After recently deciding to part ways with their starting right tackle Rick Wagner, the Detroit Lions land his replacement along with a hefty price tag.
The Detroit Lions are expected to shake up their roster this offseason following a mandate from owner Martha Firestone Ford to transform a team that finished 3-12-1 last season into a playoff contender in 2020. The first major move took place last Friday when the Lions opted to release starting right tackle Rick Wagner. The next move was finding his replacement.
On Monday it was reported by NFL Insider Adam Caplan that Detroit has agreed to a deal with free-agent offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. It’s apparently a five-year contract worth a whopping $50 million.
A fifth-round selection out of TCU by the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2016, Vaitai has been a backup for his first four seasons in the NFL, starting in just three games last year. Yet, this level of financial commitment must mean Detroit believes the 26-year old is ready to make the leap to becoming a consistent starter.
According to the football analytics website Pro Football Focus, Vaitai allowed just two sacks on 476 offensive snaps earning him a career-high overall grade of 72.8. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive tackle was ranked 87th overall in NFL.com’s Top 101 NFL free agents of 2020.
This wasn’t an unexpected move by the Lions as general manager Bob Quinn has made some heavy investments into Detroit’s offensive line ever since arriving in 2016. Most notably, Quinn used the team’s first-round selections in both 2016 and 2018 to land left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow. Both players are coming off arguably the best season of their individual careers.
But the addition of Halapoulivaati Vaitai likely speaks more to the concerns the Detroit Lions have under center. Veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford just turned 32-years old, is entering his 12th NFL season, and is coming off an injury-plagued campaign that forced him to miss eight games in 2019. Providing valuable protection for Stafford is clearly a high priority this offseason.