Part two of Greg’s three part series analyzing the Detroit Lions contract options with Darius Slay
Yesterday we explored the options of having the Detroit Lions pony up the cash to keep Darius Slay around for 2020 and beyond. With Slay nearly 30 years old, and entering the last year of his deal, this could be his last chance to cash in on a big contract, and if the Lions aren’t willing to give it to him, someone else probably will. The question becomes, will they give the Lions enough to get the right to offer him that deal? Today we’re going to look at what the team might be able to get in return if they were to shop their star corner around.
Option Two: Trade him away
It’s no secret that Slay’s name was red hot around the trade deadline last offseason, with many assuming he would be dealt to a team like the Eagles. Rumors were that Bob Quinn’s asking price may have been just shy of the two 1st round pick price tag that the Rams paid to pry Jalen Ramsey away from the Jaguars. It was speculated that Philadelphia’s offer may have included a 1st and 2nd round pick, but details were scarce on whether those were 2020 or 2021 picks.
However, any trade talks that went on never came to fruition, and Slay finished the season in Detroit. Slay’s trade value likely never would have been higher than it was at last year’s deadline; despite being plagued by injuries all season. Part of his struggles can be chalked up to the dearth of talent surrounding him. The defensive line simply wasn’t healthy all year and gave quarterbacks enough time to read their mail before making a pass. Then the linebacker corps continually fell apart, and those struggles hung the secondary out to dry.
Let’s assume the offer on the table at the time was a 2020 1st and 2nd round pick. Given Philadelphia’s record last season, those two picks (#21 & #53 overall) would have had a combined draft value somewhere between picks 10-13 overall. Now that the 2020 league year is about to start, Slay is another year older. Any team trading for him would only have him under contract control for the 2020 season or would have to work out an extension. In hindsight, had this offer been on the table, Bob Quinn would have been wise to take it.
There was still a chance…
At the trade deadline, the Lions had just achieved a win over the hapless Giants and were 3-3-1. Matthew Stafford was still healthy. The Lions were looking at games against the Raiders, Redskins, Buccaneers, Broncos, and two against the Bears. It would have been easy for the front office to delude themselves into seeing 9-10 wins as more of a likelihood than a pipe dream. Those days have now long since passed, so we must assume that Slay’s value has dropped significantly. It’s also worth mentioning that trading Slay would give the team $10.47M in cap savings and only $2.9M in dead cap space, but there would still be a glaring hole at CB1 that would need to be filled. Nevertheless, let’s explore the possibility of trading Darius Slay.
NFL trade comparisons may help determine current market value
We need to look at other trades in the NFL to understand what trading Darius Slay might mean for the Detroit Lions. A member of the Detroit Lions Podcast Patreon Slack chat brought up that the Jaguars only got a 3rd and 5th round pick for Dante Fowler. Fowler was the #3 overall pick in 2015 by the Jaguars but has had a history of off-field issues, maturity problems, injuries, and disappointing performance since coming into the league. Granted, he managed to put some of it together once he got to LA, but he still hasn’t lived up to his potential. Slay has none of those things; only his age and his contract working against him.
Another player/trade comparison I’ve heard is Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans were only able to get a 3rd round pick and two rotational players for the then 26-year-old pass rusher. What this ignores though, is that the Texans had already completely torpedoed Clowney’s trade value when they couldn’t get him to sign the franchise tender by the July 15 deadline. That meant that any team trading for Clowney was unable to negotiate an extension as well. Any capital they gave up for him would only bring one season of guaranteed value and he had the opportunity to walk away when free agency starts this March.
What is the trade value for Darius Slay?
I think the Detroit Lions should be targeting either a 1st round pick or more realistically a 2nd round pick for Slay. Remember that “win now” mandate we talked about earlier? If you want to do that and stay employed beyond 2020, it would be irresponsible to unload Slay for anything less. Not to mention if Slay leaves after 2020, the Lions should net a future 3rd round compensatory pick for him, so why would they give him up for anything less than that?
Any team who will be looking to add Darius Slay is likely a team that feels they are one good CB away, and won’t shy away from the price to get a guy who should have something left in the tank to push them over the top. For a team in this position, the picks would likely be in the latter rounds of the draft, making them a little less valuable.
Which teams make sense in a trade scenario?
We mentioned Philadelphia earlier earlier, but they are still in play. The Eagles play in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, making a division title very attainable. Their pass defense uninspiringly landed in the middle of the rankings last season, giving up the 19th most yards passing per game. The Eagles have only their original 1st and 2nd round picks available to offer as trade bait, but they have a desperate need for a starting corner.
A big problem is that the Eagles have even less cap space available than Detroit. At only $41M in available cap space, Slay’s deal would take up over 1/3 of that if they were to sign him to an extension. Still, for a team that is so close, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. They may be able to get Slay for just their 2nd round pick (#53 overall) depending on where Bob Quinn values him. Maybe there’s a late-round swap involved too, where Detroit gives up a 7th that could conditionally become a 6th, and Philadelphia sends a 5th to Detroit. There are options here that shouldn’t be ignored.
Could the Autumn Wind blow for Darius Slay?
The Raiders have around $51.5M in available cap space. They also have three cornerbacks from the 2019 roster whose deals just expired. They have a young budding star CB in 2019 2nd round pick Trayvon Mullen but having a veteran star like Slay to pair him with could be appealing to John Gruden. Complicating things, the Raiders’ lack of a 2nd round pick. What they do have, though, is the Bears’ 1st round pick, number 19 overall, and three third-round picks (#80, #81, & #91).
Could Bob Quinn manage to pry away #19 overall for Slay? To me, that feels a little rich for the Raiders, and Detroit would probably have to include a pick of their own to make the deal more tempting for Gruden to bring Slay to Sin City. But the Raiders must play the high-flying Chiefs and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes twice a year for the foreseeable future. Slay would help ease that burden.
There are other options out there that make some sense, but each comes with some large caveats. After looking around the league, I just don’t see a place that is a great fit for Slay from either a salary cap or a trade compensation perspective. I don’t think trading Darius Slay is the answer for the Lions.
Watch for part 3 of this series tomorrow where we’ll discuss the “uglier” options for the Lions and Darius Slay. Click here to see part one of this series. Don’t forget to follow @GregWarren2 on Twitter, and share your thoughts on the Detroit Lions Subreddit!