Last year, the Lions needed to give wide receiver Calvin Johnson a new deal in order to free up cap room to fill out the rest of the roster.
Johnson wound up with a fat new contract as a result, something that may have quarterback Matthew Stafford licking his chops right now. The Lions are heading into the offseason over the cap with 23 current members of the roster slated for unrestricted free agency, a pairing that doesn’t bode well for the overall health of their roster. Chopping down Stafford’s $20.3 million cap number via a new deal is one of the easiest ways to remedy the situation. General Manager Martin Mayhew sounds like a man planning to do just that.
“It’ll be a challenge. It was a challenge last year. As we sat here last year we had $60 million in four players and half the cap was in four players. We didn’t have Cliff Avril signed, we didn’t have Jeff Backus signed, we didn’t have Stephen Tulloch signed, we didn’t have Shaun Hill signed. Guys that all were important guys to us, but they weren’t signed and we had half our cap in four guys,” Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I thought (team president Tom Lewand) did a great job renegotiating some contracts. Obviously, getting Calvin done was a big accomplishment for us and we freed up a little bit of room. But it was just enough room really to operate and to get our own guys back. This year will be somewhat similar.”
Stafford won’t be the only player impacted by the Lions’ race to get under the cap, but he’ll likely wind up being the most meaningful one since his cap number is so large and the team isn’t going to be cutting him outright. The same might not be true of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and other pricey Lions as the team comes off a 4-12 season.