Not So Free Agency: Difficult Decisions for 2018
While Detroit’s 2017 offseason has included their fair share of fat contracts, the following year will undoubtedly be financial hell. Most importantly, Matthew Stafford is set to be a free agent in 2018, and franchise quarterbacks do not come cheap. The Lions will face more difficult decisions on retaining defensive pillars Ziggy Ansah and Glover Quin. Finally, a number of important contributors, particularly center Travis Swanson and cornerback Nevin Lawson, might walk to test the market.
Let’s be clear, Matt Stafford will not hit free agency. General manager Bob Quinn vaguely addressed his franchise quarterback’s contract, but an extension should be in the works before the season starts. Quinn already made the protection of his star signal caller a priority by signing Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang on the offensive line. Now he has to pay the man.
Andrew Luck signed an extension with the Colts to the tune of $24.5 million per year for five years. Stafford has caught fire, coming off arguably his best season, and should command at least that much. Last year, he completed 65.3% of his passes for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions.
Eric Berry signed a six year, $78 million contract this year, making him the highest paid safety in the league. Good for Berry, bad for everyone else. Unfortunately for Detroit, he set the bar on what a playmaking safety is worth. Glover Quin has been healthy and productive over four seasons with the Lions, but they might opt to draft his replacement either this year or the next. Fellow safety Tavon Wilson, who is also slated to hit free agency, might be a cheaper option in the short term.
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While Quin’s future with the team is a toss up, Detroit should bring back star defensive end Ziggy Ansah. The former first round pick experienced a down year (35 tackles, 2 sacks) after an explosive 2015 (47 tackles, 14.5 sacks). However, Ansah remains the best talent on the defensive line and a mainstay moving forward. Edge rusher Jabaal Sheard signed a three year, $25.5 million contract with the Colts this offseason, even after his down year. Expect Ansah to easily top that.
And the Rest
Linebacker Tahir Whitehead, center Travis Swanson, and cornerback Nevin Lawson represent average starters that the Lions could make judgement calls on. To maintain continuity on the offensive line, retaining Swanson might be a priority. The Browns signed center J.C. Tretter to a three year, $16.75 million contract (about $6.6 million a year) this month, which does not break the bank.
Finally, Paul Worrilow, D.J. Hayden, Darren Fells, Jordan Hill, and Armonty Bryant all signed one year deals with the team. At least a couple of these players should work out, translating into more cash to dole out. Detroit needs to nail the draft to avoid any more big contracts. Save up, because winning games does not come cheap.