The Departure of Eric Wright via free agency makes cornerback even more of a priority for the Detroit Lions. Wright was a productive player for the relative bargain price of $2 million. It will be difficult, perhaps impossible, for the Lions to replace Wright for that kind of money on the free agent market.
That being said, it turns out that the Lions are in perfect position to add a cornerback of Wright’s caliber at the $2 million annual price tag that Wright signed for prior to last season. All the Lions have to do to realize that opportunity is use their first round pick, the 23rd overall pick, on a cornerback in next month’s draft.
Last year’s 23rd overall pick was Philadelphia Eagles guard Danny Watkins. He now earns an average salary of $1.984 million on a four-year deal worth $7.936 million.
Fortunately for our purposes, last year’s 23rd pick was surrounded by selections of cornerbacks exactly four picks before and after to give us another point of reference for what the Lions would shell out to a cornerback selected 23rd overall.
The New York Giants selected Prince Amukamara 19th overall who signed a four year deal worth $8.18 million. That’s a yearly price tag of $2.045 million.
The Ravens selected Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick. Smith’s rookie contract is a four-year deal worth $7.461 million for a yearly average of $1.865 million.
With a rookie wage scale in place thanks to the new CBA and a flat salary cap we can expect that rookie contract will look a lot like they did last year. Whether you look at the numbers based on last year’s 23rd pick or the average of the two cornerback picks around it, it is clear that the Lions will be paying their first round pick in the neighborhood of $2 million per year. The Lions can get a cornerback that they can pay like Eric Wright in 2011 and it’s likely a first round corner can play like Eric Wright in 2011 – or better.