Detroit Lions may consider roster cuts this week as salary cap remains in flux

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions could begin the process of clearing cap space as soon as this week.

Asked for his evaluation of veteran cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman, and how they fit into the team’s plans for 2021, Lions coach Dan Campbell begged out of the question during his virtual combine news conference Tuesday.

“I hate that I’m going to have to do this to you,” Campbell said. “Look, we’ve been talking. Brad (Holmes) and I have talked about all that and I would say there’s going to be some things that go down this week one way or another. So when all that happens, you’ll know, but I don’t want to get too deep into all that.”

The Lions sit about $9 million over this year’s salary cap floor of $180 million, according to OverTheCap.com, and likely will have to cut players or restructure the contracts of veterans in order to be cap compliant when the 2021 league year opens March 17.

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The NFL has not finalized its salary cap yet, but the number will be smaller than last year’s $198.2 million because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Lions have an additional $12.8 million in carryover space from last season, according to the NFL Players Association.

“There’s been obviously there’s some uncertainty in terms of what that (final number) will be,” Holmes said. “From our planning standpoint, we’ve actually been weighing every single scenario from the most optimistic scenario of what it would be to the worst-case scenario.”

Campbell mentioned wide receiver, the Lions have one player under contract who caught a pass in 2020 (Quintez Cephus), and depth at cornerback as two of the team’s biggest needs in free agency.

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Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye could enter the spring as the Lions’ top two corners, with the futures of Trufant and Coleman in flux. Trufant, who missed 10 games in his first season with the Lions last fall, is due a $9.5 million base salary with $3.5 million of that fully guaranteed. Releasing him would create $6 million in cap space.

Coleman is due $8.95 million this fall. His release would free up another $6 million in cap room.

“I know both of those players,” Campbell said. “I mean, Trufant, he was in the division for years at New Orleans, so I know him well. But I just know overall, we need competition in that area. We need depth in areas, we need competition. I mean just because for example, we’ve got two young cornerbacks, man, you still want competition. You want guys that they’re having to compete and that are able to push them, or they’re pushing for that starting position. I mean, it’s just, it’s healthy. It makes you better.”

Alpha bits

Campbell and Holmes have stressed the need for a collaborative roster-building process, but what happens when the two disagree on a move the team should make?

“Here’s what I would say about a true alpha,” Campbell said. “A true alpha knows when it’s time to concede for the betterment of the team, and so I would tell you, one way or another, there’s already been a couple of things where it’s like, ‘Ah, maybe we don’t — you see it a little more this way, I see it (this way).’ We haven’t had one problem. And we’re not going to have a problem.”

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Campbell said the Lions are involving other coaches and front office personnel in decisions and, “If I’m the odd man out, I got zero problem being like, ‘(OK).'”

As for Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp’s involvement in meetings, Campbell said he welcomes both her presence and input.

“Yes, she’s been in personnel meetings,” he said. “When she’s been in the room, she’s on the Zoom, we’ve asked her input because I mean, she’s the owner. I want her input. I’d love to know what she says, but every time it’s like, ‘Listen, I’m not making this decision. I want you guys, what you feel is best. That’s why I hired you guys, for what is the best for the Lions organization.’

“And so, she’s been nothing but outstanding. But I want all of our coaches, I want our personnel department, I want our players to know, man, she cares. Like, she wants to be around. She wants to be part of this.”

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

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