Detroit Lions trade Darius Slay to Philadelphia for two 2020 draft picks

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions traded Pro Bowl cornerback, Darius Slay, to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday. In an already busy free agent period, the Lions’ secondary has perhaps gotten the most attention from the front office.

The Detroit Lions parted ways with Darius Slay this week. They sent him to Philadelphia in exchange for two 2020 draft picks: a third- and fifth-rounder. It is not exactly the most profitable return, but the Lions may not have had much of a choice.

There was writing on the wall saying Slay’s time in Detroit might soon be coming to an end. Before last season even began, there was a potential holdout for a more favorable contract. It did not happen, but as it stands now, his 3-year, $50 million deal with the Eagles makes him the highest-paid corner in the league.

For the Lions, this was evidently too high a price. Furthermore, trading Quandre Diggs midway through a sputtering 2019 campaign signaled no one was safe. Slay even said as much at the time. This week, he urged publicly for a trade and got it.

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Darius Slay truly had a great career with the Lions. After being drafted out of Mississippi State in 2013, Slay spent all of his seven seasons in Detroit. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro player in 2017. That year, he led the league in interceptions and passes defended. His 104 career passes defended is the most of any Lion, by far. True, the stat has only officially been tracked since 1999, but still, Slay is tenth among active leaders in the category. He makes his presence known to quarterbacks.

Going forward, what does this mean for the Detroit Lions? They have already been making quite a few moves at defensive back in free agency. This week, they re-upped with Dee Virgin, traded for Duron Harmon, and signed Desmond Trufant. While Virgin was a backup last year, Harmon and Trufant should jump to the top of the depth chart, assuming the Lions do not make any other moves.

Desmond Trufant has put together a fine career. Actually drafted ahead of Slay in the same draft, Trufant started 97 games with the Atlanta Falcons. He averages about as many tackles per game as Slay does and has a knack for recovering fumbles.

Duron Harmon has also proven himself nicely, with nearly as many interceptions as Slay in the same amount of time. Just as important, though, these two players provide a bit more financial freedom to the organization. Harmon’s $4.25 million and Trufant’s $10.5 million is still less than Slay’s $16.7 million.

Letting go of Darius Slay also has implications for the upcoming draft. Jeff Okudah, who is far and away the best defensive back in the draft, will probably be available at pick #3. Does moving Slay make Bob Quinn more or less likely to take him in the first round?

It does create room to grow a young corner. On the other hand, by adding two new faces in Trufant and Harmon, does it now make even more sense to trade down, as has also been suggested? In reality, the draft pick remains just as inscrutable as before.

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Darius Slay will be missed in the backfield. His signature “finger wags,” which chided opposing quarterbacks for challenging him, became a staple in his games. Hopefully, the Detroit Lions can get some of the same efficiency out of their free-agent targets and draft picks.