Sunday, January 11, 2015

First week of the 2015 off season for the Lions

Now that the Detroit Lions are out of the playoff picture it's time to set our sights on the 2015 team. The first issue with the off season is that there are no less then 3 clubs thinking about signing the Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as their new head coach. I think most Lions fans would agree that keeping him as the DC is likely very critical to having a chance at a decent 2015. Here's hoping he remains right where he currently is.

The next issue for the team is taking a look at the salary cap situation. The Lions had 39 players with 2015 contracts, 1 of which is Ndamukong Suh who's contract voids 5 days after the super bowl. The Lions then proceeded to sign 14 guys to future/reserve contracts. These are contracts that will take affect when the new league year officially starts. 5 days after the super bowl they can sign one more, or keep the spot open to franchise tag Suh (a very expensive gamble if they go that route, more on this later). The 39 original 2015 contracts plus the 14 future/reserve contracts gives the Lions 53 players using up $126,285,255 of the 2015 salary cap (this will change nearly every day during the off season as moves are made).

The Lions had $939,170 in 2014 cap they did not use up, this will be carried forward into 2015.

The NFL has not yet set the official cap space each team can use in 2015, though they did say that for now use the number $138 million. I actually think the real cap number for each team will approach $142 million, this is just my educated guess however. If I am correct, then you would add the carryover to the cap limit and the Lions would have $142,939,170 to work with. With $126,285,255 already committed, that gives them $16,653,915 in salary cap to work with. Once the new league year officially starts only the top 51 contracts will count against the cap for the entire off season until about a week before kickoff of week 1 in September. Between now and then they will try to re-sign many of their own free agents, bring in new blood through free agency, select their players from the NFL draft, and turn over every stone they can to find guys to fill the 90 man roster they can take into OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and Mini-Camps.

Here are the 14 guys they signed to future/reserve contracts:
RB Emil Igwenagu
WR Skye Dawson
WR Andrew Peacock
WR/TE Ifeanyi Momah
TE Jordan Thompson
C Taylor Boggs
C Braxston Cave
OT Michael Williams
DE/DT Kerry Hyder
DE/DT Roy Philon
DT Xavier Proctor
LB Jerrell Harris
S Nate Ness
CB Crezdon Butler

The Detroit Lions draft 23rd in the 2015 draft which will be held April 30th - May 2nd in Chicago. I estimate they will need $4,253,600 for the rookie salary cap pool (the amount of cap space needed to sign all their draft picks). They will have no problem doing that as only the top 51 contracts count throughout the off season.

The Lions also have a number of free agents, guys who's contracts expire. The main being Ndamukong Suh. I expect them to try to re-sign him to a multi-year deal worth around $15 to $16 million a year. Anything more then that and I expect he'll be playing for another team instead. The Lions have 14 other guys without contracts too, some of them they will want back and some of them they will not. Hopefully they are able to sign all of the ones they do want back. I know I would like to see a lot of them back myself, such as the kicker Matt Prater, DE Darryl Tapp, DT CJ Mosley, maybe even DT Nick Fairley among others. My current estimated depth chart (color coded to show the free agents) is an excel spreadsheet that can be found at (watch the tabs at the bottom). There are also a few free agents I would prefer not to see back, such as C Dominic Raiola and KR Jeremy Ross. That said, if they could be signed for vet minimum it wouldn't hurt to have them on the team until someone else actually takes their job away in camp (which for those two I am thinking might actually happen).

If the Lions do re-sign all the free agents there won't be room for all the draft picks on the final 53 ... meaning some later round draft picks might not make the team, or some vets might be replaced with newbies. This is a scenario the team hasn't really had to contend with in quite some time. We fans might not be ready for that kind of roster turnover just yet, but I suspect we will have to start (getting used to it).

My salary cap chart for 2015 is also updated, it can be found at the same link as above, just click on the menu for salary cap instead of depth chart. Next blog, a little more information on the roster as I see it, both this past year and the upcoming one. If I get too wordy I may break it up into several entries, we shall see how that goes.

For now, the Lions have 53 contracts (52 once Suh's is voided 5 days after the super bowl) and enough salary cap to re-sign whichever free agents of their own they want. The plan always was to build through the draft and they should have no problem signing those picks either. As for being a player in free agency, that would depend on who is available and for how much, and who they wanted back but were unable to sign. I foresee a couple moves, but I don't foresee a ton of them. Somewhat like last year, only maybe not quite as active.

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