Lions Cap Space: Estimating How Much Detroit Has Left to Spend Now

Brad Holmes Rod Wood

Getty Brad Holmes and Rod Wood mix it up during Lions training camp in July 2021.

The Detroit Lions have gotten through the first week of NFL free agency, and have managed to make plenty of additions to their squad for the future.

Coming into free agency, the Lions had upwards of $20 million to spend after releases and restructures. Now, the Lions are figured to be bit south of that, but still have decent money with which to work.

Justin Rogers of the Detroit News crunched the numbers, and in spite of the fact that the Lions have made some recent moves that have not been completely revealed, there’s a good framework of the money left. As his calculation shows, the total is close to $15.9 million.

“Still waiting on structure for Glasgow (1/$4.5M) and CGJ (1/$8.5M) contracts, so they’re not included. Without them, but factoring in estimated cap hits for Detroit’s currently held draft slots, I’ve got the team sitting at $15.9 million in cap space,” he tweeted.

That’s a good amount of money, but as Rogers reminded, the team will not be ready to make huge moves to spend up or over the cap at all, as they will need some wiggle room to sign draft picks as well as make additions during the season.

“Remember, they won’t spend every dollar. They’ll need a buffer. Right now, only top 51 contracts count in that cap equation. Come regular season, all 53 players, plus the 16 man practice squad count. And you need to leave some room for midseason additions,” Rogers wrote on Twitter.

In terms of what the Lions have left to do, they could look to bring back DJ Chark or a wideout. They could also look at a linebacker addition, or a veteran tight end to provide some snaps. If moves don’t come at those spots, however, it might not be a surprise. The team could use the draft for all of those positions relative to having four picks in the top 60.

Either way, the Lions are in good shape right now. The team has spent money and shored up needs, but they haven’t broken the bank to do so, nor compromised their goals in terms of team building.

How Lions Could Create More Cap Space

The Lions have a few more moves they could make in order to clear more cap space, and the most obvious comes by either restructuring or releasing guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

In Vaitai, the Lions have a player who has seemed ripe for release given his contract situation. Vaitai is on the final two years of a five-year, $45 million dollar deal he signed in 2020. His injury history coming into 2023 may complicate matters given he missed 2022 with a back injury.

If Vaitai was released now, the Lions would save $6.5 million dollars. If he was designated a June 1 cut, the team would save save around $9.5 million dollars. Either way, that’s a considerable chunk of change. Vaitai might also stay on the roster, because the Lions haven’t moved quick on that front.

Restructures with Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara have already been revealed. It seems Vaitai is the team’s best shot to gain a little bit more money under the cap if they want it at this point.

Lions Could Make More Moves in Free Agency

Are the Lions done with free agency moves? Given the space they have, the team could have enough for a few more moderate additions to help fill needy roster spots for 2023.

In free agency, even after adding C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the mix in the defensive backfield, the team could look to sign an underrated free agent for the interior of the defensive line. Detroit might also like to bring in another linebacker to the mix to add some more veteran presence to that group.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions could decide to bring back wide receiver DJ Chark, who played a solid role for the team last season. Rumors of a reunion with Chark began to swirl late last week, and the extra cap space could be a catalyst for that move. Even if Chark doesn’t return, the team could look at another veteran wideout.

Additionally, the Lions might decide to look at a veteran tight end. That market offers some potential solutions for the Lions right now, and any could add a proven player to a spot that lacks a bit of bigger-name appeal.

Right now, the Lions remain in good shape because of some savvy moves by Brad Holmes. The fact that the team still has a very comfortable cap situation is a major tribute to him as the offseason rolls on.

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