He has hired super-agent Drew Rosenhaus and publicly said that he would like to be in Detroit long-term, but should the Lions extend Darius Slay with a year left on his contract? With Corners like Janoris Jenkins cashing in, it is easy to understand how Slay would like the idea. Slay was ranked the number two corner in the league by profootballfocus.com, and make no mistake, agents have started using those rankings in negotiations, they do matter whether you or I agree with them or not. With that said, he has not matched the statistical output of a few of his contemporaries when it comes to interceptions and much like a defensive end needs to get sacks to cash in, corners are largely paid based on their turnover generation.
So should the Lions extend Darius Slay early or not?
This is a much less complicated issue than Ziggy Ansah was. Slay is a young and talented player that wants to be with the team, and has a history of doing what he has to do, to be the best player possible. Between his rookie year, and sophomore campaign in the NFL, he went so far as to enlist Hall of Fame cornerback and current raiders assistant coach Rod Woodson to identify and fix holes in his game. Given the result I have to say that I wish Woodson was on the Lions staff, rather than the Raiders, the man seems to have known what he was talking about. The difference between year one and two was one of the biggest jumps in player performance that I can remember.
The only real issue standing between Slay and an extension is what he is asking for. If he is asking to erase the final year completely, and drastically increase his salary cap hit immediately in to the $10+ million range, then there is absolutely no reason to give him what he wants. The corner market like all positions does go up every year, and the franchise tag in 2016 is $14 million, but the Lions can also use the transition tag which would allow them to match the offers of other teams and only cost the team $12 million. His contract will not be that much bigger next year than it will be right now, financially the team would save $9+ million this year by not extending him, and then probably pay a slightly higher number per year on a five or six year deal. Under the franchise tag, with little leverage to get away, he would probably end up signing something similar to Janoris Jenkins’ deal from this off-season, a 5 year $62.5 million contract. At least that’s going to be the basis for the calculations I am about to do in regards to the question posed.
Seriously; should the Lions extend Darius Slay early or not?
The cost of waiting is a possible $12.5 million per year deal for 5 years. By doing it now, which essentially amounts to simply giving him the signing bonus a year early, is recognizing that the player is worth a massive contract and will get it at some point. The team may save some money on the eventual deal, but likely only about $1 million or thereabouts for each year after this one. This takes in to consideration the rate of inflation and Josh Norman’s impending pay day likely driving the market just a little bit higher, but also Slay’s unimpressive interception total. Unlike Ansah’s deal (covered in the last installment of this series) which involved multiple seasons of inflation, a single season is not likely to drastically increase the eventual payout to Slay. The advantage to the team comes in being able to defer the cost of the extension over an additional season, and the Lions do have a lot of cap room to work with this season, they could put almost any amount of the new deal in to this year if they wanted to. The team essentially says, “Rather than making you wait another year Mr. Slay, we’re going to give you Jenkins deal starting next year, but give you the bonus money right now.” and there are not a lot of reasons to object.
The player likes it because he gets a $20+ million bonus today rather than 365 days from now, if he doesn’t have a slightly off year, or God forbid have a serious injury, an extension removes that risk as well. The team likes it because long term this deal messes with their salary cap number less, in this case that extra year drops the average cap hit by just over $2 million per season but they lose the one year of a tiny cap hit. Cost certainty is always a good thing in this league, but from another pragmatic perspective, if the player does not live up to the contract for it’s entire term the team would also save more cap space when they cut him. The agent likes it because he got a player his bonus money a year early, and that helps him “inherit” other agents disgruntled clients. I had originally typed the word “steal” in that sentence, but I have the utmost respect for Mr. Rosenhaus, and would like to avoid the impression that I was disparaging him in any way individually – the business of being an agent is inherently competitive, and giving potential future clients reasons to make a change is just good business. Also I didn’t ask, strictly speaking, but I am going to go ahead and assume that detroitlionspodcast.com does not have any sort of libel insurance, and thus I would like to once again reiterate that Mr. Rosenhaus is a fine man, worthy of our praise and admiration.
In this case the GM doesn’t take the plunge to save real money, he does it to save something that matters so much more to GMs in the NFL: cap space. Unless the GM does not believe in the player, the player doesn’t want to play the cap space game with the team, or the team does not have the cap space, there is really no reason for this not to get done, again with the caveat that unreasonable demands from the player negate everything I have written on the subject. So the answer to the question “should the Lions extend Darius Slay early?” is yes, yes they should.
So there you have part two of this series, after some feedback from our beloved readers the title of this series has been changed to better reflect the content and intended /r/detroitlions discussion that it encourages. (Seriously, if you think something I have written, or even just a headline is click bait B.S. please tell me, that isn’t what we’re trying to do here at detroitlionspodcast.com). So when I say that you can contact me on Reddit as /u/A5hcrack and on Twitter @a5hcrack you can rest assured that I am actually listening.