‘This (bleep) gone cost you!’ Lions WR Kenny Golladay wants new contract — he’s worth it

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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That s— is definitely going to cost them, and the longer they wait, the more the price will go up.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay took to Instagram after his big game against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week and fired off what appeared to be a salvo in his contractual stalemate with the team that drafted him in the third round out of Northern Illinois in 2017.

“This shit gone cost you!” Golladay wrote. “Don’t let that go over y’all head…”

Now, I can’t say with 100% certainty what Golladay meant by his post because the Lions have not made him available in this world of virtual interviews since the end of the game.

But Golladay was asked for the umpteenth time about his still unresolved contract extension days earlier, and a number of his teammates liked or responded to his post with emoji bags of money.

“Cheese please,” wrote receiver Quintez Cephus.

“Pay that man,” added running back Kerryon Johnson.

Golladay caught four passes against the Jaguars for a season-high 105 yards. He had two monster grabs in traffic of 36 and 48 yards to set up Lions scores, and drew two pass interference penalties that accounted for another 33 yards.

Golladay’s numbers through the Lions’ five games (14 catches, 224 yards, two touchdowns) are modest compared to some of his peers – DeAndre Hopkins has a league-high 601 yards receiving, for instance – and don’t necessarily scream top-of-the-market money.

But Golladay missed two games with a hamstring pull earlier this season, and you don’t have to be a football savant to see his worth.

The Lions’ deep passing game was nonexistent with Golladay sidelined, and the rest of their receiving corps has made minimal impact this year. Marvin Jones is averaging 10.4 yards per catch. Danny Amendola has 12 catches in five games. And the only Lions receiver under contract beyond 2020 is Cephus, a rookie fifth-round pick.

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Before Sunday, Golladay had made little noise about his extension. Last week, he even insisted he was comfortable negotiating through the season.

But Johnson is 100% right in that the Lions need to pay the man his money, and quick, or risk having inflation cost them more either in salary or the locker room.

Both the Lions and Golladay’s agent have kept contract negotiations close to the vest, so I don’t know exactly what Golladay is looking for in his next deal. But I laid out the financials of a possible extension in a mailbag two weeks ago.

The franchise tag for receivers in 2020 was $17.865 million. Since Golladay is a player worth tagging – both from a skill standpoint and based on the Lions’ lack of other options at receiver – it’s reasonable to think that’s where negotiations should begin.

In the richest evaluations, Golladay is worth closer to $20 million annually than the $18 million or so the franchise tag would indicate. Pending free agents tend to look at the average of two tags, which in Golladay’s case could be $19.65 million (the 2020 tag number, not accounting for inflation, plus a 20% raise for 2022 to $21.438 million).

In more conservative estimates, based on a shrinking salary cap, Golladay’s tag numbers would be around $15.5 million in 2021 and $18.6 million in 2022, putting his next deal worth about $17.05 million annually

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Maybe that gap in numbers is what the hold up is. Even splitting the difference, there are only a handful of $18 million-a-year receivers in the NFL – Hopkins, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Michael Thomas, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham and Tyreek Hill – and I understand why some may pause to put Golladay, a soon-to-be 27-year-old with one 70-catch season to his name, in that group.

But as was the case with Matthew Stafford’s extension a few years ago, the money won’t look out of place by the time the deal is done, and not paying Golladay puts the Lions in a bigger bind than anything they might financially accrue.

Whether Stafford returns for a 13th season in 2021 or the Lions embark on a total rebuild, they need playmakers on offense to support their quarterback.

Golladay, for most of his career, has been the definition of that. He plays as big and physical as any receiver in the NFL, makes contested catches, is a reliable weapon in the red zone, and if the response by teammates to his Instagram post is any indication, he’s beloved in the locker room.

On Thursday, Lions coach Matt Patricia danced around a question about Golladay’s post, declining to say whether he has talked to Golladay about his contract or where negotiations stand.

But Patricia made clear how he feels about his No. 1 receiver, and how important Golladay is to the Lions’ success.

“I don’t want to get into anything outside of that,” Patricia said. “I think he has continually developed in certainly my time with him, and I think he’s seen a lot of different things through coverages that have changed compared to his first year on the scene, and guys or teams have to play more attention to him. I think that’s a huge compliment as a player when defense has to do stuff to really make sure that you’re not out there doing what you can do. That’s really probably it.”

And that really is why, as costly as that s— is going to be, Golladay is worth it.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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