One of the biggest offseason unknowns for this Detroit Lions team was the health of offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The veteran guard missed the entire 2022 season with a back injury that required surgery. With back injuries in the NFL, you can never be too careful, and some were speculating that his Lions career may now be over.
The first sign of positive progress came last week when the Lions completely renegotiated his contract. Detroit could have straight-cut Vaitai and cleared over $6.5 million in cap space. Instead, they wanted to keep him on the roster and ended up saving more with his new contract instead ($7.4 million). Furthermore, that contract has enough guarantees remaining in it that he would now actually cost more against the cap if the Lions cut him ($7.7M) over keeping him ($5.1M). It’s not hard to surmise from this news that the Lions expect Vaitai to contribute in 2023.
Lions general manager more or less confirmed this on Monday when he spoke with local media at the owners meeting down in Arizona.
“He’s in a good place,” Holmes said. “We just got some recent reports back that he’s in a really good place.”
Just because Vaitai is healthy, though, doesn’t mean he’ll be handed a starting job. The Lions did sign Graham Glasgow in free agency to contend for a spot and help provide center depth behind Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. Still, Holmes was quick to point out that Vaitai is a player they believe in.
“V is a good player,” Holmes said. “He’s a starting-level guard that fits what we’re about along the offensive line. Obviously, there’s question marks—were question marks—about his health and all of that, but to get Glasgow in the fold. Glasgow is a guy that’s got position versatility as well. Obviously, we know about his ability as a guard, but his stuff that he did at center on tape last year was really exciting. It’s good to have that competition, and it should be good.”