The Detroit Lions continue to mull over whether the organization will trade or extent one of the league’s better corners. So if they decide to move on, why would it make sense to spend the same money for a corner who’s two years older?
It appears the Detroit Lions have yet to decide on All-Pro corner Darius Slay‘s future with the team. The organization seems hesitant to extend the Pro-Bowl cornerback at the price he’s expecting. Slay has one year remaining on his deal that will pay him a touch over $13 million next season.
Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has said a couple of different things over the last couple of months. First, the organization was hoping to come to a long-term extension, hopefully avoiding the inevitable, a hold out that extends into the regular season.
Before the start of last season, Slay, along with Damon Harrison were absent for Detroit’s training as the pair both eyed new contracts. The Lions decided to shift some guaranteed money around and extend Harrison for an additional year. How did that work out? Harrison played injured for the better part of last season and eventually hinted towards retirement after Detroit’s season wrapped up. The Lions released Harrison, and it appears he may play elsewhere in 2020.
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Quinn will likely tread lightly when it comes to negotiations with Slay’s representatives leading up to the NFL draft. Quinn has said if they can’t agree, he’d likely trade Slay, but not just trade him. Quinn mentioned he’d do his start corner ‘right’ by assuring him the trading team has a contract extension in place for his services. An admirable peace offering, the Lions aren’t obligated to make any promises. Still, it’s basically a Jimmy Fallon thank-you card for the success he’s had over the last few seasons with the Lions franchise.
Slay hasn’t mixed words about his contract. He’s mentioned he’d like top dollar. He’s been a tremendous cornerback over the last few years. In 2017 he led the league with 8 interceptions and 26 passes defended. Slay followed that season up with 17 passes defended in 2018, which ranked third in the NFL, along with 3 interceptions. Those two season’s Slay recorded a stellar overall grade of 80.6/75.0.
Last season the Lions defense as a whole took a huge step backward, including Detroit’s league-worst secondary. Detroit was unable to find any success rushing the passer, which led to the secondary having to cover NFL receivers for five-seven seconds at times. It’s just a disaster waiting to happen. Slay, along with his teammates, suffered. His overall grade by PFF was the worst since his rookie season managing a 56.4 mark.
The 29-year-old corner still has plenty left in the tank. As he seeks upwards of $17 million per season, he’s merely interested in setting the market. The Denver Broncos have recently agreed to acquire A.J. Bouye from the Jacksonville Jaguars, which leads one to assume pending free agent Chris Harris Jr is all but done in Denver.
The Detroit Lions have been mentioned in the conversation as one of the teams favored to sign Harris when he hits the open market. Detroit was one of the teams interested in trading for Harris last season leading up to the week eight NFL trade deadline.
Harris is a versatile corner who can play outside but excels playing in the slot as a nickel corner. Detroit made Justin Coleman the highest-paid nickel corner in the league just a year ago, why add a soon to be 31-year-old corner who like Slay posted a career-low 69.9 overall grade courtesy of PFF.
Slay is two years younger; if both corners are expected to make similar money, how does this decision make any sense?
Sure, Harris has been one of the best corners over the last ten years, but signing a 31-year-old comes with plenty of risk. Harris allowed a career-high 14.3 yards per reception, a career-high 672 yards ad tied a career-high 3 touchdowns allowed.
To go with that, Harris yielded a 69.1% catch rate, which was the second-worst of his career, and a third-worst 47 catches allowed on 68 targets.
The Lions have plenty of holes to fill throughout their defense, if they are not willing to spend it on Slay, I don’t see Harris as an upgrade.
Byron Jones, on the other hand, is expected to be in the same pay range, perhaps even $18 million per season, and just 27 years old. I’d prefer to put my eggs in Jones’ basket over Harris.