Backus and Hill re-signings a great move for the Lions

Posted Mar 17, 2012

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew was adamant after the season that he wanted left tackle Jeff Backus to return for a 12th season, and possibly beyond.

"He wants to play football, he wants to play for us, I want him to play for us, so we'll try to get something worked out with him," Mayhew told beat reporters in January.

Mayhew turned that into reality Saturday, re-signing Backus to a two-year deal.

The team also re-signed back-up quarterback Shaun Hill to a two-year contract.

Terms of both deals were unknown, though ESPN is reporting Backus' deal is worth $10 million.

Backus, 34, just completed the final season of a six-year, $40 million deal he signed before the 2006 season.

His re-signing was a must for the Lions, considering their current depth at the position.

"It took longer than expected, but we've agreed to terms on a new contract that allows us to move forward and continue to work toward our ultimate goal, which is winning championships," Backus told after agreeing to the deal.

"I'm glad to have this opportunity to finish my career with the Detroit Lions. I'm looking forward to continuing our recent success and making a strong push toward winning a Super Bowl."

As it stands right now, tackle Corey Hilliard, 26, is the only consistent reserve tackle on the roster.

Hilliard has stepped in and played well when given the opportunity, but he's started a total of five games in his career.

The team selected tackle Jason Fox in the fourth round of the 2010 draft to be the heir apparent at left tackle, but he hasn't yet proven he can stay healthy over his first two seasons in the league. Knee and foot injuries have derailed Fox's first two seasons and the Lions certainly aren't in a position to hand the reigns over to a third-year player who's played in just four games.

Backus is reliable, having started 177 consecutive games over the last 11 years with the team, and the Lions know they're getting a steady left tackle in Backus.

The Lions will have to replace him sooner rather than later, but free agency isn't usually the best option to find a left tackle of the future.

After missing half of camp with a pectoral injury, Backus had a slow start last season, struggling against the Vikings and 49ers, in particular, but he was consistent the second half of the year.

"Once he sort of got his bearings and settled in, he had a pretty solid season for us from about that fifth, sixth game through the end of the season he played well," Mayhew said. "He played very well."

Backus tore his right bicep in the Lions' playoff loss to the Saints last season, but has begun his rehab work at the Lions' training facility in Allen Park and should be ready for training camp.

With Backus, the Lions have a reliable left tackle to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford's blind side and a veteran to help bring along a young player if the Lions decide to draft a tackle in April's NFL Draft.  

Hill has been the Lions' back-up quarterback the last two seasons behind Matthew Stafford.

He started 10 games in 2010 for the injured Stafford, throwing for 2,686 yards and 16 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He won three of those games.

Hill recently visited with the St. Louis Rams to talk about their back-up position behind Sam Bradford, but Hill left without a contract offer.

We now know why.

The Lions no-doubt picked up the pace on Hill after quarterback Drew Stanton left to sign with the Jets.

"If it's going to be a back-up job somewhere, I don't think there will be any other organization that is as close to winning it all and I highly doubt it'll be a situation where I enjoy the work environment as much as I do here," Hill said after the season when asked about re-signing with the Lions.

"I would certainly like to be back here. My two years here, I've really enjoyed coming to work and the people I work with. This organization has been great and this locker room has been tremendous.

"I would like to be back and obviously I hope they want me back. It's going to be hard to find a better fit for me than this one."

Stafford started all 16 games for the Lions in 2011, but Hill has started 26 games in his career and is one of the better back-ups in the league.

The Lions addressed two very big needs Saturday.