The Detroit Lions broke their free agency silence on Monday evening, making a big move on their offensive line. According to NFL insider Adam Caplan, the Lions are signing former Eagles offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five year deal worth $50 million.
Vaitai will immediately step in and take assume the Lions’ right tackle spot. Last week, the Lions released starter Rick Wagner, who was scheduled to take up $11.9 million in cap space. Though Wagner still counts $5.8 million against the cap, the expectation is that Vaitai will cost significantly less—although the full contract breakdown isn’t out yet.
Vaitai was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft after three years as a starter at TCU—mostly as a right tackle. In four season with the Eagles, Vaitai spent his time mostly backing up both tackle spots, starting just 20 games—and just four in the past two seasons. However, he was capable stepping up and filling in for both left and right tackle positions. Additionally, he started the final three games of the regular season in 2019 and the Eagles’ wild card game against the Seahawks and finished with a respectable 74.4 PFF grade for the season.
Still, that’s a big contract for a player that has never been a full-time starter in the NFL. The Lions are wagering on Vaitai taking a big step in his professional career and filling their pressing need at right tackle.