Lions Could Face Tough Contract Decision With Veteran Lineman

Rick Wagner

Getty Rick Wagner going for a block against the Giants.

The Detroit Lions made a tough choice last week to slice veteran defensive lineman Damon Harrison from the roster, and a similar decision could be plaguing them along the offensive line.

Will the team move on from Rick Wagner this offseason? That’s something to watch according to Bleacher Report. Writer Brad Gagnon put together a list of the toughest contract decisions every team will have to make, and according to him, the Lions have a big choice to make with Wagner.

Detroit has to decide whether or not to keep Wagner in the mix. Here’s what Gagnon wrote about the decision:

“Quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t going anywhere with his dead-cap number ($32 million), and the Detroit Lions have already admitted they’re looking to trade cornerback Darius Slay ahead of a contract year. That leaves right tackle Rick Wagner’s contract as the most interesting deal on the payroll.

Wagner is due to make $11.9 million in each of the next two years, but the team can save $6.1 million by parting ways right now. The right tackle is on the wrong side of 30, he’s missed time in each of his three seasons in Detroit and he’s been far from reliable of late.

Are the Lions trying to contend? Or rebuild? It’s a little confusing considering rumors regarding Stafford, Slay trade chatter and last year’s decision to jettison starting safety Quandre Diggs. Regardless, they’ll have to decide if it’s worth keeping Wagner around for the experience and continuity that he brings to the line, or if they’re better off pocketing more than $6 million and getting younger at that position.”

If Detroit does release Wagner, it will open a gaping hole up front, which is why the decision likely isn’t to be taken lightly by the team.

Why Rick Wagner Could Become Lions Roster Casualty

The Lions haven’t gotten great results out of Wagner since signing him to a lucrative contract a few years back, and he’s seen injury as well as other troubles get in the way of him becoming a fantastic player. That’s tough too, considering Wagner’s contract status. He’s got an $11.9 million dollar cap hit this season, which is a high total. If the Lions want to save some money, they could release Wagner, even though it would open up another hole up front. They’ll have to weigh the potential savings against what Wagner has done on the field as they try to make their decision.

If the team was to replace Wagner, they would have the choice of either signing a free agent, going young with a player they’re developing like Tyrell Crosby or drafting another player at tackle in order to pitch in and start up front.

Lions Cap Space in 2020

Detroit will have a decent chunk of change to spend this offseason, having restructured Matthew Stafford’s deal to push their cap space to around $50 million dollars for the coming season. With this money, the Lions will have multiple different needs to address including the defensive line, secondary as well as potential upgrades on offense.

The Lions could always open up more space with a few savvy moves, and there could be other cap casualties that might impact the team’s final salary number more dramatically ahead of March. Cutting Wagner would be a decision which would help this.

Either way, the choice isn’t going to be an easy one for the Lions to make.

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