I think most Lions fans have just about had it with the availability (or lack thereof) of safety Louis Delmas.
On Thanksgiving, Delmas participated in just the fourth game all season long, yet had to leave during a critical juncture in the contest due to his knee flaring up in the team’s 34-31 overtime loss to the Texans. The fourth-year safety out of Western Michigan has practically been a walking Band-Aid ever since he has arrived in Detroit.
There is no denying Delmas’ worth to this defense when he is on the field.
Teammates rave about his ability to lead the group, showing guys exactly where they need to be when leaving the huddle. Not only does Delmas bring skill on the field, but is a key component inside the huddle to get the defense fired up when in need of a spark.
The point, though, is that he is rarely on the field leading this much-maligned secondary. Not once in Delmas’ career to this point has he played in all 16 games of the regular season. His first two years were the most consistent for him, playing in 15 games in both 09’ and 10’.
Last season, Delmas played in 11 games, but missed a critical juncture in the Lions’ season in which they could have secured a much better seed in the NFC playoffs. With him out of the lineup for much of this year, the safety position has been a revolving door because of injuries and inconsistent play.
After the 2012 season, Delmas’ rookie contract will be up and the Lions have to decide whether or not to bring him back for another year. The team has a number of other key free agents to address this offseason including, Cliff Avril, Chris Houston and linebackers Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy. With big money devoted to guys like Suh, Stafford and Johnson, it’s hard to imagine the Lions have enough cap space to bring back every big free agent.
While Delmas does have the making of becoming a “Bob Sanders 2.0”, I don’t think there is any question that Delmas will be back in a Lions uniform for at least the 2013 season. If they cannot agree on a long-term deal, the franchise tag will be in play. The team used the tag last year on Avril, but that price on a tag for a defensive end is much larger than for a safety.
Delmas could be brought back on a one-year deal with the tag and could try to prove that he is capable of staying healthy before being offered a longer contract. If he once again fails to stay healthy next season, the Lions get basically an additional year to search for his replacement.
There is no doubting the value that Delmas brings to this Lions defense. He is their emotional leader, and is constantly flying to the football on each and every play. That value means nothing, though, if he is not on the field.
One thing is for certain: whether the team decides to bring Delmas back or not, safety will be a top priority this coming offseason.