By Ashley Scoby
Lions general manager Bob Quinn spoke at the NFL combine Tuesday, but had nothing specific to say about Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell, Haloti Ngata or really any of the major questions surrounding the organization.
Quinn said he had spoken to Johnson, but had no update to share on the wide receiver’s impending retirement decision. A previous report from ESPN indicated that Johnson had told head coach Jim Caldwell at the end of the 2015 season that he was done. But there has been only silence coming from Johnson’s camp now. And Quinn said he wasn’t sure in which direction Johnson was leaning.
“I don’t have any expectations,” Quinn said. “We had a good conversation. He didn’t tell me if he’s leaning one way or the other. We’re giving him time to make that decision. There’s no deadline.”
When asked if it was possible the Lions could restructure Johnson’s mega-contract, Quinn said that question hadn’t even come up within the organization, and that “we may talk about it, we may not” later.
Quinn also stepped around questions about those he had cut, specifically running back Joique Bell and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Bell previously said the Lions had offered him a pay cut, which he refused before both sides decided to go their separate ways.
On the question of those cuts, though, Quinn repeatedly said he wouldn’t “get into every detail” about his conversations with players or their agents.
In terms of the Lions’ unrestricted free agents (Lance Moore and Haloti Ngata, for example), Quinn said there were some the team would not be bringing back. He did not specify which ones.
Quinn did confirm that offensive lineman Riley Reiff would be on the team next year. At what position, however, is still up in the air.
Outside of the obvious questions, adding depth was the goal Quinn kept hammering.
“There’s good players at some positions; there’s lack of depth at other positions,” he said. “This is a league and a game where injuries happen, so I’ve got to prepare the team and have depth at every level of the team.”
Defensive tackle is a position where that depth will be most important. On its current roster, the Lions have two defensive tackles under contract for 2016 or beyond.
Draft pundits have long said the 2016 draft class is littered with NFL-quality defensive linemen, and the Lions could be a team that chooses one of those prospects.
“There’s strong depth across the defensive line in this draft for sure,” Quinn said.
For positions of strength, Quinn listed the defensive line (presumably on the ends), quarterback and cornerback.
But he also knows that those bright spots didn’t carry the Lions to the postseason, and that the franchise has plenty of work to do in free agency and draft before they can put forth a competitor.
“This team didn’t make the playoffs last year,” he said. “There’s a reason for that. The talent level needs to improve.”