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Detroit Lions mailbag: Grading Bob Quinn’s free agency classes

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Mailbag provides clarity on Matthew Stafford’s contract

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Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Ask POD Detroit Lions mailbag is back! If you haven’t participated before, on Fridays we’ll drop an “Ask POD” post where you can send us your questions in the comment section or via Twitter using the hashtag #AskPOD. Some of those will be answered in the final segment of weekly PODcast (which you can watch live on our Twitch stream at 8 p.m. ET on Sundays). However, the PODcast does not have enough time to address everything we are asked. Therefore, all overflow questions—whether they’re about the Lions or not—will be answered by yours truly in a weekly article like this.

Let’s get onto this week’s questions:

If you missed it, a few weeks ago the Lions made a slight adjustment to Matthew Stafford’s contract that reportedly will save them $4.8 million in 2020. That number is misleading, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

To answer your question, yes, the Lions did add an extra year to his contract, but it’s an automatically voided year, which is a tactic Bob Quinn is using more often these days. In other words, Stafford is not really signed for that extra year, but it allows Detroit to spread out his cap hit a little more. Here’s how it works:

Matthew Stafford was set to receive a $6 million roster bonus in 2020. Before the 2019 season ended, the Lions converted that into a signing bonus. It’s an easy choice for Stafford, because he now gets that money immediately, and it’s a good choice for Detroit, because the cap hit of that $6 million bonus is now spread out evenly over the remaining years in Stafford’s contract rather than all at once in 2020, including one extra voided year to spread that number a little thinner per year (editor’s note: details on proration rules are in Article 13, Section 6(b) of the CBA):

2019: $1.2 million
2020: $1.2 million
2021: $1.2 million
2022: $1.2 million
2023 (voided year): $1.2 million

Instead of paying Stafford the full $6 million roster bonus in 2020, the Lions effectively spend $1.2 million of unspent 2019 cap space (they finished with nearly $17.8 million) that would have been rolled forward into 2020 and another $1.2 million of actual 2020 cap space. This total expenditure against 2020 cap resources of $2.4 million really saves Detroit $3.6 million in 2020 compared to the original $6 million roster bonus, not the $4.8 million in savings that was originally reported.

As for that voided year, once it hits—assuming no contract extension before then—Stafford becomes a free agent. That being said, the Lions will still be on the hook for $1.2 million of dead money in 2023 from that prorated signing bonus.

From DaManInNC

Why have the Lions

Been losers for 60 plus years? If you had to pick one constant in the mist of all the losing, what would you say it is?

They’ve been in the same division as the Green Bay Packers. I’m sure that’s the answer you were seeking.

From BillySimsMadeMeDoIt

If Stafford is s smart business man , like Lions are a smart business (profit return driven)

Is it possible he’s got no interest in playing for less than his worth ?

Why do star players want to play in playoffs if it’s a paycut yet carrying an even bigger risk? Is that good business especially as salaries increase and aren’t guaranteed.

(Note: This question is in regards to low playoff salaries for players)

That’s certainly a business-focused way of looking at things, but it kind of leaves out the competitive spirit in all of these players. What has the been knock on Matthew Stafford always been? “He can’t win big games.”

Now, I can’t tell you if that bothers him, but I can tell you the man is insanely competitive. I don’t think I need to be the one to tell you that given how adamant he was about returning to a 3-11-1 team despite no real incentive for him to play.

Matthew Stafford wants to win. Is he willing to take a paycut to do that? I don’t know, but I’m certain that the fact that he’d be getting smaller paychecks in the playoffs than during the regular season wouldn’t bother him at all if the Lions were actually winning postseason games.

The money he’s already earned will last him a lifetime, but so will the “can’t win big games” narrative if it never actually changes.

And to go back to a economic perspective, if you win big games and are part of a winning program, you are more likely to see a more lucrative contract next time around (see: Every Patriots player ever).

From JJ2672

Do you think stores should sell eggnog year round?

Our stores around where I live only sell it during the holidays.

I think eggnog should be banned year round. I still don’t see the point in it. If you want a warm alcoholic beverage for the holiday time, make an Irish coffee or throw some peppermint schnapps into a hot chocolate. If you drink eggnog cold, please consult your nearest mental health specialist.

From Eduwardo Alejandro Parrao

If Bob Quin trades Stafford this offseason

What percentage of Lions fans do you think would follow Stafford and stop follow the Lions?

First off, not happening. Let me make that clear.

But I’ll play along with your hypothetical anyways. I think the vast majority of fans would continue to cheer for Matthew Stafford. I’d put that in the 80-85 percent range. However, the amount that would stop following the Lions would likely be in the single digits. Let’s say 5 percent.

First of all, if the Lions traded Stafford, that would mean they’re likely drafting a quarterback with their third overall pick. That alone will bring some excitement to the franchise, whether you love or hate Stafford. A new era of Lions football could potentially bring back some lost fans, even.

Secondly, “I’m done with the Lions” may as well be a motto for most Lions fans at this point. If you’ve made it this far in your Lions fandom—through 0-16, through trades of Golden Tate, Quandre Diggs, through one playoff win in 60 years—you’re here for good.

From jreid90

Free Agency

How would each of you grade our free agent class?

I’m not sure if you’re referring to 2019 or all of the Lions’ free agent classes. But I want to make a point, so I’m going to grade all of Bob Quinn’s free agent classes. Let’s take a look.

(Note: I’m only listing the relevant moves)

2016:

  • Marvin Jones Jr.: 5-year, $40 million
  • Tavon Wilson: 2-year, $2.2 million
  • Stefan Charles: 1-year, $1.75 million
  • Johnson Bademosi: 2-year, $4.5 million

Overall grade: B. That Marvin Jones signing turned out to be a steal, but there’s not a lot else to like here. Tavon Wilson was fine, but the Lions were left thin at defensive tackle after the Stefan Charles thing didn’t work out.

2017:

  • Rick Wagner: 5-year, $47.5 million
  • Akeem Spence: 3-year, $10.5 million
  • Cornelius Washington: 2-year, $6 million
  • T.J. Lang: 3-year, $28.5 million
  • D.J. Hayden: 1-year, $5.5 million

Overall grade: F. This was pretty awful. And when you consider that Detroit also let Larry Warford (4-year, $34 million), Riley Reiff (5-year, $58.75 million) and Andre Roberts (1-year, $1.8 million) go, this was a big net loss in free agency. Again, Quinn swung and missed on the defensive line with both Spence and Washington. And his offensive line moves did not really pay off, despite the good intentions.

2018:

  • Devon Kennard: 3-year, $18.75 million
  • Christian Jones: 2-year, $7.75 million
  • Kenny Wiggins: 2-year, $5 million
  • Luke Willson: 1-year, $2.5 million
  • Sylvester Williams: 1-year, $3.5 million
  • DeShawn Shead: 1-year, $3.5 million

Overall Grade: D. Quinn didn’t go crazy this offseason, but he also didn’t really hit that hard. His top three signings have all lived out their contract thus far and have been contributors, but it’s not like Kennard, Jones, and Wiggins have really been all that good.

Last year, I called this free agency a complete failure—mostly because of their failure to find a contributing tight end and yet another failure to find good defensive line talent—but it looks a tiny bit better since then; especially since most of the failed signings were short-terms deals.

2019:

  • Danny Amendola: 1-year, $4.5 million
  • Trey Flowers: 5-year, $90 million
  • Justin Coleman: 4-year, $36 million
  • Jesse James: 4-year, $25 million
  • Rashaan Melvin: 1-year, $3.5 million
  • Mike Daniels: 1-year, $8.1 million

Overall Grade: D+. Bob Quinn swung for the fences in 2019 and, thus far, he’s only batting around .333. That may be good in baseball, but it could be costly for this franchise down the road. The Amendola and Flowers signings look good, if not great, thus far. Quinn’s aggressive move to get Mike Daniels didn’t work out, but it was understandable. Rashaan Melvin didn’t work out, but it wasn’t all that costly.

But here’s where things could go very, very wrong. Justin Coleman and Jesse James are both on long-term deals that are backloaded. James only had a $2.3 million cap hit in 2019, but he’ll be between $5 and $7 million for the last three years on his deal. And so far, the Lions have gotten basically nothing out of him.

Justin Coleman’s situation may be even worse. His cap hit will be $9 million next year and over $11 million for the following two years. He showed some promise early in 2019, but was a big disappointment by the end of the season, earning just a 60.7 overall PFF grade.

We tend to focus on Bob Quinn’s mediocre draft results, but his free agency signings have been more miss than hit, and I think that should be getting more attention.