Detroit Lions: Extending All-Pro Darius Slay is complicated

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: Darius Slay #23 of the Detroit Lions plays against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: Darius Slay #23 of the Detroit Lions plays against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have a bit of a dilemma that needs to be resolved before the NFL draft.  Should the organization extend all-pro corner, Darius Slay, or trade him away?

Darius Slay, as you all know, held out last season during the Detroit Lions training camp, hoping to land a contract extension.  Bob Quinn decided to extend Damon Harrison instead, the move didn’t exactly turn out well for Detroit.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice – you get the gist.

I think Darius Slay is a phenomenal player and an even better human.  How many athletes do you regularly find out and about throughout the community nearly every Friday night in the Fall attending a local high school football game?  Or surprising Detroit Lions fans at their prom or homecoming?  He’s a man of the community at times, putting his supporters ahead of his own family.  I don’t mean that negatively, I mean he could be spending time on Friday nights with his wife and children yet he dedicates time to spend with us, the fan.

That being said, business is business.  

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The Detroit Lions are undoubtedly hopeful Darius Slay remains with the franchise.  All-pro corners are hard to find, and when you have one, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.  The issue is Darius Slay is entering the final year of his contract; he’s owed $13 million this season.

Bob Quinn is feverishly trying to negotiate an extension with Slay but mentioned if the two sides are unable to agree, he’d likely be traded leading up to the NFL draft.

This situation is going to put the Detroit Lions in between a rock and a hard place. If other teams are aware the Lions are desperate to move Slay leading up to the draft, his stock will surely fall.  Detroit will be lucky to get a third-round pick in exchange for Darius.  If teams know Detroit “needs” to trade him, don’t expect them to line up with first and second-round picks for his services.

History should deter the Detroit Lions from caving into Slay’s contract demands.  Look at the highest-paid top-four corners throughout the league last season.  Xavien Howard ($15.1M), Josh Norman ($15M), Trumaine Johnson ($14.2M), and Xavier Rhodes (14M).

The only corner on that list that can warrant his worth by backing it up with his play was Miami’s Howard.  The other three all struggled mightily last season.  So when you look at it from Slay’s side of things, he understands the business, he saw Josh Norman and Trumaine Johnson benched.  He was aware Rhodes was struggling and taken out of the game numerous times. He has the mentality of; if they are making ‘that’ type of money, why shouldn’t I?

Well, here’s why;

You can’t always go by Pro Football Focus, but PFF wasn’t kind to Slay this season.  He was granted a terrible overall season grade of 56.4.  According to PFF, he ranked as the 83rd best corner in the league last season.  That’s simply not true.

Slay did struggle at times, but there is no way he was playing at the same level as Mike Ford and Rashaan Melvin.  He plays every game matched up with the opponent’s top receiver.  Last season he allowed 14.1 yards per catch, and quarterbacks combined for an 86.9 passer rating when targeting Slay in coverage.

The three receivers that noticeably gave Slay fits last season were Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and rookie Terry McLaurin.

Slay was only able to pull a 56.9 grade in coverage last season; by far, the worst ranking of his career.  These are all signs that the Detroit Lions should shy away from accommodating the $16-$17 million/season he’s seeking.

Detroit has an abundance of weaknesses to fill throughout their roster and can’t afford to play a corner that’s nearly 30 years old, on the decline, entering the back nine of his career a blockbuster contract.

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It’s the perfect year to trade or cut Darius Slay (if it comes to that).  His dead cap hit is just $2.9 million this season, a drastic discount from years past.