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Examining Detroit Lions' 5 biggest cap hits of 2021
Wondering where the Lions' cap space is going this offseason? We break it all down and examine whether any savings can be made.
With the NFL offseason underway and the Detroit Lions already making a big splash with its acquisition of quarterback Jared Goff, the stage is now set for first-year general manager Brad Holmes and first-year head coach Dan Campbell to take a long look at how the overall roster is currently constructed to see avenues of improvement as the rebuild is well underway in Detroit.
In order to build the roster the way Holmes and Campbell would like, the issue of the salary cap remains in the way. To make matters worse, the NFL’s salary cap for the 2021-22 season is expected to drop 11.2% to around $176 million. As things stand, with dead cap and other factors, the Lions will have some work to do this offseason to not only get under the cap but give enough breathing space for itself to re-sign players and perhaps be players in the free-agent market this offseason.
Where is all of Detroit’s money going, exactly? Thanks to spotrac.com, we take a look at the Lions’ Top-5 cap hits currently on the roster this season and discuss whether the Lions would be able to move on from the player to give some much-needed cap relief.
Quarterback Jared Goff
Years Remaining in Current Deal: 4
Base salary: $25,325,000
2021 Cap Hit: $27,825,000
2021 Dead Cap: $43,325,000
Percentage of total Lions’ cap: 14.07%
Bottom Line: Jared Goff’s current contract is not cap-friendly, just looking at the numbers makes it obvious. While the Lions appear to have no intention of getting rid of Goff as quickly as they traded for him, there is a way for the Lions to save some money in cap space if the franchise so chooses. The only way that would happen is for a trade to occur either before or after the 6/1 date. If the Lions were to somehow trade Goff for 6/1, the Lions would receive a $0 dead cap hit and total cap savings of $27,825,000 if the franchise were to not take any contracts on the books as part of the deal. If the Lions were to trade Goff after 6/1, the numbers would still be the same, however, the Lions would see a $0 dead cap hit the following season as well due to timing. Simply cutting Goff is a different story. Before or after 6/1, the Lions would receive a dead cap cost of $43,325,000 as listed above and would receive a cap penalty of -$15,500,000. So, the move simply makes zero fiscal sense for the 2021 season.
Defensive End Trey Flowers
Years Remaining in Current Deal: 3
Base salary: $14,375,000
2021 Cap Hit: $19,989,000
2021 Dead Cap: $26,842,000
Percentage of total Lions’ cap: 10.10%
Bottom Line: Like Goff, the numbers are simply not favorable for Trey Flowers to simply be released if the Lions had salary cap relief in mind. A pre-6/1 release would see a dead cap hit of $26,842,000 and a penalty of over -$6 million. A post-6/1 release would see the 2021 cap hit split in half between this season and next ($15 million in 2021, $11 million in 2022), with the Lions saving a total of $4 million in cap space for 2021. If the Lions were to somehow find a trade partner for Flowers, its best case would be after the 6/1 deadline if it so chooses. The Lions would see Flowers’ dead cap money shrink by $10 and would be split between two seasons, $5.6 million in 2021 and $11.2 million in 2022. The Lions would save a total of $14.3 million against the salary cap in 2021, assuming the franchise does not take any contracts on as part of the trade.
Defensive Back Desmond Trufant
Years Remaining in Current Deal: 1
Base salary: $9,500,000
2021 Cap Hit: $12,187,500
2021 Dead Cap: $6,00,000
Percentage of total Lions’ cap: 6.16%
Bottom Line: Desmond Trufant’s contract certainly puts him near the top of the list of the Lions’ potential cap casualties this offseason. A very cap-friendly deal in terms of return for the franchise, finding a trade partner for Trufant seems highly unlikely so a pre or post-6/1 cut seems like the best scenario. If the Lions were to cut Trufant before or after 6/1, the Lions would accrue a dead cap of $6 million and also receive $6.1 million in cap space. If the Lions were able to find a trade partner, the other franchise would be doing Holmes a major favor in terms of cap space as the Lions would receive a $2.5 million hit in dead cap and see a big boost in cap space, $9.6 million to be exact.
Linebacker Jamie Collins
Years Remaining in Current Deal: 2
Base salary: $8,800,000
2021 Cap Hit: $11,333,333
2021 Dead Cap: $11,666,666
Percentage of total Lions’ cap: 5.73%
Bottom Line: Jamie Collins’ deal is not very team-friendly in terms of Holmes being able to find a way out of it. One avenue the Lions could explore is a post 6/1 trade of Collins, where the Lions would accrue a dead cap hit of $2.3 million over two seasons and a total salary cap savings of $9 million. A pre-6/1 trade would see the Lions accrue a dead cap penalty of $4.6 million and a total cap savings of $6 million. However, the trade market for an aging linebacker seems sparse these days. In terms of releasing, the Lions would see a cap penalty if released before 6/1 and would see minimal savings post 6/1.
Defensive Back Justin Coleman
Years Remaining on Current Deal: 2
Base salary: $8,950,000
2021 Cap Hit: $11,029,000
2021 Dead Cap: $6,087,000
Percentage of total Lions’ cap: 5.58%
Bottom Line: Another potential cap casualty for the Lions, Justin Coleman has a very favorable contract if cut by the Lions before the season. With how his contract breaks down, a post-6/1 release would see the Lions take on a $2.02 million dead cap hit in 2021 and $4.05 dead cap hit in 2022 with a total cap savings of $9 million in 2021. Whereas if it were a pre-6/1 distinction, the Lions would take on $6.08 in dead cap and a total cap savings of $4.9 million in 2021. If the Lions were to trade Coleman, the dead cap and cap savings numbers would be identical for pre and post-6/1 distinctions.