Detroit Lions totally redo Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s contract, add big chunk of cap space

Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

It became more likely the more time went on, but the Detroit Lions have remodeled the contract of guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai rather than cut him.

It seems it would have been simpler to just cut him, but the more time passed the more likely it was that Detroit Lions guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be sticking around. Indeed, Vaitai has agreed to take a substantial pay cut.

Via Over The Cap, the Lions will create nearly $7.4 million in 2023 cap space by re-working Vaitai’s deal. Justin Rogers of the Detroit News has a different base salary number than Over The Cap, $1.21 million compared to $3 million. The final year of his original five-year deal, 2024, is now a void year.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap cited a rule where Vaitai’s base salary will only count $1.21 million on the salary cap this year.

Vaitai’s bloated contract is the last vestige of the Bob Quinn-Matt Patricia era for the Lions. They have re-structured his deal a couple times before over the last year-plus, and this final big move makes it a four-year deal.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is not guaranteed much of anything with the Lions in 2023

Vaitai missed the entire 2022 season with a back injury, and the Lions often struggled to find a consistent solution at right guard. Now, the return of Graham Glasgow provides a viable and credible other option. And it’s not a stretch to say the former and now-current Lion is a better player than Vaitai.

The cap gymastics done here, along with the big pay cut, actually increases Vaitai’s dead money impact in 2024 compared to his original deal, however marginally ($3.8 million, from $2.9 million). It also assures he’ll be on the team this year.

But it’s a stretch to say Vaitai is guaranteed to be the Lions’ starting right guard, or to say that is even the internal expectation. Glasgow should get every chance to win the starting job, and we know Dan Campbell operates a meritocracy.

Vaitai has been ripe to be replaced, either more cost-effectively or simply with a better player, for basically a year. That can still happen, and he’ll have to beat out Glasgow to be the Lions’ Week 1 starter at right guard.

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