Real culture change for the Detroit Lions will occur with disciplined actions by management. Contract disputes must be handled the Patriot way.
The Detroit Lions had two unfortunate holdouts during mandatory mini-camp with cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Both players are starters on this defense, and will be big contributors to any effort at a winning season this year.
Last week on The Valenti Show, host Mike Valenti discussed how the Detroit Lions must handle the contracts of these two players. According to Valenti, from the perspective of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, there is a lot on the line (06-20-19). And if either wants to operate the Patriot way, then they shouldn’t give in to either Slay or Harrison.
Quinn and Patricia face a real challenge here. The problem really won’t show itself until Detroit Lions training camp starts on July 24th. If these players start to miss time during training camp, going into preseason, and even try holding out into the regular season, then things will get ugly. And Quinn and Patricia will truly have a quandary on their hands.
But there is an even bigger issue at stake here, which is the culture change that the Detroit Lions are so desperately trying to establish. Valenti talked about how this kind of thing works with the New England Patriots (06-20-19):
"“And eventually, you strong-arm enough of your players, this doesn’t even happen because they know better than to pipe up. It doesn’t happen in New England. And when it does, you get a postage stamp on you’re a**.”"
That’s pretty harsh. It is not an easy way to run a franchise. You want to show players that you appreciate their efforts on the field. But you also have to be responsible when it comes to extending guys with two years left on their deals.
And most people, including Valenti, would agree that Snacks has got the better case for a dispute. Valenti had this to say on Slay versus Snacks (06-20-19):
"“I’m not paying Darius Slay sixteen million dollars a year. He makes twelve, and didn’t earn it last year… The guy who earned it is Snacks. And if you’re [going to] give anybody a deal, with multiple years on the deal, Snacks would be the one to do it with.”"
There is a lot of truth in terms of who is underpaid in this scenario, although Harrison is set to earn $6.75 million this year and $9 million the following year (Source: Spotrac). Both decent numbers for a 30-year-old defensive tackle, but he’s probably looking to get his pay more in the 11-13 million dollar range because he is so stout against the run. And that can make a big difference on defense.
However, having two years left on the contract is the big problem here. If either of these players were entering the final year, the need for an extension is much more clear. And if things go smoothly in 2019, the Detroit Lions should absolutely enter discussions on adding a couple years to those contracts before the 2020 season.
This is not going to be easy for Quinn and Patricia. If they stick to their guns, they could be making a real statement on how this franchise deals with disputes like this. Both of these players have leverage because they are talented and are very necessary for a winning season. With the division looking strong in 2019 (and beyond really), this is going to be a tough decision.
But the long-term leverage could belong to the Detroit Lions. Showing discipline now could be another element to that elusive culture change they want so badly. Wise spending coupled with smart player acquisition is the hallmark of championship teams. If the Detroit Lions can’t hold their ground, will they ever achieve their goals?