When 2023 free agency started, the Detroit Lions got a deal done with cornerback Cameron Sutton very quickly as general manager Brad Holmes commenced a needed rebuild of the secondary. A former Steeler who emerged when given a starting role there, the next step to becoming a team's No. 1 corner was easy to forecast.
It's fair to say, and abundantly obvious, that Sutton did not meet any level of expectations in his first season as a Lion. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and head coach Dan Campbell attempted to defend Sutton amid some particular struggles late in the regular season and into the playoffs, but those defenses of his play were flimsy at best.
During the regular season, Sutton had one interception (in Week 18) and six pass breakups (two in Week 18). He was a little banged up heading into Week 17 with a toe injury, but he played in every game (1,077 snaps) and he did not linger on the injury report in the playoffs. During the regular season, he allowed a 112.3 passer rating.
In the three playoff games, he had three pass breakups and eight total tackles (one tackle for loss).
Sutton clearly should not be tasked with covering the opponent's No. 1 wide receiver next season. But a role change is all that's going to happen heading into next season.
Lions CB Cameron Sutton is not going anywhere this offseason
In response to our list of "5 Lions players who won't be back next season", plenty of fans on the SideLion Report Facebook page have lamented Sutton not making the list. It doesn't make sense, and it has become time to fully address why.
Sutton signed a three-year, $33 million deal last offseason. The structure of the contract made his 2023 cap hit a reasonable $3.28 million. 2026 and 2027 were tacked on as void years to spread up the cap impact of his $10.9 million signing bonus.
In terms of 2024, via Over The Cap, here's what Sutton's contract looks like.
Base salary: $10.5 million
Prorate signing bonus: $2.1 million
Guaranteed salary: $9 million
Cap hit: $12.68 million
On March 16, a $1.5 million injury guarantee vests to full guaranteed.
A pre-June 1 cut would leave behind $17.72 million in dead money, and not clear any cap space. A post-June 1 cut designation would leave behind $11.18 million in dead money, with $1.5 million in cap space cleared.
On the trade idea front, such as it would even be possible or pursued, before June 1 the Lions would take on $8.72 million in dead money and clear $3.96 million in cap space. A trade after June 1, which would be even more unlikely than the sheer idea of trading him this offseason, would clear $10.5 million in cap space for the Lions with only $2.18 million in dead money.
For those who want Sutton gone, there's this to cling to. The implications are more palatable for the Lions to part ways in 2025. And if next season goes like this year did, they'll likely do so.
But this offseason, Sutton is not going anywhere. Well, he's not going anywhere unless the Lions want to eat a good chunk of dead money, or they wait on the faint possibility they can trade him after June 1. So he will be in a Lions' uniform next season, whether a segment of fans like it or not.