Nick Fairley will be a free agent after the 2014. The Detroit Lions made that official with the announcement that they are declining the 2015 5.5 million dollar option on Fairley’s rookie contract.
Fairley has often appeared unmotivated and out of shape during his three years with the Lions. General manager Martin Mayhew has stated that the Lions have tried to encourage Fairley to improve his conditioning and participate in the teams offseason programs to no avail. Fairley hasn’t responded the way the Lions have hoped he would, so Mayhew is trying tough love.
There is no way Fairley is coming back to the Lions for 2015. If he continues his inconsistent performance the Lions would let him go of their own free will, and if Fairley actually had a season that lived up to his potential he would certainly take advantage of the free market and get himself a lucrative deal elsewhere. The franchise tag also will not be an option because the Lions would not be able to afford having the two highest paid defensive tackles in the NFL at the same time.
So all the Lions can hope for now in 2014 out of Fairley is that he plays with a fire and is motivated by his future financial gain. Honestly, the Lions probably would have had to let him walk anyway, the investment in one position being too costly and Ndamukong Suh clearly being the superior player. While I don’t think that Fairley will come out of his shell this year and perform at a higher level, I do expect somebody to give him a four or five year deal next year; how much that deal is worth greatly depends on how he performs this season.
Mayhew has nothing to lose in trying this method with Fairley; clearly nothing else has worked. What it does show in a glaring fashion is how bad the method of drafting the “best player available” is for developing a winning team. Fairley will end up being a failed draft pick. NFL teams do not select their first round picks with the idea that they will leave after their first contract expires, that is not how a successful franchise develops. The first round pick must be the building block for your franchise and become not only a starter, but a star. It’s the best way to accumulate talent at this level and the Lions clearly failed in this capacity with Fairley. Hopefully Fairley’s 2014 is dominant for the Lions and he helps them reach the playoffs once more before he heads for greener pastures.