Detroit Lions: 5 potential salary cap casualties heading into 2021

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions could save $9 million in salary cap space by releasing Justin Coleman.

When Bob Quinn signed slot-corner Justin Coleman, it seemed like a great addition.  At the time, Coleman was widely considered as the league’s top available slot corner and one of the league’s best.

Things quickly changed after joining the Lions.  Coleman’s cap hit for the 2021 season is a whopping $11 million.  That after allowing 38 receptions on 45 total targets.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Last season when a quarterback targeted Coleman in coverage, it was basically an automatic completion.  Quarterbacks had a near-perfect 134 passer rating when targeting Coleman in coverage.

Coleman was limited to just 11 games in 2020 due to injury.  Injuries may have also played a role in Coleman’s atrocious 47.7 overall grade and 48.4 coverage mark, the worst of his career to date.

Overall, Coleman ranked as the 111th at his position, still ahead of rookie Jeff Okudah (115) and Desmond Trufant (120), out of 121 total players.

The nearly 28-year old veteran corner yielded a catch rate of 84.4% in 2020, which isn’t just poor; it’s very alarming knowing his career average is 64%.

Things started to go South the year prior when Patricia asked Coleman to play outside due to team injuries and a lack of capable corners.  He struggled mightily trying to cover the larger, more physically pass-catchers. Instead of defending primarily crossing routes and intermediate routes, Coleman had been asked to cover far more ground and struggled against the outside vertical routes.

That can’t be used as an excuse in 2020.  Although the Lions once again found themselves shorthanded at the position, Mike Ford and Darryl Roberts often filled in outside, allowing Coleman to work inside when he was in the lineup.

If the Detroit Lions choose to release Coleman before June 1st, it will cost the team $6 million in dead cap and save nearly $5 million in overall cap space.  If the Lions decide to cut the veteran corner after June 1st, it will cost the Lions $2 million in ’21 and $4 million in ’22 in dead cap space but save the organization a whopping $9 million in total space for the 2021 season.

I’m expecting a June 2nd release on this one.