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Detroit Lions could draft defensive tackle to push Nick Fairley

Reading the tea leaves when it comes to front-office strategy is quite difficult, with so many NFL clubs being so secretive. When it comes to the 2014 NFL Draft, things are especially tough when you factor in the number of players, scouts, coaches and executives involved.

All this brings us to the case of the Lions and their first-round pick from 2011, Nick Fairley. In this unusual case, Detroit is unambiguous:

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They're not picking up Fairley's fifth-year option to motivate him into having a big year in 2014.

"I have to ask myself, 'Is he a $5.5 million player right now?'" general manager Martin Mayhew told MLive.com. "There are some performances where he is, and some performances where he's not. I think it's going to be an incentive for him to have an outstanding season, and that's what I want more than anything else."

Now that the Lions have aired that bit of laundry, what else could the team do to figure out if Fairley is worth it to re-sign long term? Perhaps draft a possible replacement.

Talk about a real message being sent.

It could also be a good insurance policy for the club, considering they'll have a pair of backup defensive tackles who will be over 30 when the season ends.

The Lions hold the 10th overall pick, but that might be too high to go after defensive tackle, especially when you consider someone like cornerback Justin Gilbert or receiver Mike Evans might be there when the Lions turn in their card.

But what about the second round?

The Lions select 13th on the second day, and that could put them in position to grab a defensive lineman, given the teams ahead of them and what their needs are. Aaron Donald and Timmy Jernigan, NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's top two defensive tackles, figure to be off the board well before then, but who knows about the players after that?

Head coach Jim Caldwell did attend Notre Dame's pro day last week and probably did some due diligence on Louis Nix III if he were to slip out of the first round. Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman has been graded all over the place and might be within range, too. As teams talk extensively about trading back in this year's draft, maybe the Lions will be one of the few to trade up and get a defensive tackle.

With a number of holes on both sides of the ball, though, it seems unlikely the team will spend a first-round pick on what will probably be a backup just to motivate Fairley.

In the second round though? Or even the third? Fairley will definitely know what the front office thinks of him then.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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