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Jarrad Davis’ contract details suggest he’ll be fighting for roster spot

Cap implications for the Lions latest signings.

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2022 free agency period has slowed to a crawl, and with the NFL draft less than a month away, teams have shifted from signing big named players to filling depth roles with upside players who could challenge to start.

The Detroit Lions have made three such free agent moves in recent days, signing linebackers Jarrad Davis (formerly of the Jets/Lions) and Chris Board (Ravens), as well as corner Mike Hughes (Chiefs/Vikings). The contracts have now been processed through the league and the good folks at OverTheCap.com have the details on the new deals.

Let’s take a closer look.

Jarrad Davis — One year, $1.05 million

2022:

  • $1.035 million base salary ($0 guaranteed)
  • $0 prorated bonus
  • $152,500 roster bonus
  • $1,047,500 cap hit

Last year the Lions attempted to retain Davis but the New York Jets' offer—one-year, $5.5 million, fully guaranteed—was not in Detroit’s budget.

“We weren’t able to afford to bring him back,” Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes said at the owners meeting on Tuesday. “We wanted to, but we did get priced out when it came to that.”

After a disappointing 2021 season dominated by injury, Davis returned to Detroit at a significant discount, but he did so because “it just feels right more than anything.” He wasn’t the only one who is happy with this reconnection, as 79-percent of fans voted that they are happy about Davis’ return, and even Jets’ coach Robert Saleh (a Michigan native) said that he was “really excited for (Davis) to go back to Detroit and get another opportunity.”

Overall Davis’ contract is very palatable for the Lions. If he makes the roster, his cap hit is just over $1 million. And if he doesn't, the contract has zero guarantees or signing bonuses, meaning it won’t cost the Lions a cap hit if he is released—unless the roster bonus kicks in before the release. But even if that happens, it’s still easily absorbable.

Chris Board — One year, $1.99 million

2022:

  • $1.5 million base salary ($600,000 guaranteed)
  • $400,000 prorated bonus
  • $100,000 game roster bonus — $94,118 liked to be earned*
  • $1,994,118 cap hit ($1 million guaranteed)

*Board played 16 games in 2021, so his game roster bonus cap hit for 2022 (“likely to be earned”) represents Board playing 16 of 17 games this upcoming season—or 16/17ths of the potential $100,000 total in roster bonuses. If Board ends up playing more than 16 games, the extra cap hit ($5,882) will be added to the 2023 cap. If he plays fewer than 16 games, the Lions will be rewarded the extra cap space in 2023.

Comparing contracts is not always an apples-to-apples conversation, but it’s a little easier to do when both players play the same position and were acquired at the same time like Board and Davis.

Board’s contract is nearly double Davis, with $1 million guaranteed, which indicates the Lions expect him to stick around when the team reduces the roster to 53-players. That being said, this level of money does not indicate that Board will automatically be higher on the depth chart. There will still be competition for roles on defense. What gives Board the extra edge in money is his special teams contributions, where he is considered one of the best special teams players in the NFL.

Mike Hughes — One year, $2.25 million

2022:

  • $1.25 million base salary ($425,000 guaranteed)
  • $575,000 prorated bonus
  • $425,000 game roster bonus — $425,000 liked to be earned*
  • $2,250,000 cap hit ($1 million guaranteed)

*Hughes played all 17 games in 2021, so his game roster bonus cap hit for 2022 is all “likely to be earned”. If he plays fewer than 17 games, the Lions will be rewarded the extra cap space in 2023.

Like Board, Hughes gets $1 million guaranteed—not a huge investment, but enough to entice a fringe starter to sign—but what gives him a higher cap number is his roster game bonuses. Hughes said at his introductory press conference that Lions have a role for him planned out, which is a good sign they’re expecting him to stick around, but again, competition reigns supreme for this coaching staff, and his cap number won’t guarantee him a spot, he’ll still need to earn it.