The Lions are facing stiff competition in their quest to lure Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson to Detroit.
Although the New England Patriots may have dropped out of the race, many teams -- like Detroit -- appear to be interested in the recently released defensive tackle.
According to Wilkinson's agent, Brig Owens, the Patriots did not follow up to schedule a visit. He did say, however, that Wilkinson will visit two other teams this week, and that the door isn't completely closed on a return to Washington -- who cut Wilkinson after a failed contract renegotiation.
When asked about the interest in Wilkinson, Lions personnel has appeared to be non-committal. Head coach Steve Mariucci said that he was very happy with the personnel he had and called it the "best defensive line" he had ever coached. But Detroit's staff was just playing coy. It appears that their interest in him is extremely high and they are working hard to land the defensive tackle to their roster.
Mariucci's high praise of his current players notwithstanding, there are several legitimate reasons why Wilkinson would be a good fit for the team if the price is right.
1. The continuing injury rehabilitation of Luther Elliss.
Mariucci admitted he was a "little bit" worried about the health of Elliss. There are concerns about the slow healing nature of this type of injury and some staffers privately have expressed concern that Elliss could miss part of the regular season.
2. Wilkinson has something to prove.
After suffering through a dismal year last season where he only recorded sixteen tackles and zero sacks, Wilkinson wants to prove that he has something left in the tank so that he can get another good payday before his career is finished. At one point Wilkinson was making $6.5 million per season. While he isn't going to get close to that he would like to try to squeeze a two-year deal out of the team that gets him this season. Detroit is offering a one-year deal, and New England also offered a one-year deal before today's news.
Having Wilkinson would not only provide insurance in the event Elliss had to start the season on PUP. It would also give the Lions another quality player in its interior rotation and not put so much pressure on rookie tackle Cory Redding, allowing the team to bring him along slowly. Wilkinson, when healthy, is still one of the top run stuffers in the league. If Detroit got him, a healthy Elliss and a resurgent Shaun Rogers along with Redding, it could mark a return to the days of the "Silver Rush" when Detroit's front four of Al Bubba Baker, Doug English, William Gay and Dan Puriefory terrorized opposing quarterbacks.
Quick Notes: The Detroit Lions agreed to a two-year contract extension with fullback Cory Schlesinger. "Sledge" will be entering his ninth year with Detroit after being drafted by the team in 1995 (6th round - Nebraska). He tallied 35 receptions for 263 yards last year ... tight end Mikhael Ricks began practicing with the team on Tuesday after being removed from the PUP list on Monday.