In the leadup to the Detroit Lions preseason, we are breaking down the current and future statuses of the roster by position. Today we continue with the Lions’ cornerbacks.
(The final year of each player’s contract is listed in parentheses.)
Starters: Darius Slay (2020), Nevin Lawson (2017), DJ Hayden (2017)
Backups: Teez Tabor (2020)
On the bubble: Jamal Agnew (2020), Johnson Bademosi (2017), Adairius Barnes (2017), Quandre Diggs (2018)
Long shot: Josh Thornton (2019)
Darius Slay will be the team’s No. 1 cornerback. Nevin Lawson will almost certainly start as the team’s No. 2. Teez Tabor will make the final roster. As far as guarantees among the Lions cornerbacks, those are the only three you can really make.
The other six cornerbacks on the roster are all still fighting for their jobs.
DJ Hayden entered camp as the presumed starting nickel corner, but only because of the hefty contract the Lions gave him. Of his one-year, $3.75 million contract, $2.25 million is guaranteed. He has the second-highest cap hit among all Lions cornerbacks, so it would seem like his job is safe.
However, not only has Hayden yet to prove his worth as a nickel cornerback in the NFL, but Detroit already has a player who has. Quandre Diggs took a step back in 2016, but he had an impressive rookie season the year prior. Diggs is an extremely cheap option that already has a clear knowledge of the Lions defense.
For the rest of the cornerback depth chart, it’s all about what they can offer outside of the defense. Johnson Bademosi has been a special teams ace, especially as a gunner. Rookie Jamal Agnew has already impressed in the first week of training camp and adds value as a kick/punt return option.
Adairius Barnes and Josh Thornton probably face the biggest uphill climb to the final roster. Barnes surprised many by making the team last year, but with more competition and no major signs of improvement, it’s hard to see how he beats the odds again.
Need going forward?
Even though four of the Lions’ nine cornerbacks have contracts that will expire at the end of the season, Detroit finds themselves in a pretty good spot. Even if Diggs and Hayden don’t work out in the slot this year, they can move on with Agnew next year. If Detroit decides Nevin Lawson should no longer be their starter, there’s Teez Tabor waiting in the wings.
Detroit will have to face some tough decisions on the roster both this year and next, but it looks like the future of the position is both bright and stable.