Detroit Lions: Could T.J. Lang be out of Detroit in 2019?

T.J. Lang’s release could provide the Detroit Lions significant cap space in 2019, as long as Tyrell Crosby shows he is ready to take on the responsibilities as Lang’s replacement.

In the 2018 NFL draft, there were a few players that had unexpected hits towards their draft stock. One of them being Oregon tackle Tyrell Crosby. He was being regarded as a Day two prospect, but rumors of an ankle injury and concussion issues, kept teams from drafting him. It wasn’t until the Detroit Lions selected Crosby in the 5th round to stop the fall.

Even though they already drafted Arkansas center Frank Ragnow in the 1st round to solidify the offensive line, the value was too much for General Manager Bob Quinn to pass up that late in the draft. He has the versatility to play tackle or guard; also processes the traits you want in an offenisve lineman to succeed in pass protection and run blocking in the NFL.

If it wasn’t for an already established offensive line with Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, and Rick Wagner; Crosby would be starting Day 1. I actually think he could start in 2019 in part to a cost cutting move by releasing T.J. Lang.

Cap Hit

According to Spotrac.com, T.J. Lang’s 2018 cap hit is $10,869,791, which ranks 3rd on the Lions behind Matthew Stafford and Ziggy Ansah. Also, that is  2nd highest for NFL guards behind Browns guard Kevin Zeitler. In 2019, his cap hit increases to $11,666,668. If the Lions do decide to release him in 2019, they will gain $9 million in cap room. They will incur a $2,666,668 dead cap hit, but that is a small price to pay to free up substantial cap space .

According to Over the Cap, the Detroit Lions have about $9 million left in cap space for 2018. The projected cap for 2019 is estimated to be around $190 million. Add in the 2018 carryover and Lang’s release, the Lions could be around $56 million in cap space for 2019  (excluding other cuts and signings). This could potentially put the Lions in the top-tier of available cap space for NFL teams in 2019, giving them the ability to try to re-sign cornerstone players like Golden Tate, Ziggy Ansah, or Quandre Diggs or be aggressive in free agency.

Injury History

Lang has battled a multitude of injuries. The past two seasons he has missed three games each and probably played through others with some sort of aliment. At that point, his dependability and durability comes into question; along with if he is actually worth the price tag the Lions are paying.

For an offensive line, it’s vital for players to stay healthy to build the necessary chemistry to succeed as a unit. Health issues were the biggest reason for the struggles along offensive line last season. Lang says he feels pretty good after an injury-marred season. Detroit Free Press beat writer Dave Birkett also noted that T.J. Lang must stay healthy this year.

Tyrell Crosby

Detroit Lions draft pick Tyrell Crosby

ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 12: Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks reacts to a play with teammate offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby #73 against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There are questions surrounding Crosby though. Why did he fall in the draft? Is his ankle healthy? Are the rumors of concussions true? Will there be enough offensive line depth to justify cutting Lang and roll with Crosby? The Athletic’s Chris Burke noted Crosby played exclusively at left tackle during OTAs. Will the Lions keep him at tackle or will he eventually move over to guard? As the season goes on, hopefully we get those answers.

As a 5th round pick, Crosby’s cap hit is minimal. His cap hit for 2018 is $551,920 and for 2019 it’s $641,920. That will be a considerable savings against the hefty price for Lang; especially if Crosby can show he can play guard at a NFL caliber.

Fellow Detroit Jock City writer Matt Bosko wrote a great analysis piece of his predictions of the Detroit Lions’ offensive line for this year. He noted Crosby is a player to watch and posses the skill set to potentially start at either tackle or guard.

With Lang’s hefty price tag, potential serious cap savings, Crosby showing he can take over and Lang’s health issues, I don’t think Quinn can justify the cost of Lang, making him expendable and potentially out of Detroit in 2019.