The general assumption heading into this offseason was that the Detroit Lions were likely to re-sign only one of their two outside linebackers eligible to become unrestricted free agents.
The logical conclusion was that they’d want to bring back Justin Durant and were more likely to let DeAndre Levy go elsewhere.
On Wednesday, however, the Lions re-signed Levy to a multi-year contract, according to the team’s website.
Levy was a third-round pick by the Lions out of Wisconsin in 2009, which was Martin Mayhew’s first draft as general manager.
You can understand why Mayhew would want to see Levy continue to develop in Detroit.
Terms of the deal were not released, but there’s not much doubt that the Lions got Levy for a good price. Otherwise, they couldn’t have afforded to make the move because of salary-cap considerations.
Levy (6-foot-2, 238 pounds) was arguably one of the Lions’ most consistent defensive players for the first half of the season in 2012.
But he sustained a groin injury in late October, missed two games and wasn’t as effective the rest of the way.
Levy finished third on the team in tackles with 81, including nine tackles for loss. He also had one interception, no forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
In four years in the NFL, Levy has made 50 starts and played in 57 games. He has showed some versatility in being able to play both inside and outside linebacker.
The bottom line is he’s solid, but not a big playmaker. Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the league’s worst 4-3 outside linebackers against the run.
The next question turns to Durant. Will the Lions also re-sign him? Durant has publicly indicated that he unquestionably wants to return.
Of the two, Durant was more likely to receive the better free-agent offer from another team than Levy. That could make Durant less attractive to the Lions, who can’t afford to overpay for a linebacker of either’s ability.
Durant officially becomes a free agent Tuesday at 4 p.m. His agent can begin negotiations with other clubs on Saturday.
Durant (6-1, 240 pounds) was second on the Lions with 103 tackles last season, including nine tackles for loss, but he had no interceptions, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries.
In 79 career games, 29 of those with Detroit in the last two seasons, Durant has forced only two fumbles and recovered only three.
Like Levy, Durant hasn’t been the playmaker that this defense needs.
However, Pro Football Focus ranked Durant as the eighth-best player at his position against the run in the NFL last season.
Durant was a second-round draft pick by Jacksonville in 2007. The Lions signed him two years ago as an unrestricted free agent.
If Durant returns, the linebacker corps will remain intact. If not, it opens the door for Ashlee Palmer (entering his fifth year out of Mississippi), Tahir Whitehead (second year out of Temple) or Travis Lewis (second year out of Oklahoma) to win a starting job.
That is unless the club uses a top pick on a much-needed pass-rusher who would line up as an outside linebacker.
The Lions officially started out with 23 unrestricted free agents. The number is down to 21 with the signing of offensive tackle Corey Hilliard last week and now Levy.