If there’s one thing you can’t really criticize Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn for it’s his aggressiveness. The general manager has made it a point to make some big swings in free agency and isn’t afraid to flash his wallet a bit. He basically stole T.J. Lang from the Seahawks by outbidding Seattle. He handed Marvin Jones Jr. a contract that looked awfully big for a No. 2 receiver at the time. The list doesn’t end there, with Trey Flowers, Rick Wagner and Halapoulivaati Vaitai also cashing in big at the hands of Quinn.
Of course, swinging for the fences in free agency doesn’t always work out. It may show you care about building the team, but there is an inherent risk in spending big money on players that couldn’t bother to be re-signed by their former team. We saw it with Lang, whose Detroit career was unfortunately marred by injuries. And we may be seeing it with a player the Lions shelled out for last season.
Nickel cornerback Justin Coleman comes in at No. 3 on our list of the worst salary cap hits for the 2020 Detroit Lions.
Reminder: This list is only based on 2020 cap hits, not the entirety of the contract.
3. Justin Coleman
2020 cap hit: $9.0M
2020 cap hit ranking: 17th among cornerbacks
Nickel cornerback is an underrated position, and it’s why many—including myself—justified the Lions’ move to break the bank for Coleman last offseason. Quinn offered the former Seahawk a four-year, $36-million contract that made Coleman the highest-paid nickel in the league. And given how he performed over the past few years, it seemed like a bold, but reasonable move from Detroit.
In 2018, Justin Coleman allowed just 0.94 yards per coverage snap from the slot which ranks 9th among CBs to have played at least 98 coverage snaps there.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) March 11, 2019
You would know this if you had PFF Elite https://t.co/pzqIttZIfP https://t.co/BTxK1FZn2i
And while Coleman started off hot in Detroit, he really, really struggled in the last half of the season. There was an eight-game stretch where Coleman allowed 100 yards more than any other NFL cornerback in coverage, and his PFF grade sat in the 50s for most of the season.
Now the Lions must face Coleman’s most expensive years on his contract. After just a $2.9 million cap hit last year, he’ll cost the Lions $9.0M, $11.0M and $11.0M in cap space for the next three seasons, and there’s really no easy way out of the contract without eating at least $4 million in dead cap.
The only reason Coleman isn’t higher on this list is that he has the track record to potentially turn around one disappointing season. 2019 was by far Coleman’s worst season to date and the corner is just 27 years old. With another year under head coach Matt Patricia and a completely revamped defense—hopefully improving his supporting cast and the team’s pass rush—there’s reason to believe Coleman can rebound.
Still, there has to be a significant level of concern with both Coleman’s play and the amount he’s going to cost the team over the next three seasons. What looked like a bold, progressive move from Quinn could turn out to be a big mistake for the next three years.
Top 5 Detroit Lions worst salary cap hits for 2020: