New Lions OG T.J. Lang: We can have one of best OLs in the NFL
Dave Birkett , Detroit Free PressPublished 12:49 p.m. ET March 12, 2017 | Updated 19 hours ago
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(Photo: Matt Ludtke, AP)
The Detroit Lions have completely revamped their offensive line in the last 11 months, going from arguably one of the worst units in the NFL to a group that the team believes can be some something special.
Four days after the Lions made Rick Wagner the highest-paid right tackle in the league, they completed their overhaul by agreeing to a three-year contract with T.J. Lang to play right guard.
Lang, the former Birmingham Brother Rice and Eastern Michigan star who spent the last eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, will take the place of Larry Warford, who signed a free-agent deal with the New Orleans Saints earlier this week.
Before his agent announced the deal on Twitter, Lang told the Free Press that his final decision was down to the Lions, Packers and Seattle Seahawks, and that he was trying to pick the right place to raise his young family.
"The easy part is we narrowed down to these three teams because I really felt like all three of these teams are ready to win now and ready to compete and ready to contend for championships," Lang said. "So that’s not anything that I’m really thinking about. I really feel strong about all three of those teams.
"Right now it’s just, I think the biggest thing is it’s not just me making a decision on where I want to go play, what team I want to play for, what city I want to live in. It’s more for my family. My son is going to be in first grade this year, my daughter’s growing up. It’s trying to narrow down every single scenario and we did a lot of homework."
Lang, 29, is coming off the first Pro Bowl of his career, though he did not play in the game after undergoing postseason hip surgery.
He said he won’t be ready to return until training camp, but that all three team doctors he met with gave him good reports last week.
"That was the biggest reason why I took the visits just because teams wanted to see the hip, teams wanted to see the X-rays, the MRIs, they wanted to see how I was doing up to this point," Lang said. "And everything I got from everywhere I went, from Green Bay's doctors to Detroit’s doctors to Seattle’s doctors, everybody was really pumped about it. They’re like, 'Yep, the hip honestly from where you’re at from six weeks (out of surgery), it looks great.'
"I think everybody knows that it’s going to be another couple months until I’m back running around on the field, so it probably won’t be until training camp. But I think being a veteran guy and being a guy that’s played a lot of football, I don’t think that scared any of them away."
Last year, Lang missed the Packers' entire off-season program because of shoulder surgery yet still had arguably the best season of his career.
"And that was even with a bad hip, so I just really made it clear that this is the first year probably in three or four seasons that I’ll be going into training camp feeling really, really good and I’m really excited about that because I’ve always had something," Lang said. "This year, I got the shoulder fixed, I got the hip fixed, we’re going to be going full throttle and I really think that teams believe me on that and really it wasn’t much of a factor, as big of a factor as I thought it was going to be."
With Lang and Wagner in the fold, the Lions could have four new starters on their offensive line this fall from the team that general manager Bob Quinn inherited after the 2015 season.
Taylor Decker, last year’s first-round pick, returns for his second season at left tackle, and Graham Glasgow, a 2016 third-rounder, is the favorite to start at left guard after replacing Laken Tomlinson midway through last year.
Center Travis Swanson, entering the final year of his rookie contract, is the only holdover from the 2015 season, though he finished that year on injured reserve because of shoulder surgery.
The Lions’ starting offensive line for the final game of the 2015 season was Riley Reiff at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Manny Ramirez at center, Warford at right guard and Michael Ola at right tackle.
Reiff signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent after playing right tackle for the Lions last year, Ramirez retired after last season and Ola is currently a backup with the Buffalo Bills.
Lang said in a conference call with Detroit reporters after he signed that he had dinner with Wagner on Thursday night during his free-agent visit and talked to most of the rest of the linemen Sunday.
"I let them all know that I’m excited to work with everybody here," Lang said. "I’m excited to learn from you guys, I’m excited to answer any questions you have about my experiences and just the last thing I relayed to them all was I really feel like we can form one of the best units in the league with all the talent we have."
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Contact Dave Birkett: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.