Detroit Lions’ Next Decision Needs to Be Stephen Tulloch


The Detroit Lions made their first big decision of the 2015 offseason by releasing Reggie Bush yesterday, now it’s time to make a decision on Stephen Tulloch. There are three ways the Lions could go in deciding Tulloch’s future with the team.

Cut Him

Tulloch’s $5.8 million cap hit for 2015 currently ranks third on the team behind Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. With $2.6 million in dead money remaining due to the proration of his signing bonus, releasing Tulloch would save the Lions $3.2 million in salary cap space for 2015. That’s not an insignificant savings, particularly considering it is almost twice as much as the Lions trimmed by releasing Reggie Bush.

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Keep Him

The Lions benefited from depth they probably didn’t realize they had when Tahir Whitehead was able to fill in admirably after Tulloch was lost for the season. Depth is a necessity in the NFL and with Tulloch looking strong in his rehab, the Lions can feel good about their depth at linebacker by keeping Tulloch in the fold.

Even though his $5.8 million cap hit might make him a candidate to be released, the Lions have cap-friendly deals in place with their other top linebackers such that the total cap hit for Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Van Noy is just under $12.2 million. Averaged over four players, that’s a hair over $3 million. Releasing Tulloch keeps $2.6 million in dead money on the books and that combined with the cap hits for Levy, Whitehead and Van Noy also results in an average cap hit of $3 million.

Restructure Him

The Lions could seek to restructure Tulloch’s contract so that he stays with the team but does so at a reduced price. This wouldn’t be the typical simple restructure that frees up salary cap space by converting salary to a bonus so that it can be prorated over the remaining years of the deal; this would be the kind that requires Tulloch to give up some money.

On, Andrew Brandt explained the benefit to the player in regards to the reduced salary restructure Larry Fitzgerald agreed to with the Arizona Cardinals:

"Fitzgerald will now make $11 million fully guaranteed both this year and next. He was scheduled to make $31 million over that time period—$16 million this year and $15 million next—yet those amounts were not guaranteed, and Fitzgerald was vulnerable to being released, if not this year then certainly next. Thus, Fitzgerald traded $31 million in nonguaranteed money for $22 million in guaranteed money. I would have made that trade, at that age and at that position, every day of the week."

Even if Tulloch survives with the Lions in 2015, he’s likely to enter next season as prime candidate to get cut for salary cap relief. As his contract stands now, Tulloch is set to count for $7.3 million against the cap in 2016, with just $1.3 million in dead money. Like Fitzgerald, Tulloch could be willing to trade in nonguaranteed money that he may never see for a smaller guaranteed sum. Of course, this would require the Lions buying in to Tulloch remaining with the team through the 2016 season. With Whitehead ready to play now, they may not be willing to do such a deal.

Next: Four courses of action after releasing Bush

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