comments on Lions FA signings

Lions sign NT Danny Shelton (2 years, $8 million): A Grade
The Lions have made some dubious signings in free agency thus far, so it’s nice to see them make a positive move for once. I actually love this signing by Detroit, and I’m giving it an “A” grade.

Danny Shelton is a monstrous run stuffer, and he also managed to improve in the pass-rushing department last year. I thought that would increase his value in free agency, but it didn’t for some reason. The Lions will stand to benefit, as they’re getting him cheaply to fill a big need. Also, Shelton played in New England recently, so transitioning into Matt Patricia’s system won’t be any sort of issue.

Lions sign CB Desmond Trufant (2 years, $21 million): A Grade
The Lions were looking for a cornerback to start across from Darius Slay, and they may have found one, at least temporarily. It sounds as though Detroit will trade Slay, so Trufant may end up as the Lions’ new No. 1 corner. If that happens, the team will still be in good hands.

Trufant turns 30 in September, so he’s not the same corner he once was. However, he’s still a very skilled cornerback who can match up well with most top receivers. There would be a bit of risk attached to him if he were signed to a long contract, but this is just a 2-year deal, so there’s barely any downside with this transaction.

Lions sign QB Chase Daniel (3 years, $13.05 million): B+ Grade
Chase Daniel continues to corner the market on backup quarterback funds. He’s received so many decent contracts just to be a reserve signal-caller, and yet, here’s another one.

Daniel is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL. The average going rate for mediocre No. 2 signal-callers is around $4 million per season, and that’s what Daniel will be getting from Detroit, so I like this move. The Lions really needed someone like Daniel, as Matthew Stafford is likely to miss some time in 2020 with his troublesome back.

Lions sign LB Jamie Collins (3 years, $30 million): B+ Grade
This resembles the Dolphins’ Kyle Van Noy signing I discussed earlier today. Jamie Collins has been tremendous as a Patriot, but failed elsewhere. I was worried history would repeat itself, but Collins appeared to have a similar thought process, as he’ll be playing for Bill Belichick’s former defensive coordinator going forward.

Collins should do well in Detroit if he doesn’t regress due to age; he’ll turn 31 in October. He should be able to perform on a high level for at least a couple of seasons. This is a reasonable price for Collins, so I think Detroit deserves a B+ for this move.

Lions sign OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (5 years, $50 million): D Grade
Here’s what I wrote about Halapoulivaati Vaitai in my free agency rankings:

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, commonly known as “Big V,” has been one of the best backup tackles in the NFL. He has earned the right to compete for a starting job at right tackle somewhere.

Apparently, the right to compete for a starting right tackle job is worth a $50 million deal over five years. Unreal. Vaitai has done somewhat well in spot starts, serving as an excellent backup tackle. There’s a major difference between that and expecting him to be an upgrade over the recently released Ricky Wagner, which would be far fetched when not accounting for Wagner’s injuries. Wagner’s injuries can’t be ignored, but still, this is a major overpay and must be graded accordingly.

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I don’t know when this analysis was written, maybe before the details came out on his contract. Whether it was an overpay is debatable, considering the Lions can get out of it after only 2 years. 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.

And I wouldn’t say that it is farfetched to think that maybe Big V will at least be equal to if not better than Wagner was in 2019. At much less cost. The guy did okay when called upon in the playoffs and SB.


Thanks for posting this Wise. I was thinking of the same article when I saw their overreaction to the signing. Now that we have had some time to digest it and some analysis has taken place, we can see that they paid a fair contract to a player that they think will fit their style, and be available more often, than Wagner was.

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The Halapoulivaati Vaitai signing at first glance looks like a terrible signing. But in reality it is more of a high risk high reward type. If it pans out it will look like a great deal. If it doesn’t the lions can move on after two years and they still have a decent swing guy for those two years.

Personally I do not think he’s plug and play at RT or at OG. I think he will have to earn a spot and I suspect the Lions will add an OL or two in the draft for more competition and as insurance for Decker. I view him more as healthy competition at both OG and OT.


Could be the Lions are trying to go to a run first offense even more to help protect Stafford’s back.
if they are successful with the running game they have the TE’s to help Big V out on passing downs.
I think they will be looking for an RB in the draft.


Yes, I think all this as well
Bevell gets an OT strong in run game
Our TEs are capable blockers
RB in 2nd or 3rd
Bevell has what he needs