clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Detroit Lions roster review: Can the Lions survive without Darius Slay?

New, comments

The longtime corner may be headed out of Detroit this offseason.

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped news on us Monday morning letting us know that a potential Darius Slay trade may be in the works. The Lions star corner, once again, seems to be on the trade block as he and team seem to be far apart in negotiations for a contract extension.

Slay is now two years removed from his All-Pro 2017 season, and Detroit may want to move on from the player to get a younger, cheaper, replacement. But is that a good idea?

Darius Slay

Expectations heading into 2019

Slay was the Lions CB1, and while the team made changes across the secondary, his role was the same as ever. Line up across the best receiver on the other side of the field and do everything in his power to limit their impact: Be a shutdown corner and live up to his “Big Play Slay” moniker. While generating turnovers is obviously a plus, his main job was to just shut down a receiver and remove them from the game.

Actual role in 2019

2019 Stats: 14 games (14 starts), 2 interceptions, 13 passes defended

It is hard to judge the impact of a defensive player based on the box score, but Slay was a great CB1 in 2019. While he struggled against some of the league's best route runners—like Keenan Allen and Davante Adams—he never did badly enough to be at fault for a Lions’ loss and was one of two consistently great players on Detroit’s defense (Trey Flowers being the other).

He also notched two interceptions and 13 passes defended, making the necessary plays to keep Detroit in some games. While he may not have been a top-five corner, it would be hard to place him outside of the top 10 in his position last year.

Outlook for 2020

Even if the Lions cannot find a trade partner for Slay, it is likely next year will be his final one in Detroit. He is entering a contract year and has seemed eager to ink a long-term contract with the team since last summer. The team seems hesitant to give him the deal, though, and instead wants to cash out now and see what assets they can receive for him before he walks in free agency.

While trading Slay does make some sense, it also seems like a move that goes against everything the organization has told us. Martha Ford made it clear she expects the team to compete for the playoffs in 2020, and their free agency spending spree in 2019 tells us that as well. It is hard to see how the team at all gets better—or at least avoids getting worse—by dealing away Slay. The defense was already absolutely terrible and losing one of the small amount of things that was going well will just dig them further into the hole they’re in.