacement, Landon Johnson, is an unrestricted free agent.
Although neither Mayhew nor Schwartz will discuss the team’s offseason priorities, they will certainly look hard at linebackers, both inside and outside, in the draft (April 28-30) and when the free-agency period begins, which will be whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
The consensus among draft experts, thus far, is that Von Miller of Texas AM and Akeem Ayers of UCLA are the top prospects at outside linebacker, and both are expected to be taken before the Lions pick at No. 13.
“We are going to take the best player available and you have to understand that, at that point, we’re talking about a group of players with a similar grade,” Mayhew said.
Most of the mock drafts have the Lions taking an offensive lineman at 13, validating Mayhew’s point.
But here’s another scenario that could impact Levy. What if Mayhew thinks the Lions can land a quality inside linebacker through free agency, somebody such as Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch or Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny?
Would they not move Levy to the outside in that scenario? It’s something they would have to at least consider.
Like Schwartz said, the Lions believe that Levy is their guy at middle linebacker and they aren’t actively looking to move him. But the goal is to upgrade the entire linebacker unit, and if the best way to do that is to bring in another middle linebacker and move Levy to the outside, that’s what they will do.
The Lions have signed safety Erik Coleman , who was recently released by Atlanta.