In March 2013, the Detroit Lions signed cornerback Chris Houston to a five-year deal worth $25 million. On Friday, just 15 months later, the Lions released Houston. The surprising move was announced on Friday, and the Lions made the following statement about their decision to part ways with Houston:
"Chris Houston underwent a significant medical procedure this spring. Both parties felt that the best course of action at this time was to release Chris and allow him to rehabilitate away from the Club. The Lions appreciate Chris' contributions over the years and wish him the best in his recovery."
Houston had toe surgery in May, and he missed the Lions' OTAs and mandatory minicamp as a result. It sounded like the Lions' plan was to let Houston heal up away from the team for now and put him on the PUP list at the start of training camp, but they decided to simply release him instead.
Houston was set to have a $3.5 million base salary this year, and his cap hit was scheduled to be $4.8 million. With the Lions releasing him, Dave Birkett reports that Houston's cap charges will be as follows for the next two seasons:
Got some clarity on this: Chris Houston's cap number this year is $1.3 million. His $2M injury guarantee is not a factor.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) June 13, 2014
Houston's 2015 cap number will be $3.9 million.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) June 13, 2014
By spreading out the dead money over two years instead of one, the Lions created a pretty notable amount of cap room. Releasing him is likely what freed up enough cap space to sign first-round pick Eric Ebron, and now the Lions don't have to worry about restructuring another player's deal.
Houston, who was traded to the Lions from the Atlanta Falcons back in 2010, is now a free agent. He spent four years with the Lions, and he emerged as their No. 1 cornerback during that time. He dealt with numerous injuries in 2013, however, and it showed. He struggled mightily last season, and with him injured again, the Lions decided it was best to just move on now.
What this means for the Lions is that they really need Darius Slay to step it up this year. He looked like a rookie in 2013, but now he is projected to be the Lions' No. 1 cornerback in his second season in the NFL. Along with Rashean Mathis, Chris Greenwood, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Cassius Vaughn, Slay will have to take his game to another level with Houston no longer in the picture.