Lions adjust Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s contract to create needed cap space

Detroit News

With the steady need to add bodies to the roster the past month due to mounting injuries and COVID cases, the Detroit Lions were running out of cap space.

To address the issue and create some much-needed funds, the team recently made a small adjustment to offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s contract.

Vaitai, who is in the second season of a five-year contract he signed as a free agent last season, had the remaining $1.335 million of his base salary converted into an immediate signing bonus by the team.

And because bonus money is spread evenly over the remaining years on a contract for cap purposes — four years, including this one, in Vaitai’s case — the Lions cleared $1 million off the books in 2021, while adding a little more than $300,000 each of the next three seasons.

In terms of Vaitai’s long-term future with the franchise, the move is inconsequential.

The guard, who has played nearly 900 offensive snaps after an injury-plagued 2020 campaign, was set to have a $8.4 million cap hit with $4.2 million in dead money in 2022. Following the simple restructure, that cap hit goes up to $8.73 million with $5.2 million in dead money. That means his release, if the team opted to go a different direction, would only save the Lions $3.5 million, instead of $4.2 million.

More: Film review: Reassessing red-zone struggles and the play of Reeves-Maybin

The more likely scenario is Vaitai remains in the fold as the team returns all five starting offensive linemen for the 2022 season. Oddly enough, that group didn’t start a single game together this year after Taylor Decker missed the first eight games with a broken finger that required surgery and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow was sidelined for the year by a toe injury, beginning in Week 4.

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Linebacker promoted

After being elevated the past three games off the practice squad, the Lions are adding linebacker Curtis Bolton to the active roster for the final two weeks of the season, according to the player’s agent.

Undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2019, Bolton spent time with four other teams prior to joining the Lions earlier this month. He made his regular-season debut in the team’s Week 13 game against Denver and has played a total of 35 special teams snaps the past three weeks.

Bolton’s addition was necessitated by injures. The team recently lost both Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and backup special teams standout Josh Woods (neck) to season-ending ailments.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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