Because of their troubled past, front office history, and unstable coaching situation, the Detroit Lions may have to pay a premium for their players.
It’s no secret that playing for the Detroit Lions isn’t exactly viewed as the premier landing spot for many potential free agents. After years of losing, front office mismanagement, draft busts, a severe lack of playoff wins, posting an 0-16 record in 2008, and even more dysfunction; the Lions haven’t made themselves very attractive.
And this offseason may be worse than others. Top-tier free agents like defensive tackle Mike Daniels and defensive end Trey Flowers have expressed their interest in coming to Detroit specifically due to the presence of third-year head coach Matt Patricia.
But now that Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn are under a mandate by owner Martha Firestone Ford to make the 3-12-1 Lions into a playoff contender in 2020, their time in Motown could quickly come to an end.
With that potential regime change on the horizon, and all the unknowns that come with it, why would any free agent or player who is in high demand want to sign a longterm contract in that kind of situation?
In order to entice free agents to join the Lions this offseason, Detroit might have to pay a premium to do so, outbidding other franchises with better track records, more wins, and a more stable coaching outlook.
But paying a premium price doesn’t stop at free agents. The Lions will likely have to pay top dollar in order to retain their more talented players as well.
The biggest proof of that, of course, being the massive five-year, $135 million contract extension Detroit signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to back in 2017. The deal made Stafford the highest-paid player in NFL history at the time. Now entering his 12th season in the Motor City, he still has yet to win a single playoff game.
Just last year, the Lions paid Flowers a five-year, $90 million contract as a premier free agent. The deal made him, a player who averages just 7.0 sacks a season, the third highest-paid defensive end in the league.
Now it appears the Lions will have to pay top dollar to retain cornerback Darius Slay as well. The three-time Pro Bowler has made it clear he wants an extension in Detroit as the 29-year old enters the final year of his current contract.
According to reports, Detroit is attempting to sign Slay to a long term contract extension. But if an agreement can not be reached, the Lions will entertain trading him away. Slay skipped OTAs and minicamp last season, reportedly in pursuit of a new deal. That absence could extend into training camp this summer without an extension.
If a recent tweet from Slay himself is to be believed, the seven-year veteran is looking to become the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. That would require a deal that would bank him north of $15 million a year. Slay is currently slated to make a base salary of $10 million in 2020, with a salary cap hit of $13.3 million according to spotrac.com.
The Detroit Lions need to be about the business of retaining their top players, not losing them or trading them away. And because years of losing and mismanagement have sullied their reputation, plus considering their current coaching situation, the Lions have little choice but to pay players a premium for the privilege of wearing Honolulu blue and silver.