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TWENTYMAN: A look at the Lions' 21 free agents 

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:

Ziggy Ansah

Position: Defensive end

2018 stats: 11 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 7 QBH, 3 TFL, 13 QB hurries

Twentyman: There is no debating Ansah’s athleticism and playmaking ability when healthy, but unfortunately a lack of availability has been the story throughout his career. That was the case again in 2018. Playing on the franchise tag, Ansah injured his shoulder Week 1, missed the next six games, and was eventually placed on IR after re-injuring the shoulder Week 14. He only played in seven games. Ansah is a great talent coming off the edge, but availability has always been his issue, and we’ll see how it might affect the Lions’ plans this offseason.

Don Muhlbach

Position: Long snapper

2018 stats: The Lions made 28 field goals and had a net punting average of 40.2 yards

Twentyman: Muhlbach made one bad snap on the extra point that cost the Lions in a 14-13 loss to Buffalo, but other than that, he was pretty steady throughout. The 15-year veteran turns 38 before the start of next season. He’s still doing it a high level, and can continue to play in 2019 if he and the team agree to it, but at some point the Lions do have to start thinking about the future at the position.

Ricky Jean Francois

Position: Defensive tackle

2018 stats: 30 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 QBH, 3 TFL, 11 QB hurries

Twentyman: Jean Francois spends time early in every week talking strategy and scheme with head coach Matt Patricia. Jean Francois made 11 starts, and was productive throughout the year. He is very good in the locker room, and is a willing teacher to young guys like Da’Shawn Hand.

Eli Harold

Position: Outside linebacker

2018 stats: 10 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 5 QBH, 4 TFL, 3 QB hurries

Twentyman: The Lions traded for Harold back in August to add some depth to the linebacker position. His skillset fit in nicely with Detroit’s multiple-front defense, and he was a good rotational player and pass rusher playing in 13 games. He turns just 25 later this month.

Zach Zenner

Position: Running back

2018 stats: 55 rushes, 265 yards (4.8 average), 3 TDs

Twentyman: After hurting his back in the preseason and being waived with an injury settlement, Zenner re-signed with the Lions in October and took on a bigger role after Kerryon Johnson got hurt Week 11. Zenner put on 10 pounds of muscle in his time away from the team, and returned a much tougher and more equipped runner. He’s also a core special teamer and one of the hardest workers on the team.

Levine Toilolo

Position: Tight end

2018 stats: 21 receptions, 263 yards (12.5 average), 1 TD

Twentyman: The Lions didn’t get enough from the tight end position overall this season, but Toilolo emerged as the most consistent of the bunch. He’s a very good blocker, but also proved he could make some plays in the passing game with his big 6-foot-8 frame that can high-point the ball. His do-it-all skillset fits Detroit’s roster.

Luke Willson

Position: Tight end

2018 stats: 13 receptions, 87 yards (6.7 average), 0 TD

Twentyman: Willson had an opportunity to play the No. 1 tight end role after being a backup in Seattle, but it just never fully materialized for him for whatever reason. By the end of the year, Toilolo had surpassed him in snap counts per game.

TJ Jones

Position: Wide receiver

2018 stats: 19 receptions, 190 yards (10.0 average), 2 TDs

Twentyman: Jones finished the year strong with two touchdown grabs in the Week 17 win over Green Bay, but his season as a whole was a bit disappointing after catching 30 passes for 399 yards in 2017. He entered the year as the No. 4 receiver, but injuries increased his playing time, and his production didn't quite match up.

DeShawn Shead

Position: Cornerback

2018 stats: 18 tackles, 0 INT, 0 PD

Twentyman: Shead was brought in to provide depth in the secondary. He didn’t make the Lions initial 53-man roster out of training camp, but was re-signed in September and ended up playing 12 games with one start.

LeGarrette Blount

Position: Running back

2018 stats: 154 carries, 418 yards (2.7 average), 5 TDs

Twentyman: Blount began the year splitting carries with rookie Kerryon Johnson, but it quickly became apparent Johnson needed the ball in his hands more because of the greater impact he was having. Blount had a role and made some impactful short-yardage and goal line plays, though the yards per carry average overall was disappointing.

Bruce Ellington

Position: Wide receiver

2018 stats: 31 receptions, 224 yards (7.2 average), 1 TD*

Twentyman: The Lions needed someone to step up and fill in for Golden Tate in the slot after Tate was traded in October. Ellington isn’t the run-after-the-catch guy Tate is, but he did provide some stability for Matthew Stafford in the slot. He can also return kicks and play special teams.

*Combined stats from Houston and Detroit.

Nick Bellore

Position: Fullback

2018 stats: 1 carry, 0 yards, 4 receptions, 15 yards, 7 ST tackles

Twentyman: Bellore made the transition from linebacker to fullback fulltime this season and was pretty good in that role as a lead blocker. He’s also a core special teams performer. The Lions drafted fullback Nick Bawden last year to compete with Bellore, but he hurt his knee in the spring and went on IR. He should be back this offseason. What that means for Bellore is yet to be determined.

Matt Cassel

Position: Quarterback

2018 stats: 2 games, 7-for-17 passing, 59 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Twentyman: Backup quarterbacks don’t get a lot of playing time in Detroit behind Stafford, who’s started every game dating back to 2011. Their role is really to help Stafford on a weekly basis prepare for the opponent. The 14-year veteran seemingly did well in that role. He turns 37 this offseason.

Andrew Donnal

Position: Tackle

2018 stats: 2 games, no stats

Twentyman: Donnal was a reserve tackle on the roster for most of the year, but inactive on most gamedays behind Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner and Tyrell Crosby, who are all under contract for next season.

Kelvin Sheppard

Position: Linebacker

2018 stats: 5 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 QBH, 0 TFL

Twentyman: Sheppard was signed in late October to provide some depth at the position. The former third-round pick played in seven games for the Lions in a reserve role.

Marcus Cooper

Position: Cornerback

2018 stats: 1 tackle, 1 FF, 0 INT, 0 PD

Twentyman: Cooper played two games with the Chicago Bears before being released and claimed off waivers by the Lions on Nov. 22. He played in four games for the Lions down the stretch and provided some depth in the secondary. The six-year veteran has seven career interceptions.

RESTRICTED:

Romeo Okwara

Position: Defensive end

2018 stats: 39 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 14 QBH, 8 TFL, 1 FF, 16 QB hurries

Twentyman: Talk about a player making the most of a new opportunity. The Lions claimed Okwara off waivers Sept. 5. He soon became an important player along the defensive line with Ansah struggling to stay healthy. Okwara turns 24 this offseason, and should only get better the more muscle he puts on and experience he gains. He’s got a long frame, and showed he can rush the passer off the edge.

Kerry Hyder Jr.

Position: Defensive end

2018 stats: 6 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 QBH, 1 TFL, 6 QB hurries

Twentyman: Hyder came back after missing all of the 2017 season due to an Achilles injury. He played in seven games and was inactive for the other nine. Okwara passed him on the depth chart, but Hyder still has the ability to play inside or outside and provide depth upfront.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS:

Mitchell Loewen

Position: Defensive end

2018 stats: Did not play in a game

Twentyman: Loewen signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2016. The Saints waived him Dec. 27 after he played in just one game for them all year. Detroit claimed him the next day and he was inactive Week 17 in Green Bay. The Lions obviously want to see what he can do for them by claiming him.

Steve Longa

Position: Linebacker

2018 stats: Did not play in a game

Twentyman: Longa was on his way to being a reserve linebacker and core special teamer for this roster if not for a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. Longa played in 15 games last season and made 13 tackles.

Charles Washington

Position: Safety

2018 stats: 6 special team tackles, 1 TFL, 0 INT, 0 PD

Twentyman: Washington played in 13 games this season, mostly on special teams. He’s proven to be a reliable tackler on special teams coverage units.

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