The business side of sports is intriguing, exciting, but it can also be very complicated, especially when you are a fan. It appears the Detroit Lions are close to parting ways with one of the organization’s better players.
Darius Slay is an All-Pro on the field, but he’s also as equal off the field. The Detroit Lions pro-bowl corner is a man of the community often spending his Friday nights at a local high school taking in a game. He’s been in attendance for plenty of local college basketball games as well, including both Michigan and Michigan State.
Last summer, as he held out of the teams’ training camp hoping to strike a new long-term deal, although he had two years remaining on his current contract, he was working out locally away from the team’s facility. During that time, Slay invited a select few high school, and college students who played defensive back to join him in a workout. He was joined by Jamal Agnew and others one afternoon, making memories with these kids – a way to once again give back to his fans.
The business side of sports can be hard on organizations, athletes, and fans. This situation with Slay is no different. Does the organization want to keep Slay around? Sure they do, but at what cost?
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Some will say, the Detroit Lions have been rebuilding since 1957, others will say the Lions have been rebuilding since 1991, and another crowd will mention it’s a franchise that can’t afford to continue to look in the rearview mirror. It’s still a fairly new management team, and they need to focus on what’s right in front of them.
Like it or not, the Detroit Lions are rebuilding. It’s a team that finished third last in the entire league just last season. Sure, we can make up plenty of excuses why this team finished so poorly, mainly bringing up the excessive amount of injuries that occurred last season. Injuries happen to every organization; the best teams find a solution, find a way to stay afloat.
The fact of the matter is, this team needs significant help across their entire roster. I think Darius Slay is a tremendous athlete, a top-ten corner, but about to decline. The Lions can’t afford to extend Slay on a long-term deal upwards of $15-17 million/season that he’s seeking. He’s set to make $13 million next season, and has expressed publically he expects to be the highest-paid corner in the NFL.
The Lions secondary struggled last season, Slay himself didn’t perform well according to Pro Football Focus earning a 56.4% overall. It was by far the worst grade of his career, but you watched the games. Was he THAT bad?
Perhaps Detroit’s abysmal pass-rush is to blame for a struggling secondary. It’s hard to maintain tight coverage down the field when a defensive line struggles to put any pressure on a quarterback. The Detroit Lions pass-rush last season was equivalent to the pass-rush we see at the pro-bowl. When a professional quarterback has all day to throw, any secondary will struggle.
Slay has the most passes defended since 2014 in the entire league with 99, next is Stephon Gilmore with 85. Sure Gilmore was arguably the best corner in the game last season, but the whole New England Patriots defense enjoyed a record-breaking season statistically. There is no way around it folks, the players around you do make a difference.
I understand the Detroit Lions need to move on from Slay because of the salary he’s requesting. If Detroit decided to call his bluff, they run the risk that he will likely hold out this summer and eventually walking away from the team a year from now in free agency, leaving the Lions with nothing in return.
Per Dave Birkett, Detroit’s already set the table as teams start to pick up the phone and make trade offers. The Lions are not willing to leave their star out to dry. The only way Detroit moves him is if a contract extension is built into the deal. A pretty classy move by the organization. The team is also expected to receive a second or third-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for Slay’s services.
Losing Slay’s presence in the secondary will hurt, but the team will be wise to allocate that large sum of money by adding multiple pieces across this roster. The keyword being multiple. Detroit will be able to add more than one impactful player for the money it would take to retain Slay.