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Why the Lions traded away Kyle Van Noy for almost nothing

A deeper look into the Van Noy trade makes sense of the cheap terms.

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions linebacker play has been atrocious over seven weeks of football, and despite trying to plug and play several different players at the position, it hasn’t improved. So why in the world would the team trade away one of its starters for basically nothing? Is Bob Quinn colluding with his former team? Has he just gone mad? Is he on a mission to get rid of every Martin Mayhew pick?

The answer, of course, to all of these is no. The Lions traded away Kyle Van Noy and a seventh round pick for just a sixth round pick in return. And while that doesn’t seem like a very good return for a former second-round pick—and it isn’t—given how Van Noy is playing and how the Lions compensated the move, those terms aren’t really outrageous.

In fact, the going rate for a busted linebacker is almost exactly what the Lions got in return. The best possible example of this is current Lions linebacker, Jon Bostic. Bostic, too, was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears in 2013. And just like with Van Noy, the Bears decided in Bostic’s third year that things weren’t working out. A few weeks into the season, the Bears traded Bostic to—you guessed it—the Patriots for a sixth-round pick. Then the Patriots ended up trading him to the Lions for a conditional seventh-round pick, which, according to Dave Birkett, the conditions were not met, so the Lions essentially got him for free.

So with the notion that Van Noy was worth more put to rest, the question then becomes why would the Lions trade away a starter from their weakest position on defense knowing that they’d get little-to-nothing in return. Well, part of that was answered immediately when the Lions signed linebacker Josh Bynes. Bynes was a starter last year, and through some nifty finagling of the injured reserve rules, the Lions were able to get him back on the roster without burning their one chance to re-activate someone from the IR list. Had Bynes and Bostic been healthy during cut day, it’s entirely possible that they, not Van Noy, would have made the team.

Still, the Lions could have signed Bynes and kept Van Noy over a guy like Thurston Armbrister, but it makes sense to get rid of Van Noy for a couple reasons. First, this trade could be a sign that DeAndre Levy and/or Jon Bostic are likely to return soon. When that happens, it’s hard to see a spot on the roster for Armbrister anyway. Secondly, Van Noy was taking up more than just a roster spot for Detroit; he also represented future capital. Now that the Lions have parted ways with Van Noy, they have cleared future cap room:

That reported $1.62 million is going to be extremely valuable to the Lions next offseason when they will likely be negotiating a new, mega-deal for Matthew Stafford or deciding what to do with guys like Riley Reiff and Larry Warford, who both are free agents in 2017.

On the surface the Van Noy deal looks like a failure. After all, the Lions turned a second-round pick into less than a sixth in under two seasons. However, the Lions gave Van Noy every chance to succeed and it just didn’t work out. If the trade still bothers you, just essentially combine it with the trade for Jon Bostic and it looks a lot better:

I can deal with that.