Darius Slay’s contract and the overall cap situation for the Detroit Lions

The details have emerged regarding cornerback Darius Slay‘s new contract, and the Detroit Lions have to be excited about their financial future. After a four-year, $50.2 million extension, Slay’s 2016 cap hit increased from a little over $1.6 million to a reported $4.6 million.

The uptick still has the Lions approximately $12 million under the current cap of $155.3 million. Any remaining cap space this year does not go to waste as the surplus can carry over to the 2017 season.

With the solid 2013 draft class (RB Theo Riddick, DE Devin Taylor, P Sam Martin, OG Larry Warford) and RT Riley Reiff all becoming free agents next year, it is imperative that the Lions have some extra dough to lock up their homegrown talent.

Be mindful though, at this point in time, the salary cap only accounts for the top-51 contracts. Once the 53-man roster is finalized, all ten practiced squad participants are selected, and the remaining injured/PUP players are determined, they too will all count against the cap. Even with all of those low-salary additions, you could surmise the Lions to still have roughly $8 million in remaining cap space that could be used next season.

One of the best aspects of the Slay deal is how it was structured. It is filled with incentives and bonuses. The final details of the yearly breakdown are as follows:

YR BASE SALARY SIGNING BONUS ROSTER BONUS WORKOUT BONUS CAP HIT DEAD CAP
’16 $1,000,000 $3,456,691 $100,000 $50,000 $4,606,691 $23,656,691
’17 $4,100,000 $2,900,000 $3,600,000 $100,000 $10,700,000 $19,200,000
’18 $2,176,269 $2,900,000 $250,000 $250,000 $5,576,269 $8,700,000
’19 $12,000,000 $2,900,000 $250,000 $250,000 $15,400,000 $5,800,000
’20 $10,000,000 $2,900,000 $250,000 $250,000 $13,400,000 $2,900,000
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Notice the substantial cap hit dip in 2018? That year just so happens to be the same year that Ziggy Ansah and Matthew Stafford become free agents. It’s always nice to have some wiggle room when resigning franchise players, and that is exactly what Slay’s contract affords the Lions.

Team president Rod Wood and GM Bob Quinn deserve some approbation for their efforts in negotiating this deal with Drew Rosenhaus, a notorious agent who routinely gets the most for his players. It would appear that they are setting themselves up for long-term extensions with other key players–something the last regime struggled with.

Now that Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson are gone, the only real big-time contract that remains is at the quarterback position. Given the nature of the NFL, it is expected for a decent chunk of your cap space to be allocated there.

It is impossible to predict the salary cap over the next couple seasons, but if it continues the trend it’s on, it’s not unreasonable to expect a $10 million increase per season. Add on the $8 million carry-over from this season, Megatron’s salary completely off the books and all of sudden the Lions are going to have some cash to burn in 2017. Not only will we be able to resign our own but potentially even catch one of the bigger free-agent fish– or multiple decent sized ones. The latter being more of a Quinn-esque move. No matter the case, it is a breath of fresh air to now have competent budgetary management and freedom from chronic cap confinement.

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