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Mailbag: Why the Lions’ use of void years, backloaded contracts isn’t a problem

The Detroit Lions have done a ton of backloading with contracts and used voided years. But here’s why Lions GM Brad Holmes isn’t getting Detroit into future trouble.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have been active with the salary cap gymnastics this offseason. They restructured Tracy Walker’s and Jack Fox’s contracts. They got Charles Harris, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Romeo Okwara to agree to significant pay cuts. Additionally, many of the players they have signed or re-signed in free agency have backloaded contracts. Six of them—Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, David Montgomery, C.J. Gardner Johnson, Alex Anzalone, and (reportedly) Graham Glasgow— include at least one voided year at the end.

All of this has shown that the Lions are prioritizing cap space in 2023 over the future. That has allowed them to be active in free agency, and there could be a couple more moves waiting around the corner.

But many Lions fans have expressed concern about this strategy. Former Lions general manager Martin Mayhew was often criticized for kicking the salary cap commitments down the road, and it eventually got the Lions into trouble. Could Brad Holmes be making the same mistake now?

That’s one of our bigger topics on this week’s midweek mailbag podcast. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.

Note: This podcast was recorded before news about Vaitai’s restructure and Gardner-Johnson’s contract details were made public.

On the amount of dead cap/backloading:

Erik Schlitt: “They’ve been really specific in how they’ve wanted to do it, and they’ve only done it a little bit in each of the next three years. It’s not like they’ve been, ‘Okay we’ve got $20 million in money on voided contracts and it’s all coming due next year.’ It’s spread out. it’s $6.4 million hitting in 2024. It’s $6.4 hitting in 2025. $6.6 hitting in 2026. And that’s right in line with where they are now, because this year (DJ) Chark accounted $6 million on his own, and then you add in the fact that the (Michael) Brockers cut cost another $4 (million), they went into this offseason with more dead cap than they’re pushing.”

The entire conversation starts around the 7:50 mark in the podcast.

Here are other topics discussed by myself and Erik.

  • Overall thoughts on Lions free agency thus far (3:00)
  • What are the Lions going to do at backup quarterback? (17:45)
  • What’s going on with DJ Chark, and how big of a need will WR be if he doesn’t re-sign? (23:00)
  • We talk about Halapoulivaati Vaitai and the future at guard (28:50) Note: Some of this conversation is outdated after Vaitai’s contract renegotiation.
  • Is there any player in this year’s draft that you’d trade up for at 6? (40:00)
  • Is Jalen Carter still on the Lions’ draft board? (43:25)
  • Does Calijah Kancey fit into the Lions’ defensive scheme? Could he be the pick at 18? (51:30)
  • Who are the players the Lions could get in the first round that would provide an immediate impact? (54:45)

Check out the entire show below:

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