New Lions cornerback Carlton Davis somehow makes 'overpaid' team

Carlton Davis had a down year last year, but inconvenient facts apparently don't detract from saying he's overpaid.

The first move the Detroit Lions made to remodel their cornerback room this offseason was acquiring Carlton Davis from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is coming off a down year in 2023, and a non- descript former Buccaneer thinks they will not miss him one bit. Durability is a general concern, but Davis' prowess in man coverage seems like a great fit for what Lions' defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn wants to do.

One of the appealing aspects of acquiring Davis was that he was going into the final year of a three-year, $44.5 million contract he signed with Tampa Bay. He immediately said, as expected, that he was open to signing an extension with the Lions. But that's unlikely to happen before he plays a game for them.

Davis' contract called for him to make $14 million in base salary with a $14.35 million cap hit and up to $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses (based on 12 games played last year, $352, 941 "likely to be earned").

On that premise of being due to make $14.8 million this year, Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News put Davis on his "All-Overpaid Team" for 2024.

"The Lions didn't make their veteran corner spending work last season, so they got aggressive again, trading for the former Buccaneer. However, he's been shaky with durability issues of late, and there's a good chance rookie first-round Terrion Arnold will be their better starter."

Lions cornerback Carlton Davis is hardly "overpaid" this year

About a week after acquiring him the Lions restructured Davis' contract, converting $6 million of his original base salary into a signing bonus. Three void years were added to lessen the overall cap impact, but it was not an extension. The move created a $9.8 million dead cap hit in 2025 with the contract void, which feels ripe for an eventual restructure/extension.

But back to this year, on Iyer's premise Davis is overpaid. The contract restructure reduced his base salary to $8 million and dropped his cap hit (per Over The Cap) to about $4.5 million. That cap hit, according to Spotrac, is 29th among cornerbacks for this year right now. His base salary and total cash for 2024 are still top-10 at the position, but both would have been higher if not for the restructure. Iyer made no mention of the restructure.

If the Lions had given Davis an outright contract extension right after acquiring him, the "overpaid" premise might have more teeth. But they went the other way, reducing his salary and cap hit for this year. They did create a noticeable dead money hit for next year, which isn't ideal, but if things don't go well this year they'll just let Davis go.

Davis could be a lot of things for the Lions this year, good or bad. On the bad side of things, overpaid is nowhere on the list of options.

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