The Detroit Lions are in the process of deciding what to do with Darius Slay, and according to a Hall of Fame defender, the choice is clear for them in the end.
Speaking at the Super Bowl with MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke, Deion Sanders admitted that the Lions need to step up with Slay and get a deal done to pay the man for being one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
Here’s a look at what he said:
“So perhaps it should come as little surprise that Prime thinks the Lions should extend Darius Slay, a gifted, three-time Pro Bowl cornerback who has also rankled this regime with his personality.
“Yeah, he is (worth the extension),” Sanders told MLive last week at the Super Bowl. “He’s one of the best in the game, right? He’s a Pro Bowler, right? I think they should.”
Sanders thinks splitting with Slay would be a mistake for a team that needs more defensive playmakers, not fewer, and Detroit should be building around him, not replacing him. Slay is hoping that happens too, already reaching out to prized Ohio State cornerback prospect Jeff Okudah.
“(Slay’s) good, man,” Sanders said. “One of the best in the game. I hope they can get another guy out there who can oppose him on the other side.”
Finding help for Slay if the team is able to agree to a new deal would be huge as well. From Jeffrey Okudah to Chris Harris, some names have already been rumored to be in the mix to help the Lions out.
A key component is figuring out what to do with Slay first and foremost, and as Sanders rightly presumes, the Lions should work hard to keep him in the mix.
Darius Slay Stats
Slay has been elite since being a second round draft pick of the Lions back in 2013, and has developed into one of the elite shut down corners in the entire league. He’s also a star for the Lions in the community, and arguably, is one of the top faces of the franchise at this point in time.
This past offseason, Slay missed the OTA period for Detroit amid wanting a new contract. While the Lions haven’t worked anything out with him, they also haven’t closed the door on making his re-signing a priority in the future, meaning a trade is possible if the team wants to move on. Slay also had a strong reaction to the team dealing Quandre Diggs for a draft pick a few months ago.
There’s simply no doubting the importance of him to the team in both the short and the long term. For that reason, keeping Slay around should be a slam dunk.
Analyst: Lions Must Decide Darius Slay’s Future
In the defensive backfield, the Lions have struggled, and they have a major decision to make with Slay. Once the subject of trade rumors, Slay could be a player that finds himself on the move again, and the team will have a big choice to make with the cornerback.
Recently, Pro Football Focus writer Ben Linsey took a look at naming the biggest offseason needs for teams in the league. When it came to Detroit, the site named finding a succession plan for Slay as the biggest need. Behind that, pass rush and linebacker remain holes the team needs to consider.
Here’s what Linsey wrote:
“Slay has widely been considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the past five or so years, and he has been exactly that. This season, though, he took a step back with a 56.9 overall grade, and he is set to enter free agency in 2021. Outside of Slay, Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin (free agent in 2020) both struggled with passer ratings allowed north of 100.0 and coverage grades south of 60.0. Rookie cornerback Amani Oruwariye flashed some promising performances to close the season, but the Lions still need to address the position.
Surprisingly, given the addition of Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to a talented group from the 2018 season, the Lions also need to add pass rushing this offseason. Their 30.3% pressure rate this season ranked 29th in the NFL — ahead of only the Dolphins, Seahawks and Falcons. Getting someone other than Flowers who can rush the passer should be in the cards. They should look to improve their linebacking corps, as well, as Jarrad Davis (40.4 overall grade) and Christian Jones (43.8) both finished the 2019 season with PFF grades among the worst at the position.”
As a whole, the spots of cornerback, defensive end and linebacker do seem to be the biggest needs the team has entering the offseason. Deciding whether to keep Slay and draft at the position and also sign a free agent seems to be the one decision that will determine how things end up for Detroit.
Figuring out how to navigate those waters and what to do with Slay are the biggest goals for the Lions this offseason.
According to Sanders, keeping Slay in the mix is the only proper way to proceed.
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