Determining Darius Slay’s value: Pay him or trade him?

Darius Slay, Detroit Lions (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Darius Slay, Detroit Lions (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /
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Darius Slay, Detroit Lions
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

What is Darius Slay’s current value?

The rumors right now are that Quinn is shopping Slay prior to the NFL draft in the hopes of receiving draft capital. Properly worded, the Detroit Lions are willing to discuss a trade where they trade Slay for the ‘right deal’, implying that they won’t trade him for a scrub player or late draft picks. It isn’t a salary dump that Quinn is looking for.

Darius Slay is under contract for the 2020 season and carries a cap hit of $13.37 million dollars, according to Spotrac. While the top-paid players at cornerback are making in excess of $15 million dollars per season, Slay has made it known over social media that he is not merely looking to obtain that salary but, that due to his production, that he wants to be at or near the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

Slay has earned the distinction of being a top player and is certainly within his rights to ask for more money. On the flip side, he just doesn’t have much leverage being under contract and getting to an unfortunate stage of every athlete’s career, the decline.

Most of the oldest players to ever be voted All-Pro or the best player at cornerback were between 30-31 years-old. Richard Sherman, 31, and Stephon Gilmore, 29, are both near the barrier for highly productive years at defensive back and earned All-Pro honors in 2019. There are a couple of exceptions to post-30 greatness, though, namely Sherman, Charles Woodson, Aquib Talib, Adam Jones, and Charles Tillman, who all accomplished the feat after their thirtieth birthday.

Aside from just reputation as expressed in All-Pro or Pro-Bowl voting, Jeff Essary of SB Nation’s Mile High Report notes that another measure to consider regarding aging cornerbacks is games started per year, article here.

Essary accumulated data from Pro Football Reference on more than 500 players from 2008-2018 and found that the peak for starting twelve or more games is at 27; a good amount of players started twelve games at 29-30 years but that by 32 years-old the number dwindled down to just a handful of men who could play consistently.

This was the friendliest of his findings of aging cornerbacks, whom he researched for a piece about paying aging, local free-agent cornerback, Chris Harris, who the Lions tried to land the last offseason. He also used Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro selections to look at peak age versus decline in cornerbacks.

From this data, we can gather a few things. One, there’s a possibility that Darius Slay is the type of player that can play very productively past 30 or 31 years of age. Two, it is far more likely that he cannot keep up his production given the steep turn down that happens after 28-30 years old.