Part three of Greg’s three-part series analyzing the Detroit Lions contract options with Darius Slay
With this article I’ll wrap up this series on the Detroit Lions options with Darius Slay’s contract. So far we’ve looked at the two options of re-signing Slay and trading him. Now it’s time to examine and evaluate some of the less popular options for Slay, the Detroit Lions, and the fans.
Option Three: Slay plays out out 2020
Slay wants more money; his tweets have made that abundantly clear. But the reality of the situation is that Darius Slay is still under contract for 2020, and the Lions are under no obligation to give him an extension. I’m all for extending good players when it makes sense for the team, but with Slay’s nagging injuries and declining play, it might make the most sense for the Lions to just tell Slay, “your contract is your contract; take it or leave it,” and then make their move afterward. If Slay returns to form in 2020, the team then has options.
Quinn could extend him an offer but would be stuck bidding against the rest of the league. Or the team could use the franchise tag for 2021 and either let him play that season under the tag and then walk or use that time to negotiate an extension. This is all assuming the Lions find a way to turn it around in 2020, and the Bob Quinn/Matt Patricia era continues on. If those two are let go, I would not be surprised if the new regime were to cut ties with the 3-time Pro Bowler, and try to get younger at the position, while saving a substantial amount of salary cap.
Option Four: Apply the franchise tag to Darius Slay
If the team were to franchise Slay in 2021, Slay would then make the average of the top 5 paid players at his position. For 2020 that’s estimated to be $16.47M, so let’s add around $500k to that estimate and call it an even $17M for 2021. That’s in the realm of how much Slay seems to be looking for, based on his Twitter activity. This option hedges against giving him an extension this year, and then winding up with buyer’s remorse like they likely have with Snacks Harrison after last year’s debacle.
At the same time, the franchise tag often brings a lot of anger from the player’s side, and I’d especially imagine it would for Slay, who’s trying to get that last big payday before he hangs them up. Playing out 2020 for his contract, where he’ll make new cash earnings of $10.468M, and then $17M more in 2021, would be great for Slay. But from his perspective, why play two seasons for $27.5M when you could try to get $30M over two, or $45M over three?
Option Five: Cut Darius Slay
This isn’t happening. Even if Slay were to have some sort of a negative attitude toward the front office, demand a trade, be outspoken in the media, etc. there would still be trade options of some sort. Cutting him would net the team no potential compensatory picks the following year, and they would only wind up with the same cap savings as if they had traded him. But if they were to cut/trade him, what would they do to fill that CB1 slot?
Chris Harris is the name most people are throwing out there, due to the three seasons he spent working under the new Defensive Coordinator Cory Undlin when the pair was in Denver. Then again, Harris isn’t that different from Slay. In fact, he’s a year and a half older than Slay is. Harris also made $12M last season with the Broncos; most players aren’t looking to start taking a pay cut later in their careers.
Would Bob Quinn ship off one of the most beloved players in his locker room and in this city, just so he could save a couple million dollars? The salary cap can be manipulated to fill pretty much any needs they have, right? While I don’t think Bob Quinn cares so much about what the locker room or the fan base thinks, I do think that after the Quandre Diggs trade last year, he will be a little bit more conscious of the effect that trading someone universally respected will have on the locker room.
Where does this all land us? I’m certain Darius Slay winds up a Lion in 2020. I’m not sure if he gets an extension or additional money. What I would do is a little different from what I feel like Bob Quinn might do. If I were in Bob Quinn’s shoes, I’d bump Slay’s contract for 2020, fully guaranteed. I’d also offer next season on a mostly non-guaranteed contract, to protect the team from another Snacks Harrison situation if his play falls off in 2020. But the money wouldn’t be huge; probably $15.5-16M/year on the top end. This would especially be the case if the Lions draft Jeffery Okudah, who they would hope to move into the CB1 role for 2021.
I feel that Quinn, on the other hand, might be more tempted to let Slay play out this year, and then franchise him for 2021 if Slay has a good 2020 season. That option has a colder and more calculated feel to it, that disregards the man under the helmet, but it could be the best option for the team going forward. If 2020 goes south for Slay and the defense, Quinn may not be here in 2021 to make that decision anyway, and it would leave his replacement with a blank canvas in the defensive backfield, and around $15-16M in extra cap room to make it his own.