The trade deadline used to be a minor footnote in the long NFL yearly schedule. However, as of late, the day has become a source of excitement and anxiety. Team have been more willing to ship away good players and spend a vast amount of future resources to take a crack at a championship.
Last year, the Detroit Lions gave their fans the gamut of emotions. People were thrilled when Detroit got run-stuffing king Damon Harrison Sr. for just a fifth-round pick. But just a week later anxiety kicked in when Golden Tate was suddenly traded away for a third, leaving the Lions’ offense bereft of much talent.
So far this year, it’s been more of the latter than the former for Lions fans. Defensive captain and fan favorite Quandre Diggs is gone for a swap of third-day draft picks, and the rumors are swirling that Darius Slay could be next. But there are equally strong reports suggesting the Lions will be buying, particularly at the running back position.
So what happens by 4 p.m. ET? Let’s make some predictions.
NOTE: These are simply predictions. I do not have an insider information on these situations.
Will Darius Slay be traded?
This is tough for me, because on one hand, I agree with a lot of what Kyle Yost said on Monday when he suggested this is the perfect time to deal Slay. If the Lions don’t intend to extend Slay, that means it would make sense to deal him unless this team realistically believes it can contend in the next 1.5 season.
Personally, I’d rather see them extend him for a season or two, but if Detroit has made up their mind, it make sense to trade him now, because his value will never be higher.
So what will the Lions do? Well, this situations reminds me too much of the Golden Tate last year. The two sides were reportedly locked in a contract dispute for Tate’s future, and when they couldn’t come to an agreement, they shipped Tate.
Slay obviously wants a deal, based on his absence from offseason workouts. At this point, it’s unclear how close talks have progressed—if at all.
But the similarities go well beyond that. Prior to the Lions moving Tate, most reports simply suggested they were receiving calls, and they didn’t plan on moving him unless they were blown away by offers. Take this from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero exactly one year ago:
“I can tell you that the Lions have been fielding calls, as teams have reached out about Tate. At this point, my understanding is that it’s not likely Tate gets moved unless they get blown away with an offer.”
Now compare that with the language surrounding the current Slay rumors.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
“Lions have gotten calls about Slay, though it would take a lot to pry him out of Detroit.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen:
“(The Eagles) are taking a shot at Darius Slay of the Lions, but the price tag on Slay is very, very high.”
“I’m told that the Lions are making Slay available on the market. Doesn’t mean they move him, but it does mean they’re open to it. Slay is under contract through next year and his 2020 financials (a total of $10.5 million) are very reasonable.”
“The #Lions’ asking price for CB Darius Slay has remained incredibly high so I don’t see him getting traded today.”
The language is almost identical, and the situations are eerily similar. The Lions aren’t perceived as sellers, but they have a valuable commodity on a soon-expiring contract that they’re receiving calls about.
My gut tells me there’s a really good chance Slay suffers the same fate as Tate, but my heart won’t let me commit. The one big difference here is that I believe the Lions value Slay’s talent a lot more than they did Tate’s. A lockdown cornerback is one of the most valuable players in the game of football, and that is especially true of Matt Patricia’s defense. Of course, that also means that other teams may be willing to spend big to get Slay. Still, I’m going to lean with my heart here.
Chances Darius Slay gets traded: 40%
Will the Lions get a running back?
Detroit could very well be buyers at the trade deadline, because they are pretty shorthanded in the backfield right now. After the injury to Kerryon Johnson—which will sideline him for at least another seven games—Detroit doesn’t have a back truly capable of being the feature back. Just a quick glance at their snaps counts from last week show that Detroit doesn’t really know how to handle their current stable of backs:
Ty Johnson: 25
Tra Carson: 19
J.D. McKissic: 16
Paul Perkins: 6
Rumors are currently swirling that Detroit is very interested in pursuing a running back, but they already missed out on Dolphins tailback Kenyan Drake, who went to the Arizona Cardinals for relatively cheap.
That being said, there are still a lot of potential options out there. Detroit really loved Rashaad Penny in the pre-draft process and even reportedly tried to trade for him last year after the Seahawks drafted him—but being just a year removed from being a first-round pick, he’ll likely come at a heavy cost.
Other popular names include Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman and Jalen Richard.
Here, I think the need is so big that the Detroit Lions won’t hesitate to add someone for not only this year, but potentially the future. While the Lions like who they have in Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic, it’s still unclear if either are able to complement Kerryon Johnson as a between-the-tackles runner, and the Lions need to secure that spot considering Kerryon’s shaky future.
Chances of trading for a RB: 75%
Lions fans are desperately hoping for some help on the front seven. Be it another pass rusher or a linebacker that can actually tackle, Detroit could clearly use a little help on that side of the ball.
But I just don’t see anything happening there. The Lions coaching staff loves their linebackers, they’ve shown little interest in adding a pass rusher now that Trey Flowers is aboard, and the front seven is actually coming off their best game with Da’Shawn Hand back in the lineup. I get the sense this coaching staff actually likes their defensive roster, they just need to get them to play at an optimal level.
The only other realistic possibility is to add some help on the offensive line. Washington left tackle Trent Williams is finally on the block according to reports, but are the Lions ready to move on from Taylor Decker? Remember, Decker is an offensive captain, and while his play certainly doesn’t match his draft status, he’s not exactly the biggest issue on that offensive front right now.
The price will be very high, and I don’t see the Lions that desperate to make a move like that right now.
Chances of any other kind of trade: 10%