Lions create some cap space with Halapoulivaati Vaitai contract adjustment

SideLion Report

The Lions created some cap space for the rest of the season by restructuring guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s contract.

As injuries and COVID-19 have hit the roster, the Detroit Lions were running out of cap space. To free up some room, as first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, they restructured guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s contract.

The NFLPA’s most recent update had the Lions with just $567,888 in cap space for 2021. They will convert $1.335 million of Vaitai’s remaining base salary into an immediate signing bonus, creating $1 million in cap space for the rest of the season.

Justin Rogers of The Detroit News has the details of Vaitai’s contract adjustment, with whatever future implications there might be.

 …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.

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.

The Lions are not likely to move on from Halapoulivaati Vaitai in offseason

With four starts on his resume over the previous two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions signed Vaitai to a five-year, $45 million deal in 2020. That still looks like an overpay, but after missing six games last season he has missed just one game this season (with a concussion) and played 894 snaps as the Lions’ starting right guard.

The move to restructure Vaitai’s contract to create a bit of cap space right now makes sense, with the ability to spread the bonus money over the remaining three years of his deal. It doesn’t make it any more or less likely they’ll consider moving on from him in the offseason, with little change in cap implications there. The Lions will all but surely return all five starting offensive lineman in 2022, after never having the group together for a game this season.

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