Stephen Tulloch's time in Detroit appears to be done. The veteran linebacker posted a farewell message to the Detroit Lions Thursday night on Instagram:
What a journey it's been Detroit! Five years of some of the greatest memories of my career. I can't put into words how grateful I am to have played for such a great organization. I want thank the Ford family the front office the strength coaches, trainers, equipment staff and everybody in between for everything you have done for me over the years. Last but not least I want to thank the community of Detroit for being behind me and my foundation over the years in making a difference in many lives. Such as life there is constant change. But change that I'm looking forward to. As one chapter closes in my career another one opens up.#Detroit#MuchLoveAndRespect#Operation55
Tulloch's message is vague enough where it isn't clear whether he is retiring or has been released. Considering he is just 31-years old, he likely still has playing time left in the NFL. However, Tulloch's release was not listed on Thursday's NFL transaction list. The Lions have not made any sort of a comment on the situation as of Thursday night.
Tulloch signed with the Lions in 2011 to join his former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Tulloch immediately made a huge impact with the defense, amassing over 100 tackles during each of his first three seasons with Detroit. However, Tulloch was never the same after suffering an ACL tear in 2014. While he returned as a solid run defender the following season, he had clearly lost a step in coverage and his play reflected that.
His decline in play made his 2016 salary of $5.5 million (and cap hit of $7.3 million) a bit too much to swallow. Presuming that the Lions will release him, they will save $6 million in cap space this year.
Money aside, Tulloch's release leaves a big hole in the middle of the Lions' defense. While players like Tahir Whitehead (a current free agent) have shown promise in starting roles, Tulloch's emotional impact on the team will be missed. He was a leader in the locker room and a role model in the community.
UPDATE: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport cleared up some of the vagueness left by Tulloch's Instagram post:
The #Lions have informed Stephen Tulloch that he will be released after the start of the new league year, source said— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 19, 2016