As we approach the start of NFL free agency, the Detroit Lions are already starting to clear some cap for some extra spending money. On Friday, they released defensive lineman Michael Brockers, who would have cost the Lions around $14 million toward the cap in 2023 had they kept him in, but by releasing him, they are set to save $10 million, with nearly $4 million still counting against the cap.
We could see some similar moves coming up soon with other potential cap casualties like offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai or edge rushers Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris. Vaitai was injured all of last year and is set to count $12.4 million towards the cap in 2023, but the Lions could save an additional $6.5 million if they release him pre-June 1 (that total goes up to $9.5 million saved with a post-June 1 release). As for Okwara, he will count $14.5 million toward the cap this year, and the Lions could save $7.5 million with his release ($11 million post-June 1). If the Lions want to move on from Harris, who also missed most of last year, they could save around $4 million ($6 million post-June 1) on his $8 million cap hit.
The Lions could save a lot of money off of those contracts if they choose to move on, which could give the front office the ammunition to make some splashes in free agency and truly make this team a contender in 2023.
Today’s Question of the Day is...
Who will be the next “cap casualty” released by the Lions?
My answer: Romeo Okwara.
I strongly considered Vaitai over Okwara here and went back and forth a couple of times, but ultimately, I think it’s more likely we see Okwara as the next one out. I tried to convince myself that while Okwara and Vaitai were both originally signed by the previous regime, Okwara could still be considered more of a Brad Holmes guy after he signed a three-year, $37 million contract in Holmes’ first year as general manager. But then I also remembered that Holmes also set out and traded for Michael Brockers as one of his first moves as a GM, and did not hesitate to cut him not even two years later.
This would be a very tough decision to make, because Okwara was once a Lions sack leader and someone that Holmes clearly wanted to build around not too long ago. Okwara has obviously had some terrible luck with injuries and has taken a lot longer than expected to recover from the achilles injury, but he did show some flashes when he returned in 2022, like his two sack performance against the Jets that helped clinch the game.
As for Vaitai, one of the reasons we could see him possibly sticking around for at least another year is the fact that the Lions are so thin with their interior depth. The Lions were really unlucky with injuries last year and were basically plugging in random dudes off the street to be their starting right guard once they were down to their fourth or fifth options.