Franchise tag decision on Kenny Golladay at ‘forefront’ for Lions

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

The Detroit Lions have one week to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Kenny Golladay, and from the sounds of it, they might push that decision up to the March 9 deadline. 

“We want to make the best decision for the Lions, and sometimes those decisions take a little bit longer,” general manager Brad Holmes said during a Tuesday video conference. “The great thing is we have a process in place that we believe in, that we’ve been firm in, and when we really start the planning stages of the process, that process can go all the way up to when you have to make the decision.”

Echoing the sentiment of comments made last week by ownership adviser Chris Spielman, Holmes raved about Golladay’s talent, while saying the receiver’s status is at the top of front office’s top priorities. 

“I don’t think there’s any debate that Kenny has shown the ability to be a No. 1 receiver in this league, with that skill set that everybody knows that he has, that we all know that he has,” Holmes said. “There’s also been no debate that Kenny has been at the forefront of our mind, in terms of making sure we make the best possible decision, for not only the Lions, but for Kenny. I wish I had a more direct answer to you, to tell you exactly what we’re going to do, but out of respect for the process, I’ll keep that in house.”

Citing that same process, Holmes declined to answer whether a long-term extension for the 27-year-old receiver was something still being discussed by the franchise. 

A third-round draft pick out of Northern Illinois in 2017, Golladay developed into Detroit’s most explosive offensive weapon by his second season, catching 70 balls for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns. He took another leap forward in 2019, finishing among the league-leaders with 18.3 yards per catch, on his way to 1,190 yards and an NFL-best 11 scoring grabs. 

Injuries derailed Golladay’s 2020 campaign. He dealt with a hamstring strain to start the year before missing the final nine games with a hip pointer. It marked the first time since his rookie season he had missed significant time. He finished with 20 receptions in five games, but in the four contests he both started and finished, he had at least 100 yards or a touchdown. 

Based on comparable receivers, Golladay is in line for a long-term contract that pays him between $16-20 million per season. If the Lions opted to use the franchise tag, it would be a one-year deal worth the average of top-five salaries at his position from the previous season, projected to be approximately $16 million. 

Tagging Golladay would ensure the Lions don’t lose him on the open market, while also giving them a chance to shop him in a potential trade, assuming it’s determined he doesn’t fit the team’s rebuilding timeline. A tag-and-trade scenario isn’t uncommon, being utilized multiple times in recent years, including last year by Jacksonville with edge defender Yannick Ngakoue. 

One of the hurdles the Lions seemingly face when making the decision is the uncertainty of the league’s salary cap situation for 2021. Due to the pandemic affecting league revenue, the cap will be dropping significantly next season. Set at $198.2 million in 2020, it could drop as low as $180 million this season.

The Lions, who will be absorbing quarterback Jared Goff’s $27.8 million cap hit when the team’s trade with the Los Angeles Rams becomes finalized on March 17, will likely need to clear some space in the coming weeks just to get under the projected cap. But that won’t factor into the franchise tag decision, according to the general manager. 

“We are making plans and using our process in terms of going through every single scenario, from what would be the floor (of the salary cap), to the highest it could be,” Holmes said. “So we’re just making sure we’re prepared for anything that might come about, but it hasn’t really affected in terms of what our utilization (of the tag) will be.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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