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2014 Lions Cap Options

The contract situation of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be a key offseason storyline for the Detroit Lions.

The contract situation of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be a key offseason storyline for the Detroit Lions.

Cap hell or great cap manipulation? Detroit once again has a temporary tight cap for 2014. However, as always, Detroit has plenty of options to create cap space. Detroit is currently $6.5 million over the cap per spotrac.

In 2013, the cap space creation by the Lions came from the Ndamukon Suh and Calvin Johnson restructures, pay cuts for Nate Burleson and Dominic Raiola, and a Matthew Stafford contract extension.  This netted Detroit the ability to sign long term deals for Reggie Bush, Glover Quin, Jason Jones DeAndre Levy and Chris Houston. All of these moves were beneficial for Detroit for their future in 2013 and beyond.

Detroit replaced castoff DE Cliff Avril, DE Kyle VandenBosch, RT Gosder Cherilus and RG Stephen Peterman exceptionally well with DE Willie Young/Devin Taylor, rookie DE Ziggy Ansah, undrafted free agent RT LaAdrian Waddle and stud RG Larry Warford. This trend must continue in 2014.

Coming off a strong 2013 offseason, let’s take a look at the salary cap transactions Detroit must make in 2014.

What will the Lions do with wide receiver Nate Burleson?

What will the Lions do with wide receiver Nate Burleson?

Pay Cut or Full Cut for Burleson? Temporary Cap Number $7.5 million

Similar to 2013, Burleson must take a massive pay cut again ($4.5 million cut) or be cut and replaced by the Lions. Cutting Burleson will save the Lions $5.5 million. A pay cut to a $1 million base salary will save the Lions $4.5 million in cap room.

Burleson has stated he is willing to take a pay cut again and wants to stay with Detroit. However, this will be up to Mayhew and the new Lions coaching staff if they wish to keep Burleson. Burleson had solid production in the 9 games he played in 2013, but is that enough after the past two seasons have been marred by injury. Burleson was on pace for 800 yards and a handful of TDs and provides good veteran leadership. We’ll see if that extra million dollars of cap room makes a difference to the new staff and Mayhew.

Cap Savings $4.5-5.5 million

Stomp Down on a Suh Extension: Temporary Cap Number $22.4 million

The biggest issue for Detroit is that Ndmakong Suh needs to be extended long term. Suh’s cap number of $22,412,500 is very high and eating up Detroit’s cap space temporarily. Similarly to Calvin Johnson in 2012 and Matt Stafford in 2013, Suh will likely never play on a $20 plus million cap number for Detroit at the end of his rookie deal.

Suh will get an extension north of Bengals DT Geno Atkins. Atkins received a 5 year, $53 million deal including a $15 million signing bonus. Suh should garner more money. Even as the highest paid DT by a good amount, this can still create between $6-8 million in cap room depending on the structure of the deal for Detroit.

The key number to watch is the $12.5 million in base salary in 2014 for Suh. Detroit can give Suh a whopping $20 million signing bonus ($5 million more than Atkins) spread out over 5 years ($4 million per year on the cap, $20 million in Suh’s pocket), a $1 million base salary. This puts $5 million towards Suh’s 2014 cap number. This new deal number of $5 million combined with the $9,862,500 of restructured money that will remain on Suh’s cap for 2014 creates a new final cap number for Suh in 2014 well below $22 million. Suh’s cap number drops to $14,862,500 in 2014 creating cap relief of $7,550,000.

Year 2 (2015) base salary will remain low for Suh (but rise some) keeping Suh’s 2015 cap number down. The base salary will increase the most once the final $9.8 million of restructures is off the books after 2015. A $3 or $4 million base salary for Suh in 2015 is a good guess netting a $16.8 or $17.8 million dollar cap number in 2015.

Suh extension higher than Atkins. Cap savings around $7.5 million

Safety Louis Delmas is a candidate to be a cap casualty.

Safety Louis Delmas is a candidate to be a cap casualty.

Delmas Knees: Temporary Cap Number $7.8 million

The Delmas move is tougher to call with a new coaching staff and due to Delmas’ knee issues from 2012 and prior. Delmas made it through all 16 games in 2013 and triggered a playing time bonus. However, Delmas’ $ 5,500,000 base salary (unguaranteed) and $500,000 roster bonus (March guarantee) is not guaranteed money.

Detroit could cut Delmas if the new staff values Delmas differently or is wary of his knee problems. If Delmas passes the staff’s coaches film test and aversion to knee injuries, the Lions could decide to extend Delmas.

An extension similar to Glover Quin could provide $4 million of cap relief for Detroit compared to his temporary cap number. A full cut of Delmas saves $6 million for Detroit. If they do cut Delmas, expect them to target a free agent like Antoine Bethea (former Colt) or Chris Clemons or Stevie Brown in free agency. The net savings of a full Delmas cut and signing one of those players to a Glover Quin type deal is still around $4 million in cap room compared to Delmas current cap number. The decision is to either pay Delmas or another veteran. The cap room is there for either.

The third option is to draft a safety early in the draft (Round 2 or 3) to pair with Glover Quin. This creates the full $6 million in cap relief less about $1 million for the rookie 2nd or 3rd round pick cap number. This creates $5 million in cap space but uses an early draft pick for a young safety without knee issues.

Delmas extension or new safety: $4-6 million in cap relief

The total savings for Detroit using the conservative least amount of cap relief is $16 million ($7.5 million (Suh) + $4.5 million (Burleson) +$4 million (Delmas)) in cap room less $6.5 million over the cap.

$9.5 million in total cap room is what Detroit could have to work with in 2014 prior to any restructured contracts. The Suh deal is a nice cap relief clincher but as you will see, it isn’t the only way to create $7 million in cap room. The ability to restructure others still gives the Lions leverage with Suh.

Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson could restructure his contract to provide some short-term cap relief.

Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson could restructure his contract to provide some short-term cap relief.

Restructures: Cap relief

Calvin Johnson: Take $5 million base salary and convert 4 million into a signing bonus spread over 5 years. This creates $3.2 million in cap relief for Detroit and adds a mere $800,000 to his cap number in 2015-2018.

Stephen Tulloch: Take $3,750,000 base salary and convert 2,750,000 to a signing bonus spread over the remaining 4 years. This creates $2,062,500 in cap relief and adds $687,500 each year to Tulloch’s cap numbers in 2014-2016.

Glover Quin: Take $3,500,000 base salary and convert $2,500,000 to a signing bonus spread over the remaining 4 years. $1,875,000 of cap relief is created which adds $625,000 to Quin’s cap number each year in 2015-2017.

Add it all up: $7,137,500 in cap relief.

A Suh extension (creating $7.5 million in room) is not the only option. The Lions have leverage.

Total Cap Space Available

The Lions have $9.5 million in room (conservative approach with a Delmas/new safety extension/Burleson plus Suh extension included) or just $9.1 million in room with restructures and Burleson/Delmas moves. The Lions would have $18.6 million in room combining the three restructured contracts, a Suh extension and the conservative approach for the Delmas/Burleson moves ($4 million and $4.5 million only in savings each). There can also be a Rob Sims extension for another $1 million in cap room but we’ll leave that off the cap space count as it is less likely.

Cap Spending

Detroit would already have spent money on either Delmas or a new veteran safety knocking the cap room down from $13.5 million to $9.5 million. However, that $4 million in cap number room could be used on another position like CB or WR and the Lions could draft a safety (option 3). Option 3 would be included in the draft picks below.

$2 million in additional cap space needed for rookie draft class per top 51 rule.
$2 million for RB Joique Bell restricted tender
$2 million for Pettigrew (or similar TE) (see Martellus Bennett structured deal)

Will free agent tight end Brandon Pettigrew be back in Detroit?

Will free agent tight end Brandon Pettigrew be back in Detroit?

Veteran minimum deals are an option for old veterans like center Dominic Raiola and CB Rashean Mathis. These contracts won’t count as extra based on the top 51 rule and the veteran min deductions available to Detroit. This rule allows spending on other veteran players like kickers, long snapper Don Mulbach, backup LB Rocky McIntosh, and contracts like DE Israel Idonije received in 2013. Detroit can easily still fill out their roster eating up little to no extra cap room.

This leaves the Lions with $3.5 million (using only a Suh extension) or $3.1 million (only restructures) or $10.6 million (both Suh and restructures). Detroit will have $2-3 million or $10 million remaining to spend freely, which can get you a pretty good free agent (see Bush and Quin 2013 cap numbers). Will it be a good number 2 WR, upgrade at CB or the return of Willie Young and Shaun Hill for Detroit?

The best case scenario for Detroit is a Suh extension early in March, which gives Mayhew the opportunity to decide on using a Calvin restructure or other restructures to create cap space for free agents they are targeting. Worst case scenario for Detroit is no Suh extension is made in 2014 and the Lions make 3 restructures. Suh walks after the 2014 season netting only a 3rd round comp pick in 2016 for Detroit but freeing up 13 million in cap room for 2015. However, Suh’s expiring rookie contract would make Detroit players still to re-sign Suh on the open market as they would have plenty of cap space.

The new coaching staff makes it tougher to determine if they will keep their own free agents. The new staff may opt to move on from the likes of Pettigrew, Willie Young and Shaun Hill. This doesn’t verify cap hell but this displays the new staff doesn’t feel there is a personnel match with the new scheme or just wants to get younger (backup QB).

Detroit can replace these players in the draft or free agency if they choose to go that route. It happens with every team even teams with cap room. Detroit can create the room and give themselves plenty of options. Losing Gosder Cherilus and Avril turned out well for Detroit with Waddle and Ansah. Just remember that.

Can Fauria or a rookie tight end do the same replacing Pettigrew? Is Shaun Hill only a Linehan guy and will he fit Caldwell/Lombardi’s scheme? Is Willie Young worth decent DE money or can they get a better DE? Also, could 2nd year DE Devin Taylor get more playing time? Will the return of free agent DE Jason Jones be enough to replace Willie Young’s production?

Detroit has plenty of cap options despite a tight cap and Mayhew/Lewand are great cap manipulators. Cap hell avoided yet again.

1132 comments
JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Looking forward to seeing how good Nebraska Redshirt Freshman QB Johnny Stanton plays...he played for #2 ranked in the Nation in HS but he tore his ACL his Senior Year.

Dr. Reginald
Dr. Reginald moderator

Nebraska used Bullet Dodge!


It was highly successful.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Johnny being compared to Tebow/Wilson. HEISMANFORJOHNNY and gonna win IT ALL

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

I believe every conference is up for grabs besides ACC. FSU winning ACC.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused moderator

More like every conference that has more than 2 ranked teams.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused moderator

"The SEC will cannibalize itself"

-ESPN every year for the last decade.

Dr. Reginald
Dr. Reginald moderator

Woo! tOSU has the 7th best class!

I can't wait to see the next wave of athletes who will fail in the big games!

Dr. Reginald
Dr. Reginald moderator

Hell yes!
I'm their guy!

Hands like the softest baby bottom.

Speed like a lightning bolt.

Size of a mini-me Welker!

Dr. Reginald
Dr. Reginald moderator

Wait. I'm 5-11 145ish.


I AM Wes Welker!


Nooooo I'm 0-3 in the SB!

Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong
Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong

But if I'm transparent about it, I can feign superiority over other pretentious people and reach a whole new level of pretentiousness.

Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong
Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong

Now to explain why I disagree with a world renown astrophysicist:


We haven't received any broadcasts from intelligent lifeforms in all the time we've been observing space.  How do we know it's not too high-tech for us to comprehend?  Simple, it can't be.  No matter how highly refined their communication technology is there will always be a recognizable pattern we will be able to perceive.  So if there is intelligent life out there, it's pretty damn far away.

If aliens did find us, we'd be an anomaly in that we could actually broadcast radiowaves into space which would be something those aliens wouldn't have observed across thousands of lightyears.  So in that regard we'd be an anomaly and therefore worth inspection.

It'd be like if we came across ape using a spear wielding ape.  True, not really indicative of anything close to human technical capability but just the fact that's it's something so rarely (never) observed would make it an object of great public attention.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused moderator

New kids to college are always so intent on telling people their views.

Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong
Dom Capers Did Nothing Wrong

I think you and I both know that I don't get invited to any parties.  I don't really care much about parties either.  Loud music, dancing, and drinking is not my idea of a good time.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

UNL had 35th ranked Recruiting class... WOOOOOOO that sucks.

gatrbuc 17
gatrbuc 17 moderator

@JJ Creighton Bluejays  I was Shocked that we averaged 8th. I didnt expect so good. But it makes sense since most of out best players bolted for the NFL that new blood would have a better chance to start,.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

What's weird is Osborne and Pelini never recruited very good but Callahan could recruit but HE SUCKED. Osborne turned okay players into great players.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Nebraska best recruit is Monte Harrison 4* WR but top 30 MLB prospect...FUCK could be 3rd time Nebraska loses highly rated player to pro baseball.