A closer look at the Lions' 2017 salary cap

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Which Detroit Lions players have the biggest cap hits for 2017? Who could be let go to free up cap space? Let's take a look.

2017 is an interesting year for the Detroit Lions' salary cap for a number of reasons. For starters, the Lions have only 13 players under contract for 2017, yet they have $72,487,558 currently committed to the salary cap. What's more, 2017 is slated to be the final year of Matthew Stafford's contract, and it's also slated to be the final year the Lions' 2014 draft picks are under contract. (Eric Ebron does have a team option for 2018, though.)

Here's the full rundown for 2017:

Player 2017 cap hit

Player Savings if cut
QB Matthew Stafford $22,000,000
QB Matthew Stafford $16,500,000
WR Calvin Johnson $21,358,000
WR Calvin Johnson $16,500,000
WR Golden Tate $7,600,000
S Glover Quin $5,000,000
S Glover Quin $6,050,000
WR Golden Tate $4,400,000
TE Brandon Pettigrew $5,350,000
TE Brandon Pettigrew $4,350,000
TE Eric Ebron $3,897,455
LB Kyle Van Noy $1,115,741
LB Kyle Van Noy $1,623,396
C Travis Swanson $732,500
C Travis Swanson $919,789
DE Larry Webster $690,000
DE Larry Webster $765,146
CB Nevin Lawson $690,000
CB Nevin Lawson $765,146
DT Caraun Reid $690,000
DT Caraun Reid $737,220
WR TJ Jones $690,000
WR TJ Jones $716,550
K Nate Freese $690,000
K Nate Freese $704,856
-- Dead money $0
-- Dead money $0
TE Eric Ebron $0

This is the final year of $20+ million cap hits for both Stafford and Johnson. Interestingly enough, the Lions could part ways with both of them in 2017 and save a whopping $33 million in cap space. It still seems highly unlikely that the Lions will be trying to shed either contract given the importance of each player, but 2017 is a long time from now. It's not entirely out of the question that Stafford will no longer be the answer at quarterback and Johnson's best days will be behind him. Then again, it's also not out of the question that Stafford will have a new contract by then and Johnson will still be one of the game's best receivers.

Aside from those two, the only other real potential cap casualties are Glover Quin, Golden Tate and Brandon Pettigrew. Each player carries a pretty significant cap number, and the Lions could save a pretty significant amount of cap space by letting them go. As usual, that's not to say that any of those players will actually be released, but simply based on their contracts, they seem like they could be on the chopping block in 2017.

Next up, we'll take a look at 2018 and 2019 as we bring our series on the Lions' salary cap to a close.

(Once again, special thanks to the Free Press, Spotrac, Over the Cap and the NFLPA. I couldn't have assembled these numbers without the great resources provided by those four sites.)

Previously: General overview, 2014, 2015, 2016

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