Lions to Release Former Falcons Cornerback: Report

Desmond Trufant

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Desmond Trufant of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after intercepting a pass by Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 24, 2019.

According to Adam Schefter, senior NFL insider for ESPN, the Detroit Lions have informed cornerback Desmond Trufant that they plan to release him at the start of the new league year [March 17th]. It was only a year ago that the Lions signed the former Atlanta Falcons first-round pick to a two-year, $19.5 million contract, hoping to plug him in as a replacement for three-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay.

Desmond Trufant’s Experience in Detroit

Yet Trufant, 30, suffered a hamstring injury in Detroit’s 2020 season opener against the Chicago Bears, which sidelined him off-and-on throughout the season before he was finally placed on injured reserve in early December.

Limited by his hamstring, he started just six games and recorded only 20 tackles (16 solo), with one sack, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and one sack.

To say that he was a liability in coverage would be an understatement, as opponents generated a 111.3 passer rating when targeting him and he earned a woeful 36.7 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Yet Trufant was still an above-average cornerback as recently as 2019. That year he had a career-high four interceptions and earned a 70.2 grade from PFF, even though he missed seven games due to injury (toe, broken forearm).

He could still be a good option for a team in need of a cornerback—particularly a team that is looking for depth and wouldn’t need to rely on him as a starter.

Moreover, with the salary cap going down by approximately $20 million in 2021, the market for thirty-something defenders with significant injury history figures to be especially weak, so Trufant might be willing to sign a one-year contract for a modest salary. The fact that he has $3.5 million in guaranteed money coming from the Lions in 2021 figures to make such a deal much more palatable for him.

Desmond Trufant’s History with the Falcons

Trufant, 30, entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the Falcons (No. 22 overall) in 2013, having played his college football at the University of Washington.

He made 97 starts in seven seasons in Atlanta, during which time he was responsible for 329 tackles (272 solo), as well 97 passes defensed, 13 interceptions, nine tackles for loss, five sacks and six quarterback hits. He also earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015. In the majority of his years with the Falcons he played close to a hundred percent of the defensive snaps, with 2016 (53%) and 2019 (50%) being notable exceptions. But after an injury-challenged 2019, the Falcons decided to part ways with him, hence the aforementioned contract with the Lions.

If Desmond Trufant somehow fails to get an NFL contract this year, it will be the first time since 2003 that there won’t be a Trufant playing cornerback in the league. His brother Marcus Trufant was drafted by Seattle in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft (No. 11 overall) and played for the Seahawks for ten seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2007. Meanwhile, his brother Isaiah Trufant played in 39 games with the New York Jets between 2010-13, with one start.

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