Could Darius Slay’s contract situation force the Detroit Lions’ hand?

Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions continued the voluntary portion of their offseason program last week without one of their most important players. Will cornerback Darius Slay’s absence push the Lions to rethink their extension practices?

When it comes to contract extensions in recent years, the Detroit Lions have been rather conservative in their approach to handing out new deals. The conspicuous absence last week of one of their best players may find them reconsidering their position.

Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay did not participate in last week’s voluntary workouts in Allen Park, and is looking for a new deal with two years remaining on his pact. Overall, Slay’s current yearly salary is a relative bargain; he will enter 2019 as the 12th highest paid cornerback in the in terms of average base salary in the NFL, according to Sportrac.

Slay seems to feel that he is underpaid, and he’s probably right when one looks at the cornerbacks currently earning more than him. Players like Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler and Janoris Jenkins are all scheduled to make a higher average base salary in 2019 than Slay.

Under general manager Bob Quinn, the Lions have handed out several contract extensions to some of their most important players, including Slay’s original four-year addendum signed in 2016. However, since Quinn took the reigns, no one with more than one year remaining on their deal has been extended. That seems unlikely to change at this point.

One school of thought points to the Lions breaking that trend and ensuring that their best defensive back is in a good place and doesn’t feel alienated 2019. He’s in his prime, is coming off two straight Pro Bowl appearances and is the most stable figure in a position group with some question marks behind him.

On the other hand, should the Lions break the bank for Slay with two years remaining on his contract, they risk setting a shaky precedent for other players that could be in similar situations in the future. It just doesn’t seem like good business to tack on extra years even for one of their most important players with multiple years left on their deal.

Slay will be 30 years old upon the expiration of his current contract. While he still likely has several more seasons of high-level play to offer, it’s debatable wether giving him a lucrative contract extension right now makes sense given his age.

The Lions have taken some shrewd steps towards ensuring Slay’s comfort and happiness within  the locker room in recent seasons. Safety Tracy Walker, last year’s third round draft selection, and cornerback Justin Coleman, a recent free agent addition are both from Slay’s hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. The group refers to themselves as “cousins” ( though only Slay and Walker are actually second cousins) .

So while the typically jovial Slay would seem to be in a good spot on the Lions – not many NFL players share that type of background with multiple teammates – he’s looking to reach an even better situation monetarily. This puts the Lions in a tricky place.

Detroit is a better team with Slay on the field. There’s little doubting that. But they’re an even stronger squad when he’s free of contractual conflicts away from the gridiron. Slay has done a great job as a Lion backing up his brash talk with high-level play. It may not be enough to change the Lions’ negotiation methods, however.

Expect Slay to be on the field in September if not as soon as when the Lions’ mandatory minicamp begins on June 4th. For someone looking to make even more coin, Slay would cost himself financially as well as hinder the team should he stage any kind of a holdout.

As NFL players, including another one of Slay’s teammates, continue their collective quest to secure more guaranteed money, their will be much intrigue as to how the Lions and their star cornerback proceed. A happy, compensated and focused Darius Slay could be the difference between a great Lions defense, and one that falls significantly short in 2019.

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Should the Detroit Lions offer Darius Slay a contract extension with two years remaining on his deal? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.