Lions sign top draft pick, OG Laken Tomlinson
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions will open next week's mandatory minicamp with all their rookies on the field.
On Thursday, the Lions signed top pick Laken Tomlinson, a 6-foot-3 323-pound guard they selected from Duke with the 28th overall pick. The offensive line was a weak spot during last season's run 11-5 record and NFC wild-card berth.
Tomlinson's four-year contract, which wrapped up Detroit's 2015 draft class, includes a team option for a fifth year and is worth about $8.3 million.
Tomlinson has said he wants to attend medical school after his playing career.
Though the Lions advanced to the playoffs for just the second time in the 21st century, they allowed 45 sacks - 22 more than the previous season and 11th worst in the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said the line wasn't the only reason for the increase.
''I think it's a combination of things,'' he said. ''Every sack has got a different reason. Sometimes the quarterback's got to get the ball out, sometimes someone gets beat, sometimes someone misses an assignment, so there were a number of factors.''
The Lions traded for former guard Manny Ramirez on draft day, but the team appears to be hoping Tomlinson will start and bookend returning starter Larry Warford. Ramirez can shift to center if necessary, and would add depth behind snapper Travis Swanson, who's expected to replace the departed Dominic Raiola.
If tackles Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle return to starting spots, the prospective offensive line would average less than two seasons of NFL experience. That doesn't concern Lombardi.
''The more experience the better, but I think it's a smart group, it's a well-coached group, so it's not a huge concern by any stretch,'' he said. ''When you look ''I think if everyone stays healthy - knock on wood - we've got long-term stability there at the offensive line, which is really good.''
Ramirez, who began his career in Detroit before playing his last four seasons in Denver, is the only lineman on the current roster with more than four years of service. Coach Jim Caldwell said he hopes the veteran can help the less-experienced linemen.
''You can just tell from a leadership standpoint, I mean, he's tremendous,'' the coach said. ''Real solid guy, just a person that's well-rounded, has a good sense of what being a real pro is, and I think you'll see some of that wear off on some of our younger guys.''
The Lions' three-day minicamp begins Tuesday.
NOTES: Running back Joique Bell, who had offseason surgical procedures on a knee and Achilles tendon, has not taken part in offseason training activities and is a long shot to participate in next week's minicamp. Lombardi said the Lions are carefully monitoring the progress of last season's leading rusher (860 yards) and hope he's ready to return by the start of training camp.
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