Assessing the Futures of Rick Wagner and Taylor Decker
Detroit has seen its 2019 season hit rock bottom at 3-9-1, and a bulk of the blame can be directed towards its defense’s poor performance.
With an offseason full of decisions looming, not all of general manager’s Bob Quinn moves will be defense-oriented.
The most impactful decisions he’ll have to make on offense are deciding what to do with the contracts of veteran right tackle Rick Wagner and fourth-year left tackle Taylor Decker.
Both will be cashing a sizable paycheck in 2020.
Are they worth it, though?
Let’s assess and first with Wagner.
Per Spotrac.com, Wagner will be responsible for an $11.9 million cap hit in 2020 -- the fourth year on his five-year deal with the organization.
Should the Lions cut him following June 1, they will save $9M in cap with $2.9M of dead money in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The veteran tackle was recognized by Pro Football Focus as one of the best at his position when he signed in 2017.
However, Wagner presently owns an overall grade of 59.1, along with a 60.2 pass-blocking grade and a 53.9 run-blocking grade.
It adds up to him being ranked the 58th-best tackle in the game, although he possesses the fifth-highest average annual value contract among right tackles and the 21st-highest among all tackles.
The Lions would be taking a risk ridding themselves of a veteran tackle, but they’d be saving a wad of cash by moving on from him after June 1.
Perhaps deploying this plan leads to the signing of another tackle to a less expensive deal or investing the same amount of money or more on a more productive one.
Otherwise, Detroit will be looking towards the draft to find a remedy for its vacant right tackle position or will be asking second-year pro Tyrell Crosby to fill the void.
As for Decker, his cap hit of $3.48 million in 2019 is spiking to $10.35 million in 2020 -- the final year of his rookie contract.
At his current level of production, Decker is an above-average tackle making what above-average tackles should make.
However, will the fifth-year pro be worth the price tag next season?
It’s not as definitive of a case as Wagner’s is.
Decker is only 25, and his best football likely has yet to come.
Meanwhile, Wagner is 30, and his best football looks to be behind him.
The common misconception with Decker’s 2019 campaign stems from his atrocious start to the season, allowing two sacks and seven total pressures while committing four penalties in Week 1 at Arizona.
Since then, he’s allowed four sacks, and has committed six penalties across 12 games.
Additionally, he has an overall grade of 75.5, with a 75.0 pass-blocking grade and 70.9 run-blocking grade.
Overall, he grades out as the 13th-best tackle in football, according to Pro Football Focus.
He has bad outings, like most any tackle in the league.
However, with him being just 25 and grading out as one of the league’s top-15 tackles, it's well worth it for the Lions to go forward with him in 2020.