By Ashley Dunkak

CBS DETROIT – When the New Orleans Saints declined to tender Tyrunn Walker, who last week signed with the Detroit Lions, 18 teams expressed interest in the 24-year-old defensive tackle.

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By the evening of Tuesday, March 10, the first day of free agency, Walker and agent Sean Kiernan had whittled the list of possibilities to 12 teams.

Walker visited the New England Patriots, who offered him a two-year deal, and then he visited the Lions. Kiernan said he could have quickly lined up six more visits, but Walker had seen enough.

Even with more options yet to be explored, Walker decided he wanted to sign with Detroit. Kiernan credited Lions general manager Martin Mayhew with convincing Walker of the opportunity for him there.

“Martin was very aggressive about trying to get him, did a great job,” Kiernan said in a phone interview Monday. “Really sold Tyrunn not only on the opportunity there for himself but really the opportunity to win and be part of a great organization, and that would be the person I would give a lot of the credit to. Tyrunn was also really intrigued by the defensive line coach. He’s had a lot of guys over the years leave him and go elsewhere and make a lot of money or make a lot of money when playing for him, and that was something that was really interesting to him as well.”

The Lions signed Walker to a one-year deal for $1.75 million. A one-year deal was what Walker and Kiernan had been wanting.

“He’s never really gotten a true opportunity to be a starter or to play kind of starter-quality playtime,” Kiernan said. “He only played 28 percent of the plays last year. He’s flashed during the times he’s played, and given the opportunity that there is in Detroit for him, our hope is that he plays well and that leads to something bigger.”

Walker played in all 16 games for the Saints last season and totaled 19 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble.

“There’s no reason to drag a process out if you know what you want, and Detroit had everything that he wanted to check off on his list,” Kiernan said. “It was a great opportunity for him, it was the right amount financially, it was an organization that had a great defense, and there was just that role there.

“Again, I give a lot of credit to Martin,” Kiernan added. “He was very aggressive on it. He knew what he wanted; he knew this was the player he targeted to get to play next to Haloti [Ngata], and he was able to get that.”

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Walker said on a teleconference with Detroit reporters that he does not know yet exactly what his role will be.

“I’m just coming in to do whatever they ask me to do,” Walker said. “I haven’t talked about starting or a role player or rotation guy, I haven’t talked about anything like that. I’m just going to come into offseason workouts, work hard, and just do what they ask me to do.

“I can handle whatever they want to put on my plate,” Walker added later. “I’m going to prepare as if I’m going to play in 90 plays a game. Whatever they give me is what I’m going to take, and what I’m going to have, and I’m going to be happy and satisfied with my role.”

Both Walker and Kiernan believe the defensive tackle can turn some heads in Detroit’s scheme.

“He’s never played in the NFL under that type of D,” Kiernan said. “They allow their defensive tackles the ability to not just occupy space but get up the field a little bit and make some plays, and I think that’s going to be fun for him. When he’s been given those opportunities he’s had some success in limited playing time. It’s just a matter of translating that success into a full season.”

In addition to noting he looks forward to a system that allows him to make more plays, Walker expressed excitement about playing next to Ngata. While Walker does not know Ngata personally, he believes he can learn much from him.

“He’s a future Hall of Famer in this league,” Walker said. “He demands a lot of attention. Playing next to someone like that would be perfect. I’m also trying to try to pick his brain and get to know what he knows and just be a student of the game.”

Even if Ngata and Walker end up forming a relatively formidable tandem, it will be hard for them to escape the looming shadow of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but Walker is not thinking about them.

“No pressure at all,” Walker said. “Suh and Fairley, they’re great at what they do … I’m just coming here just trying to help the team win, and so I’m not trying to compare or trying to compete with Suh or Fairley. What they did for Detroit was outstanding.”

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