When it leaked last week that the Detroit Lions had agreed to terms with running back Matt Asiata, we all patiently awaited the corresponding move to be announced to make room for the former Vikings tailback. On Tuesday morning, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press found the answer, and it’s a bit of a surprise. The Lions have reportedly waived fullback Michael Burton to make room:
The Lions have waived FB Michael Burton to make room for newly signed RB Matt Asiata.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) May 30, 2017
Burton was drafted in fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and was the team’s only fullback for the past two seasons. He was a very effective blocker in 2015, earning the third-highest grade from Pro Football Focus among all fullbacks that year.
However, the team shifted away from using a fullback in 2016. Week by week, Burton saw his role diminished as the Lions rarely used any power run formations. By the end of the season, Burton was no longer part of the team’s plans. In the Lions’ two biggest games of the season—the regular season finale against the Packers, and their Wild Card game against the Seahawks—Burton was a healthy scratch.
With Burton off the roster, Asiata will come in and compete for a power back role. Asiata has actually played as a fullback occasionally with the Vikings, and could potentially play there in Detroit now, but given how infrequently the Lions use the position, it’s more likely he’ll compete against the likes of Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. Still, the versatility could give him an edge in the camp battle.
As for Burton, at only 25 years old, the talented fullback should have no problem finding himself on an NFL roster. We wish him the best.