Free Agency Moves in Context

Do I love these moves so far? No, not in and of themselves. Not on paper in isolation. I get frustrated with this board every free agency season as guys pretend like they know more than anyone else and shout down good observations and good questions that some here are asking. I think we should look a little deeper at what these moves MIGHT mean as I am not convinced that we get to see a bigger picture at this stage. I stand by my belief that this is the most important free agency period yet for the Lions, at least since 2011. I think we should roll up our sleeves and see if there is more going on then what we see now.

First…we drop Rick Wagner and sign Vaitai. Deadstroke noted this and I think it is important to see this move in context:
"Looks like a 3yr $26.5M deal or we can get out after 2yrs for $20M . . .Half the cash would be due in years 4 and 5, sure hope he earns a roster spot in years 4 and 5.
Aaron Wilson
@AaronWilson_NFL
](https://twitter.com/AaronWilson_NFL)

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Lions), five years, $45M, $20M gtd, $7M signing bonus, salaries $4M (gtd), $9M (gtd), $6.5M, $8.9M, $8.9M; $500K playtime incentive 2024, $1.5M playtime base escalator 2023; up to $3M playtime base escalator 2024"

I am not convinced Vaitai IS the ROT of the future here. And I will not be convinced until after this draft. I want a blue chip defensive piece for sure. That smells like guard to me…and it might in fact be less than what Glasgow got with the Broncos. The issue to me is that Vaitai has worked at ROG with the Eagles and he played tackle. He IS capable of playing ROG and he might be a kick ass ROG.

If one thinks about drafting a blue chip OT in rd. 1 I frankly LOVE this OL:
Decker, Joe Dahl, Ragnow, Vaitai (ROG), Tristan Wirfs (ROT), swing tackle Tyrell Crosby, OG Josh Garnett (hell, he maybe beats out Dahl for the LOG spot!) and Beau Benzschawel (center anbd guard depth). That is a fantastic situation there. Is that the plan? I don’t know. Maybe. The draft will determine that. BUT…Vaitai can also play ROT meaning say if Chase IS there…we can draft Chase and move the chess pieces along the OL when necessary. I am cool with that. If that is the plan I LOVE that. And if we get a blue chip defender and don’t go OL in rd. 1 that could still work.

If we kept Wagner and say we re-signed Glasgow…no way we take an OT that high to become a swing tackle year one. I don’t see that happening. Signing Vaitai makes perfect sense IF the Lions are thinking and prepping for an OT ion rd. 1…and if a different move is necessary we can find a guard easier than a tackle. Last point, look at the stupid $ Flowers got.

Concerning the defense…this is where things get interesting. Is Kennard gone or maybe being traded? I don’t think we know yet. Don’t forget that Kennard was placed on the active/NFI list to start camp in 2019…with no known injury meaning conditioning may have been an issue. That must have driven Patricia NUTS if that was the case. Not professional at all period. But now we have Jamie Collins and we added DT Nick Williams.

Might there be a change concerning defensive scheme in the works? Maybe. Cory Undlin has experience in multiple schemes and has also worked with the Patriots and Patricia. I know that the Lions are getting back Da’Shawn Hand and I see Nick Williams as a rotational player with Hand. We tried to get Daniels to fill that role but injuries killed that plan. I also see we didn’t bring Daniels back so I guess maybe Mike Daniels’s demands may have still been high?

We still don’t have a #2 CB. I believe Slay is either here OR there is a plan to replace him…but as long as Slay is here he is here and I think he plays here in 2020. Slay’s best bet is to remain with the Lions and get paid.

The defense remains a mystery to me as this is in flux now. There are still a TON of free agents out there who can help this defense including CB Eli Apple (https://saintlyreport.com/2019/12/02/eli-apple-ranks-higher-then-plenty-of-other-big-name-nfl-corners/), Chris Harris, Logan Ryan, Prince A., Desmond Trufant and so on. Our own Tavon Wilson is still out there. And at DT we have Linval Joseph, Danny Shelton (I like this guy), Andrew Billings (I like this guy) and others too. Lots of ways to
change this defense.

I don’t know what the plan is on defense but there are moves to be made and players set up to help us. I don’t know if Jamie Collins simply replaces Kennard but if so…I am totally cool with that. At LBer right now we have Collins, Jahlani Tavai, Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones. We also have edge rusher Austin Bryant.

Just a lot of flux on defense. And the draft is coming. What of the Lions are going all in on offense meaning we take an OT in rd. 1 (that is great draft value there) and we follow that up with say J.K. Dobbins in rd. 2? I don’t know…but I know I am cool with that as long as the defense is ready for the opportunity cost of adding to the offense at the expense of the defense.

If this team can keep Slay, add a second CB and add a viable starting DT still as well as bringing back Tavon Wilson I would be okay with that. All things in context and the plan for the Lions has yet to reveal itself. But I am not freaking out as there a LOT of great options left. I love the idea of Eli Apple for example. 25 years old in August. Thoughts?

I like the rational and I agree big V ideally was brought in to play Guardbut has the versatility to play OT. I’ve said for a while now, I’d like to see the Lions finish the Offense (OL, RB, WR). If we are able to swing a trade back and acquire a couple additional picks, then devote the remaining resources to the D, I would be happy. The offense is closer to being elite than the D and will keep us in most games (especially if we get a run game), if we’re able to improve the defense to even slightly below average I think we’ll see better results. You remove the some injuries, specifically Stafford, and last year would have been far different.

Good take MyLions,

Why did Quinn let Wagner go then, if he just gave $20 million guaranteed to H.V. to play Guard?

Remember that H.V. came in and played LT for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run. Quinn brought him hear to replace Wagner at Right Tackle. Garrett and Dahl will compete for Guard reps. And let’s not forget that Quinn gave Ben Benzschawel $70,000 guaranteed money which is a good chunk for an un-drafted free agent. And we still have and ton of time in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Maybe they go LT in April…but I can’t connect those dots with the Vaitai signing.

I want Darius Slay to remain a Lion. But I don’t think it will happen. They have not reached an agreement on a long term contract and Slay has been on the trade block for awhile now. Where there is smoke there is usually some flames. I think Slay is gonna get traded and it’s just a matter of when and for what compensation.

Slay’s replacement at CB…Logan Ryan. The ex-Patriot trend continues.

Malcolm Jenkins will be starting next to Tracy Walker in September. Corey Undlin is going to bang the desk hard for Jenkins.

Thanks for the input fellas. Vaitai has started at LOT and ROT for the Eagles but in camp he has also worked as a ROG. I look at Vaitai’s deal and I see less $ than Glasgow got in Denver and I see a flexible guy who can play guard AND play ROT for us. I think Quinn simply puts that chip in his pocket now and lets the draft come to him knowing he has a player that can play two positions for us. With Vaitai’s blocking skills and striggles with speed rushers moving into ROG seems like a logical fit. And Vaitai simply wants a shot at real playing time and reps. He will get that here but I think his position is unknown.

The Lions can take Chase Young if available OR weigh trading down now. If we trade down and we like DT Brown, CB Okudah and the two top OTs we are all set. Hell, we might be able to trade down slightly twice in this draft. We are now good to go.

My point is that there are a lot of very solid players left. We just added 27 year old Danny Shelton (in August) on a two year deal. Nice. A two year $8 million contract smells awesome to me.

If this club adds a safety (Wilson?) and a CB as well as keeping Slay…yes, I see it. I see a plan and that might be a plan where we lock down the OL with an OT early, we might draft another RB and then flush out the defense later. I am okay with a plan like that.

I want to address this point specifically:
"Cynodon: Good take MyLions,

Why did Quinn let Wagner go then, if he just gave $20 million guaranteed to H.V. to play Guard?"

I am not sure where Vaitai will play but he can play both guard and tackle as he worked there with Philly. He started games for the Eagles as their swing tackle but that isn’t ll he can do. Wagner is a tackle at this point. There is no moving him. If we draft a top OT…where would that guy play in 2020 if we still had Decher, Wagner, Crosby ESP. is we re-signed Graham Glasgow? That top pick would most likely sit for a year. NOW…we can move Vaitai inside and let the top rookie play ROT with Crosby staying as the swing tackle. Wirfs, Wills and Beckton would all be in play and would play in 2020 on the right side, That also gives us flexibility in dealing with Decker in 2021.

OR Vaitai stays at OT and we find a guard via the draft. Win win in my book.

Likely draft scenarios

Young available, taken at 3. RB or CB at 35

Young not available, TD to 5 and 26

Okudah, Epenesa/Gross-Matos and RB at 35

Or Brown, CB, RB

Less likely is Simmons at 5 to play S.

My thinking is none of us knows anything, really. We all have our guys we like and we all have our guys we don’t, but none of that means anything. Even when we’re excited about the guys Quinn signed - Wagner, Lang, Jones, Blount, Flowers, etc… - only Jones has worked out (though Flowers did improve as the year went along). Whether we like the signings or not is moot, Quinn needs to show he can identify talent. With only Jones (and maybe Tavon Wilson) as his only real success in 4 years, I’m not so sure.

Speaking of context…I was pimping for Reader and Fowler. Those two guys are now signed for a big chunk of money. Fowler signed for $16 million/season (average) and Reader signed for $13+ million/season average. That is almost $30 million between those two players I wanted.

I know contracts are not that straight of a line but I am using this to illustrate a point.

Vaitai is a roughly $10 million/year guy, Collins is $10 million, Nick Williams is $5 million, Shelton is $4 million/season and Chase Daniel is just over $4 million/season too. New Lion Duron Harmon seems to be a just over $4 million/season guy too. A combined $37 million but of course contracts are not like that and the cap hit in 2020 is also different.

But I am illustrating how the Lions signed 6 guys who will play significant snaps (outside Daniel hopefully!) for what two teams spent on two guys. I could not be happier with Shelton at $4 million/season V Reader at over $13 million/season. Reader IS better but that much better? Nope.

If the Lions can somehow add a quality CB still I have to say I am pretty happy with this free agency period. Eli Apple is the guy I am watching now. I assume we are keeping Slay at this point and an extension for him would be helpful. Lots of ways to improve this roster still even before we get to the draft.

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Raiders just signed Eli. Dang. Desmond Trufant worth considering now. Chris Harris is still out there too. Logan Ryan would be an obvious target at this point.

I really like Beshaud Breeland, despite his bogus 100 yard fumble return against us.

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Breeland is interesting. 28 years old in 2020 now. Experienced. 12 career INTs is nice. Lots of ways to help the CB position group still. Logan Ryan might be the best remaining option but far from the only one.

I have to say DT Andrew Billings would also make me smile.

I just think there is no way we don’t pick up an EDGE guy in FA when its all over. If we don’t, then my money is on them believing Chase Young will be there. All of our LBs are now off-the-ball LBers. Yes, Collins can play some EDGE but if the goal is to rush the passer, you can do better. Or even hold the edge. Most 3-4 Edge guys are more Kennard’s size. I understand that Austin Bryant could get some run too, but I don’t think he’s ready to be relied upon.

So to me, the set up right now? Its looking like Chase Young, and if they gamble and miss, then maybe they plan on getting a guy round 2.

If Young is gone, I feel the draft will be a 5th straight disappointment for Bob Quinn. He isn’t smart enough to pull off a legit trade down, so he will likely reach WAY to high and take Okudah. If he does trade down, he will get less in return than any other GM and will certainly reach in both 1st and 2nd rounds, like he has done every year.

Based on his track record, what we should expect is one mid level starter, one other guy who rotates in and is injury prone and a bunch of nothing. I was hoping FA would fill some voids, but he concentrated on all the wrong areas. Now the draft is basically set up to where we HAVE to get Young or we will continue to play patty-cake with Flowers while the opposing QB watches season 2 of Sons of Anarchy, before gashing our back 7.

Right Farmer…I totally agree. To me we either add Chase Young OR we add an OT.

Collins is a real asset concerning getting after the QB but he isn’t a pin your ears back guy. He is a three down wild card in terms of his role play to play. I love that. To me an improvement over Kennard (if the play him there).

Having Hand back will help and adding Nick Williams to fortify that three tech role helps too.

But after Flowers and Collins we don’t have much. Bryant is a depth guy who may develop and be solid but not as an every down player at this point.

Chase Young would be an excellent addition. If he is gone pick your guy as there are still a lot of good options. BUT, and have said this before, this defense isn’t about one guy. The Patriots put up 47 sacks as a team in 2019. And Jamie Collins was their top sack guy. 11 guys had sacks.

So if we don’t add an additional edge player it isn’t the end of the world for this defense. We need Collins, Flowers and Davis to have something like 20 sacks between them. that can happen easily if Flower gets 8, Collins 6 and Jarrad Davis 6. From there we need 10 sacks from DTs combined and Okwara. From there if Austin Bryant can add to the party we can be okay. The Pats do this again and again in terms if not needing one guy to carry the weight alone. Adding Chase just makes everything easier.

So, my take on Halpoulivaati is he is our new ROT. He’s got some starting experience but he was behind Lane Johnson and Jason Peters. The pair might be the best starting tandem of OT’s in the NFL. We got him and if he flames out we didn’t lose anything but money. There are some good guards in the draft,(Kindley, Bredeson and a few others. Cost us a third. Don’t see the OL as a problem and then there is always playing him at guard and grabbing one of the tackles. Like that less but this guy is a giant samoan and I think he might just be this season’s surprise.

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I just don’t see this as a bad deal. The guy wasn’t a starter but did play well when he was in there, and BTW decent RT starters don’t come cheap. If he works out to be a usable player then the Lions have done pretty well. If not, well then Quinn and Patricia will be gone.

Consider:

2020: $5.4 million — $20 million in dead cap
2021: $10.4 million — $14.6 million in dead cap
2022: $8.4 million — $4.2 million in dead cap
2023: $10.4 million — $2.8 million in dead cap
2024: $10.4 million — $1.4 million in dead cap

So, essentially, this a two year deal for Vaitai—potentially a three-year deal. Unless he performs way above expectations, there’s no realistic chance he sees those fourth and fifth years, as the Lions can save $7.6 or $9 million if they release him in 2023 or 2024.

As for how much he’ll cost in the immediate, his $5.4 million cap hit in 2020 current ranks 10th among right tackles (31st among all tackles). That number jumps to $10.4 million next year, which puts him fifth among right tackles… for now. Obviously there will be contracts signed between then and now, but, still, it’s worth noting Detroit will be paying him more than the likes of Mitchell Schwartz in 2021, and they aren’t getting out of it with that dead cap hit.

The real decision will come in 2022, when the Lions can save $4 million in cap space by releasing Vaitai, but he’ll still count $4.2 million against the cap. He has a modest $8.4 million cap hit that year, so if he’s played well through his first two years, there’s a good chance he’ll stay on that contract.

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Thanks for that Wise. That seems solid to me.

You would Bitch about Lions PIcks If they Called You an ask You to Make the Picks . Why You Waste Time Following Unless You Get Off Bitching?

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Halpoulivaati is an interesting pick up because he can backup four positions on the OLine, in addition to being a quality starter at RT and probably RG too. He really looks like a tackle to me. Heck, he started at LT in the Super Bowl. .This team loves their versatile guys.

I don’t know what this means, but at the very least, for that kind of money, he’s going to start somewhere. Now we go get another starting caliber offensive lineman in the draft too. We have all sorts of versatility going on in that case. It could be a tackle, or it could be a guard. Maybe Jones from Houston falls. Or maybe Cesar Ruiz.

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At this point we are going to see a shortened season… automakers shutting down?!