New Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes has released plenty of overpriced players from the previous regime.
Meanwhile, there are not many long-term contracts on the 2021 roster.
Let’s explore the best and worst contracts on the Lions' roster.
Best contract: Left tackle Taylor Decker
Four years, $59.65 million ($11.15 million in remaining guarantees)
When Decker signed his extension last season, it was met with some criticism. Not only was it signed before wideout Kenny Golladay, a fan favorite, was handed a contract, but Decker also had some pretty average seasons in recent years.
Despite re-upping on a deal with Decker, though, he wasn’t compensated like an elite tackle.
Currently, he is right outside the top 10 for yearly average salary at the tackle position, with four years left in Detroit.
His contract will continue to move down the NFL ranks, as other tackles around the league sign new deals.
It definitely helps Decker’s case that he had his best season to date in 2020. If he can continue that type of play, it may end up being one of the best personnel decisions made by ex-Lions GM Bob Quinn.
According to Pro Football Focus, “Is it pretty much a consensus opinion that (Ronnie) Stanley and (Laremy) Tunsil are more talented players? Sure. Are they $5 million-plus dollars per year better than Taylor Decker? Absolutely not.”
Worst contract: Offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Five years, $45 million ($9 million in remaining guarantees)
Vaitai's contract never looked good from the beginning. As a spot starter prior to 2020, Quinn took a big chance on Vaitai, assuming he could become a full-time right tackle.
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It only took one season for the Lions to draft the 28-year-old's replacement, which leaves Vaitai as an exorbitantly-priced guard with swing tackle versatility.
Fortunately, for Holmes, despite the scary $9 million average annual salary, there were not many guarantees in Vaitai's deal.
The Lions were handcuffed into keeping Vaitai for 2021, but 2022 is a different story. The Lions could part ways with Vaitai, only leaving $4.2 million in dead cap after this season.
While the dead-cap hit is still a decent amount, it is not prohibitive. To give that amount a little perspective, the Lions have over $42 million in dead cap this year.
No matter the case, though, Vaitai was an overpaid tackle, and now likely an overpaid guard.
To his credit, he was probably quite a bit better than his on-field performance with the Eagles. But, it will still be extremely tough for him to live up to his contract as an interior lineman.
As PFF writes, “The veteran tackle was coming off his best season as a pro, having earned a 72.8 grade with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. He had logged roughly 400 snaps as the starting right tackle to close out the season following an injury to Lane Johnson. Detroit paid him like they projected him to be a top right tackle going forward (his $9 million per year average is still top-10 at the position).
Nevertheless, he belongs at right guard, where he’ll return following the draft selection of Penei Sewell. That would make Vaitai tied for the fifth highest-paid right guard in the NFL on a multi-year deal, which is above his on-field value."
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