Ever since Calvin Johnson retired, the Detroit Lions have been lacking a superstar. Sure, Matthew Stafford is hanging around that status, but without the wins and with all of the young quarterbacks taking over, Stafford remains mostly in the shadows of that 5-10 range of quarterbacks rather than the spotlight of top-five status.
But there is finally hope that Detroit may have a transcendent talent on their team, and it coincidentally also comes from the wide receiver position.
Kenny Golladay had his breakout season in 2019. He upped his yardage to nearly 1,200 yards (seventh in the NFL), raised his yards per catch by over three yards to 18.3 (third), and put up a league-leading 11 touchdowns on the way to his first Pro Bowl.
Aside from Matthew Stafford and newly-added Jamie Collins Sr. and Desmond Trufant, Kenny Golladay is the only non-special teams Pro Bowler on the roster, and he comes at an incredibly affordable price. That’s why he’s No. 1 on our list of the top-10 Detroit Lions 2020 salary cap bargains.
Reminder: This list is only based on 2020 cap hits, not the entirety of the contract. Additionally, no 2020 rookies are included in the list, since several remain unsigned.
1. Kenny Golladay
2020 cap hit: $2.3 million
2020 cap hit ranking: 62nd among wide receivers
Last year, Kenny Golladay’s cap hit was just $855,706. But how much was his play actually worth?
Over The Cap has an Estimated Worth metric, which uses statistical output and PFF grades to turn production into an approximate salary value based on positional averages. Kenny Golladay’s “Estimated Worth” last year was $14 million.
Though his cap hit nearly triples this year, it’s pretty safe to say that the $2.3 million cap hit would be well worth it for Detroit. Golladay’s 2019 season was no flash in the pan. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2018 as well, and actually even caught five more passes that season.
The big elephant in the room here, though, is that Golladay isn’t likely to have just a $2.3 million cap hit in 2020. The Lions’ No. 1 receiver is on the final year of his contract, which means there’s a pretty good chance he’s in line for a contract extension in the next month or two (the Lions like to get their extensions done in August).
Though NFL contracts are usually backloaded with the biggest cap hits coming in the final years, the Lions have plenty of wiggle room in 2020 to potentially frontload it a bit to assure they won’t need to get out of his contract in later years. Detroit currently has $29 million in cap space (the third most in the NFL), and it may be smart for them to take a big hit in 2020, since the salary cap could actually go down next year due to the COVID-19 complications. They still need room to sign the rest of their rookie class and potentially give Taylor Decker an extension, as well, but $29 million is still plenty of room to pay Golladay right away.
Regardless of whether the Lions decide to frontload or backload Golladay’s new contract, it most likely means this incredible value will be no more in 2020. For now, though, we can enjoy the fact that Detroit got a heck of a deal in both 2018 and 2019.
Top 10 Detroit Lions salary cap values for 2020: