Detroit Lions must prioritize Darius Slay over Damon Harrison
By Kellen Voss
Darius Slay is arguably the most valuable player in the entire Detroit Lions organization, and must work things out with him before training camp.
In the pass-happy NFL these days, having a lockdown corner to count on 24/7 is a necessity for a successful team, and the Detroit Lions have luckily found that in Darius Slay.
Slay has been consistent in his seven-year tenure in Detroit, but the past two seasons have really been breakout ones for the former Mississippi State Bulldog. In the 31 games that Slay played in 2017 and 2018, he made his presence felt by corralling 11 interceptions and defending 43 passes, while earning a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2017 and a Pro Bowl invite in both years.
There’s an argument to be made that Slay is the Lions’ most valuable player. And while there been a lot of stability at any positional group for Detroit in recent years, being able to count on Slay to lock down the opposing team’s top receiver has allowed the Lions to at least tread water on the defensive side of the ball.
With the recent Madden ratings coming out, Slay was disappointed as getting rated a 89 overall, voicing his frustrations out on Twitter. Perhaps that underwhelming rating by Madden can motivate Slay to make the Pro Bowl for the third season in a row.
His Madden rating isn’t the only thing that Slay has been frustrated about recently, as he has been holding out of attending any offseason training camps in pursuit of a new deal. His agent Drew Rosenhaus has met with the team and is looking to strike new deals for Slay and his teammate Damon Harrison.
Slay currently has two-years left on a four-year, $48 million deal he signed back in 2016. According to sportrac.com, his yearly average salary of $12.03 million makes Darius the 13th highest paid player at his position. The 28-year-old apparently wants to restructure his current contract to make himself more in-line with what the top cornerbacks in the NFL make.
While the Lions’ can try to adopt the next-man-up mentality all they want at corner, Slay is more than a few notches above potential starting corners on the roster such as Teez Tabor, Rashaan Melvin, Mike Ford, and newly-acquired Justin Coleman. Slay is really the only corner on the roster that is capable of guarding an above-average receiver for more than a few possessions.
If Slay and Harrison were to hold out during training camp, it would cost a young defense valuable reps without their two best players as seek a bigger payday. Not only that, but both players would have to pay $40,000 for each day they sit out of mandatory camp, which begins on July 25th.
Even though it is in the team’s best interest to lock down both players as soon as possible, Slay should be the first priority to worry about in the team’s budget. This is not a knock on Harrison, as he is one of the best run-stopping defensive tackles in football who can elevate the Lions defense to another level yet again this season.
As valuable as Harrison is to the Lions’ defense, the team simply has way more options on the defensive line. Even without Harrison, the team could put together a starting defensive line of Romeo Okwara, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and newly-acquired Trey Flowers, which is a formidable unit that Harrison can potentially make elite.
As much of a luxury as it would be to have a fearsome defensive line that the Lions haven’t had since the days of Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril, satisfying Slay needs to be a priority, as the team lacks depth at cornerback.
Between now and Thursday, it is a necessity that the Detroit Lions offer Darius Slay the farm, as without him, the team would return to the putrid defensive status that has plagued them for most of this decade.