By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK – The Detroit Lions traded their 23rd overall pick to the Denver Broncos on Thursday for the 28th overall pick, a fifth-round pick, a 2016 fifth-round pick and veteran guard Manny Ramirez.
With the 28th pick, the Lions selected Duke guard Laken Tomlinson, but general manager Martin Mayhew suggested the addition of Ramirez was also a valuable one. Mayhew said Detroit had three opportunities to move down in the draft, and the chance to acquire Ramirez was what made a trade with the Broncos the most attractive scenario.
“We look at our board, we see the players that we have available, we have guys that we like that are available, how many spots can we go back,” Mayhew said at the team’s headquarters in Allen Park on Thursday. “The opportunity to get Manny was pretty important for us. We had a couple different – actually we had three opportunities to move back. That was the one that we chose. But I think Manny was a pretty key part of that.”
For Ramirez, the move to Detroit will be something of a homecoming; the Lions drafted him in the fourth round in 2007.
“His versatility is the reason why we brought him back,” Mayhew said. “Quite frankly, I don’t remember why we ever let him go. Great guy, great in the locker room, great leader, very physical player, he’s got experience at guard and center, as I said before, so he’s got versatility. He’s a quality football player. He’s going to help our football team.”
The trade of Ramirez is contingent on a physical, which was scheduled to happen Friday.
An eight-year veteran, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Ramirez started all 16 games for the Broncos in each of the last two seasons. At a minimum, he will provide experienced depth for the Lions. Depending on how the rest of the line looks, however, Ramirez could start at center, where the Lions have a void after moving on from longtime starter Dominic Raiola.
It had been assumed that job would be filled by second-year player Travis Swanson, whom the Lions drafted in the third round in 2014, but Mayhew made no promises Thursday.
“I don’t have any expectations either way,” Mayhew said. “Everybody competes for every job. It’s a meritocracy, so everybody comes in and competes. We’ll see what happens.”
The offensive line will likely look dramatically different than it did last season. Raiola is gone, and it looks likely that veteran Rob Sims, to whom the Lions extended an offer, will also not be returning. Tackle LaAdrian Waddle is coming back from an ACL injury, so whether the starting job will belong to him or someone else remains to be seen.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell agreed that the veteran presence of Ramirez, on a line that is much younger without Raiola and Sims, will be beneficial.
“I think it’s important,” Caldwell said. “Any time that you can get a guy that’s been around and played in this league, has some pelts on the wall, that he can help you, and without question he does bring that presence along with him.
“But the other thing is, too … we have a good group of leaders on our team, even though some of them may be a little young, I think in that room they’re emerging and coming along,” Caldwell added, “and I think Manny will certainly help add to that.”
While the transition on the line might not be seamless, Caldwell said dealing with such turnover is simply part of the job. Caldwell said he could not make a declaration on how good the group will be since he has yet to see it in action, but he believes the Lions are headed in the right direction.
“Our depth, we improved it, but I think also I’m certainly encouraged by physically what they appear to be able to do,” Caldwell said. “We’ll see how they adjust, how quickly they can adapt, if they can get themselves in position from a strength standpoint to be competitive, and then if they can learn everything that we have to be able to do on the line of scrimmage … in a short amount of time at a rapid pace. That remains to be seen. But I do feel really good about that group.”