For many, this move might be wildly unpopular, since Raiola represents a polarizing figure in Detroit. On one hand, the center is a rugged staple of the team and the community, hanging with the organization through their on the field ups and more significantly, their downs.
On the other hand, Raiola himself has been no stranger to bringing on his own controversy. He's given a two-finger salute to heckling fans watching the 0-16 debacle, cursed out opposing fans in a tunnel after a 2010 victory in Miami and most recently, was accused of heckling the University of Wisconsin marching band while on the field in Green Bay. Many wonder if he's been the best representative of the team during his tenure in Detroit.
Love him or hate him and his antics, bringing Raiola back on a one-year contract was the right football move for the team in 2014. Detroit wasn't going to find a center capable of stepping in and playing at a high level in the upcoming draft, nor would they find a cheaper replacement on the open market. Last season, the team got lucky with Larry Warford, who's fast development at guard is the exception as it relates to offensive line play in the NFL.
Instead, the Lions locked up a man capable of still playing at a high level for another season. Their philosophy seems simple: why create another roster hole in a spot where turnover doesn't have to happen? The Lions can now feel good that their offensive line is largely set. If they want, they can still select a center in a future draft and allow him a year or two to develop behind Raiola, who's proven to be one of the more durable centers in the game. If not, they can defer the search for another season.
In this case, one extra season doesn't hurt. As a 13 year veteran, Raiola deserves the ability to play out his career with the Lions in the way he chooses, much like Jeff Backus did. When it's time to step aside, Raiola will know, and then he'll go. Until there's a consistent problem with his play, there's no need to push him out the door simply for his outspoken nature or periodically controversial behavior.
One of the better centers in the game during the 2013 season is returning, and given the consistency he provides, it's hardly a terrible move.
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