Re-signing of Corey Hilliard provides insurance for Lions' line

By Matt Rybaltowski | CBSSports.com
The re-signing of tackle Corey Hilliard gives the Lions depth. (USATSI)

Dogged by age and injury, the Detroit Lions' offensive line could undergo a complete facelift before the start of the 2013 regular season.

Starting left tackle Jeff Backus, one of the league's most tenured players, will enter his 13th season if he delays retirement for a year. On the other side, Gosder Cherilus, a fifth-year tackle with a history of knee problems, is a free agent. The spot next to Cherilus is vacant after the release of starting right guard Stephen Peterman two days after the Super Bowl. Center Dominic Raiola, 34, could have experienced a similar fate if he hadn't agreed to restructure his contract last month.

The re-signing of fourth-year swing tackle Corey Hilliard on Friday could help the Lions put the puzzle together. Hilliard, who agreed to a two-year contract extension according to ESPN, could replace Cherilus at starting right tackle if the Lions don't re-sign the 2008 first-round pick.

Hilliard (6-6, 300) didn't appear in a game in 2012, but started five the previous two seasons. In 2010, Hilliard started the Lions' final four games at right tackle after Cherilus went on IR with a knee injury. Hilliard allowed a sack and 10 quarterback hurries the final month of the season, according to Pro Football Focus.

If Cherilus doesn't return to Detroit, Hilliard will likely compete with third-year lineman Jason Fox for the starting spot. Last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew indicated that Fox has the ability to become a starter.

Riley Reiff, a 2012 first-round pick, could be moved from tackle to right guard.

“We've got a lot of moving pieces on the offensive line right now,” Mayhew said. “I think Riley's ability to play four spots is pretty helpful and pretty valuable to us. I'm not sure where he's going to end up but I do see him starting for us this year at some position.”

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can also follow Matt Rybaltowski @mattrybaltowski.

 
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