It turns out that he very well may have been. However, Raiola is now expected to stay with the team for next season, the final year of his current contract, after agreeing to restructure the deal.
Center Dominic Raiola has agreed to restructure the final year of his deal, per a person familiar with agreement. Should be a Lion in 2013.
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) February 14, 2013
Raiola was set to count over $6 million dollars against the Lions’ 2013 salary cap, easily in the top ten league-wide. Justin Rogers has a good summary of the financial situation on MLive:
Raiola’s 2013 cap number was scheduled to be slightly more than $6 million. $2 million of that figure is dead money, guaranteed from previous bonuses and restructurings, but his base $4.05 million salary could be trimmed down as low as $940,000, the veteran’s minimum for a player with 10 or more years of experience.
While the exact details of the restructure weren’t immediately available, it looks like the Lions may have been able to clear about $3 million in cap space as a result.
The Lions have obviously feel more comfortable going into next season with Raiola’s veteran presence rather than relying on a first-time starter at center. It also adds continuity to the offensive line that has already seen the departure of one starter and could have more new pieces next year depending on what happens with Jeff Backus (possible retirement) and Gosder Cherilus (free agent).
Bill Nagy spent the year on IR after being claimed from the Dallas Cowboys and can play center, as can Rodney Austin who spent the year on the Lions’ practice squad. Look for those guys to compete for playing time at guard while backing up Raiola with one of them likely to take over in 2014.