Will the Detroit Lions be forced to play Justin Coleman outside?
The Detroit Lions signed slot cornerback Justin Coleman a king’s ransom this offseason. But will their roster force the team to move him outside?
When the Detroit Lions opted to part ways with veteran cornerback Nevin Lawson this offseason, it cemented the fact the secondary will have a new starter opposite two-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay. Lawson was a 14-game starter for Detroit last year. Lawson, a 2014 fourth-round selection, was a staple of the Lions’ secondary, starting in a total of 54 games over the past four seasons.
With Lawson no longer on the depth chart, Detroit will need to find someone to fill his shoes. Enter in two free-agent cornerbacks this offseason. Former Seattle Seahawk Justin Coleman was inked to a massive four-year, $36 million deal, making him one of the highest-paid nickel corners in the NFL. And Rashaan Melvin, coming off a down season with the Oakland Raiders, was signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
The Lions are expected to keep Coleman in the slot and try to fill their outside corner position with Melvin or another defensive back on the roster. Obviously, former second-round cornerback Teez Tabor is in the mix. And 2019 fifth-rounder Amani Oruwariye should also be in play.
Figuring out who will start at outside cornerback in Detroit will be one of the biggest storylines to follow throughout training camp and into the preseason. Complicating matters is the fact Slay opted to skipped OTAs and the Lions’ mandatory minicamp this offseason reportedly looking for a new contract in Detroit. He’s apparently considering skipping training camp as well.
That puts an even brighter spotlight on the Lions’ cornerback position this summer. What was thought to be a battle for one starting spot may develop into two if Slay’s situation lingers into the regular season.
One possible solution would be to play the newly-signed Coleman on the outside, but it’s something the Lions certainly do not want to do if at all possible. The fifth-year defensive back found success playing in the slot in Seattle, posting a total of 97 tackles, 19 pass defends, three interceptions, 2.0 sacks, and two defensive touchdowns while playing in all 32 games for the Seahawks the past two seasons.
Another move Detroit could make is to shift safety Quandre Diggs back to nickel corner to cover Coleman. Diggs started his career in Detroit playing out of the slot. Admittedly, this is a worst-case scenario situation for the Motor City.
The best-case scenario would be for the Detroit Lions to settle things contractually with Darius Slay, keep Justin Coleman in the slot and allow the rest of the cornerbacks on the depth chart to battle it out for the empty starting role along the outside this summer.