Four years later, he's a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, as the Bucs signed Lehman last week to a free-agent contract.
Oddly enough Lehman (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) played against the Bucs last year, a 23-16 Lions victory. He managed two tackles in that game. But he was a backup.
Once upon a time, Lehman was a starter. He cracked the starting lineup his rookie season, registering 103 tackles (87 solo) along with a sack and an interception. It looked like Lehman was turning into a solid defender.
The Lions weren't the only ones that thought so, according to Scout.com Senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan.
"He had a tremendous collegiate career, and it looked like he might be a solid player in his first professional season," Caplan said.
But after his first season in Detroit, Lehman's career went south, due mostly to injuries. He played just five games in 2005 and four games in 2006. The same injury sidelined him both years — a foot and ankle ailment that landed him on the physically unable to perform list before the 2006 regular season.
By the time Lehman returned to health last year, his starting job was gone. Paris Lenon, a seven-year pro, grabbed the starting job in 2006 as a free agent and never let go, relegating Lehman to a backup role last year.
That is what he is likely to be in 2008 — Ruud's immediate backup. Caplan believes Lehman could be a "decent" backup to Ruud, but nothing more.
All that said, some NFL scouts believe the Tampa 2 defense — which Lehman played in the past two seasons in Detroit — is the perfect defense for him. Scouts say he still has a solid combination of size and quickness and can still deliver a good pop at the point of attack. He also shows good burst moving forward toward the ball in coverage.
The downside? His technique and tackling angles need work. But that's for linebackers coach Gus Bradley to worry about now. If Lehman puts in the work this offseason, there's no reason to believe he won't be Ruud's immediate backup — and a solid special teams contributor — come September.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.