Given all of the complications that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker had no idea if a contract extension was coming this summer. He felt he played pretty well in 2019 and he was happy with his performance during training camp, but despite some early signs of interest months ago, the front office hadn’t spoken much with his agency.
“I didn’t know at the time,” Decker said after Wednesday’s practice at Ford Field. “I had no idea, but I was focused on continuing to have a good camp.”
But then general manager Bob Quinn went into negotiation mode—as he typically does this time of year—and in a matter of three days, Decker was in the Allen Park putting pen to paper to make himself a long-term member of the Detroit Lions.
“I knew right when I was drafted,” Decker said. “I wanted to be one of those players that was able to play for one organization and be fortunate to be able to play for this Lions organization. Not everybody gets to do that. It was a goal I always had. I told Bob that the other day. So that’s just huge to me. This city has become my home.”
Decker has quickly become a leader in the locker room, being named captain for the first time last season and, most recently, lending his voice to last week’s demonstration in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
But he’s been just as influential out there on the playing field. Ever since suffering a torn labrum in his second NFL season, he’s been slowly getting better and better. Last year, he finished incredibly strong, tallying PFF’s sixth-best grade among offensive tackles in the final 10 weeks of the season.
“I would say that the improvement he’s made over the last couple years—and with the coaching changes and head coaching changes and all the rest of it—you just see the growth and development that he’s had,” head coach Matt Patricia said on Wednesday. “You always want to do everything you can to raise your own and reward your own. Certainly Taylor has done an awesome job for us.”
It’s been an emotional 24 hours for Decker. A six-year, $85 million contract is beyond life-changing, and it was a moment he wanted to share with his family before the news hit Twitter.
“My mom started immediately bawling, crying,” Decker said. “I started crying, and I had to be in a team meeting in four minutes. So it was quick, emotional. I called my mom and dad again today right after I actually signed it.
“I’m the youngest of five, and I’m sure for my siblings and my parents to see their baby boy and their baby brother accomplish something like that—I hope it was cool for them.”
But after the phone call, it was all about work. He dried his tears the best he could before rejoining his team, because he knows this is only the beginning. There’s plenty of work ahead.
“Obviously this is a huge, huge milestone in my life, my family’s lives, my future kids’ lives,” Decker said. “This is huge, but the work isn’t finished. That doesn’t mean that the job is done. The work isn’t finished. There’s a lot of football left to be played, and I think I’ve got a lot of good football left in me.”