5 Detroit Lions players who will not be back in 2023

Credit: Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Credit: Cooper Neill/Getty Images /
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Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Detroit Lions
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

2. OG Halapoulivaati Vaitai

It’s more a testament to how good the Lions offensive line is than it is a knock on Vaitai to call him the weak link of the unit. There can be some quarrel with how much he’s getting paid (thanks Bob Quinn), but that’s not his fault and “Big V” clearly had an immediate positive influence on Penei Sewell and he was pretty good in 2021.

But a back injury in the preseason eventually sidelined Vaitai for the entire 2022 campaign. A domino effect of that fact, with other injuries entering the mix throughout, was a real revolving door all season (and, at times, a serious weak link) for the Lions at right guard.

The years and money on Vaitai’s contract, with few other options on the Lions’ payroll like that, has led to a couple restructurings over the last year-plus or so. Now, an outright cut is definitely on the table.

Those contract restructures have kicked the can on some of the money Vaitai is due, as is obvious and expected. A pre-June 1 cut creates close to an even split of his $12.448 million 2023 cap hit between dead money and cap savings ($6.55 million in cap savings). A post-June 1 cut bumps the cap savings to $9.5 million. A trade, on each side of June 1, carries the same money implications for the Lions.

Right guard is a sneaky need for the Lions as the offseason approaches, and it’s not clear if Vaitai can be relied on to be/stay healthy next season. He should be gone, with little question about it.