3 Detroit Lions free agents who could be forced into retirement

These three free agents probably won't be coming back with the Detroit Lions , and there's a chance their NFL careers are just going to be over.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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1. OG Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Vaitai is the obvious No. 1 here. He missed the entire 2022 season after suffering a back injury that required surgery. He started off the 2023 season back healthy as the starter at right guard. Then a knee injury in Week 2 opened the door for Graham Glasgow to take that job, and never give it back aside from an injury-forced move that allowed Vaitai to start one more game.

Vaitai eventually landed back on the injury report with a back issue. In mid-November he was placed on IR, and his 2023 campaign was over.

When he was sidelined in 2022, per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, Vaitai said he considered retirement-if only for a fleeting moment.

"After surgery, I was like, ‘Let me just rest. Let me just enjoy this time,'" Vaitai said Thursday. "And then when I started training again, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not ready to retire yet. "I can’t leave all my guys," Vaitai said. "I can’t leave them. I love this team a lot. I’m going to help (coach) Dan (Campbell) win one."

With his health a question, Vaitai took a big pay cut to stay with the Lions last offseason. That restructuring made the final year of his original deal with the Lions (2024) into a void year, of course then making him a free agent a year sooner.

The question for Vaitai is if he wants to rehab a back injury again, and hit what will at best be an uncertain market for his services. The Lions could bring him back on a very cheap one-year deal, or another team could do the same. But would that be worth it to him?

If it hadn't been for returning to the Lions, Vaitai strongly insinuated he may have retired last offseason. That option feels like it's not on the table this time around, as a full-fledged free agent, so "Big V" might be fine just calling it a career.

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