With the 13th most cap space in the NFL this offseason, the Detroit Lions are going to make a splash in free agency. As always, they will look to free up some more space by cutting players who haven’t lived up to expectations. With plenty of rough contracts and aged veterans in Detroit, here are a few players who may be cap casualties this offseason.
4. Detroit Lions Cut Ties With Halapoulivaati Vaitai (OG):
When healthy, Vaitai is a force to be reckoned with in the run game. Unfortunately, his time in Detroit has been exactly the opposite, injury-riddled, and sidelined for most every game. After being made a cornerstone piece, at least financially, by Bob Quinn in 2020, Vaitai has mainly been a cap hit for the Lions. Not playing a single snap after back surgery in 2022, the soon-to-be 30-year-old would cost $12.4 million in 2023.
If Vaitai truly wants to remain a Lion, a team-friendly deal would have to be made. The Lions can save $6.6 million by cutting the guard in 2023 but would need to re-invest that into a replacement as Evan Brown struggled as a replacement this past year. Looking for a potential free-agent replacement, or drafting a late top-100 guard is possible, and with Vaitai most likely on his way out, the Lions must find an upgrade soon.
3. Emerging Detroit Lions’ Pass Rush Loses Need for Charles Harris (EDGE):
When the Miami Dolphins selected Charles Harris with the 22nd pick in the 2017 NFL draft, they didn’t expect him to be labeled as a bust so quickly. Unfortunately, that was an accurate representation of his play on the field. When his lack of production found him jobless, he came to the Detroit Lions and put up a solid 7.5 sacks in 2021, earning him a two-year, $13 million deal. With recurring groin problems, Harrisw was limited to six, unproductive appearances this season. With just one sack in 2022, and an emerging edge group led by Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston, Harris has lost his value on the Lions’ defense.
With an $8 million cap hit in 2023, the team can save themselves a modest $4 million by cutting the aging edge. That money can be better spent on secondary, linebackers, interior, or even rookie contracts if need be. Extra money is never an issue, but overpaying for little production is.
2. Detroit Lions Make Tough Call, Leaving Romeo Okwara (EDGE) Behind:
This may not be a decision some like, but the cost of Romeo Okwara far outweighs the future need for him. Coming to the Detroit Lions at a rough spot for the team, Okwara led Detroit in sacks twice, earning himself a massive three-year, $37 million contract. Unfortunately, four weeks after he signed his name on that paper, he blew out his Achilles against the Chicago Bears. A rough 14-month rehab ensued, and Okwara finally returned to Detroit in 2022. With a triumphant sack on Zach Wilson in his return game, Okwara made a stand-out play. Now here is the caveat, he failed to touch the quarterback for the rest of the year.
At just 27, the young edge has potential and can return to his old ways. The issue is that costly contract. Banking on a possible resurgence isn’t the right move when it costs $14.5 million in 2023. Moving on saves the team $7.5 million that could easily be used somewhere else. With the strength the Detroit Lions’ edges showed in 2022, this wouldn’t be surprising either. If cutting Okwara isn’t the answer, a more team-friendly restructure must be made to justify another season.
1. Lions’ Captain Michael Brockers (DT) Too Costly to Ride the Bench:
Without a doubt, Michael Brockers has contributed to the Detroit Lions since being packaged the same day as Jared Goff in the Matthew Stafford trade. Now, I wish I could be saying that due to his on-field numbers, but really he has been a veteran leader who has helped build the foundation for the new Lions mentality. With the former top-15 pick adding so much experience to the roster, he played a crucial role in player development whether fans know it or not. With over 6,500 career snaps, Brockers was pivotal in instructing, guiding, and mentoring the youth in Detroit.
As a team captain, Brockers took being cut in 11 of the last 12 games very well and continued to show his support for the coaching staff and players. After bringing a lot of mental support to this team, the veteran just hasn’t done enough to hold onto his contract. Not a single team in the NFL is going to pay almost $14 million for a guy who doesn’t suit up most days. Pocketing $10 million dollars after cutting Brockers, the Detroit Lions should definitely look at adding the defensive tackle to their coaching staff when his career is done.
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