Never underestimate the recruiting power between players in free agency.
Detroit set out to begin the process of filling out the depth chart along its defensive line at the start of free agency, and got some help in recruiting former Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence from current Lions safety and former teammate of Spence’s in college at Illinois, Tavon Wilson.
“From talking to former teammates I’ve played with, like Tavon Wilson, he recommended (Detroit) as a high reference point,” Spence said in a conference call Friday. “We’re college teammates. I had his number the whole time he’s been in the NFL and he’s had my number and we text back and forth all the time. That’s like a brother to me. I’m happy to be on the same team with him again.”
So what was the recruiting pitch from Wilson to Spence?
“The way they’re going, they were a playoff team, and they’re building something special here, man,” Spence said. “I just really wanted to be a part of that.”
Spence had 5.5 sacks in four seasons as an off and on starter in Tampa Bay. He made 19 tackles in four starts playing in their rotation with Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald last season.
A former fourth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2013, Spence said Wilson did a pretty good job convincing him his style of play would be a good fit in Teryl Austin’s defense, and that defensive line coach Kris Kocurek would push him to get better.
“I chose the Lions because they fit my style of defense,” Spence said. “The way they attack, get up field and it’s definitely a place I wanted to get to.
“Coach Kris is a high energy guy, just like one of my coaches I had in Tampa Bay, Joe Cullen, high energy guy, loves his players, wants guys to work hard and build that camaraderie here and that’s something I felt like I wanted to be a part of.”
Spence has appeared in 56 career games (30 starts) in four years. He’s recorded 96 tackles (64 solo), 5.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries.
“When you look at (Detroit) on film, guys are jumping out of their stance, are two, three yards in the backfield making plays and that’s exciting, man,” Spence said. “That’s something you want to be a part of.”
Spence could compete with A’Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata for a starting spot along the interior of Detroit's defensive line. He adds much needed experience and depth at a position of need this offseason.