Lions Veteran Agrees to Major Restructure to Boost Detroit’s Cap Space

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Getty Halapoulivaati Vaitai celebrates with D'Andre Swift during a Lions game in Minneapolis.

The Detroit Lions have done their diligence this offseason to make sure they can have as much cap space as possible to fill out their needs, and another shoe dropped in this matter on Thursday, March 23.

Quietly, the Lions managed to check off a big question mark about the offseason, getting a contract restructure with guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Details of the restructure began to surface on the internet early in the morning.

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press pointed out, Vaitai’s base salary was lowered from $9.4 million to $3 million for the 2023 season. Additionally, 2024 was voided, meaning Vaitai will be a free agent next offseason instead of being on the books.

“Vaitai base salary now at $3M, was $9.4M for 2023 with 2024 voiding. So he’ll be a FA after this season, Lions get more cap relief,” Birkett tweeted.

The deal will save the Lions over $6 million dollars against the cap, while letting them keep a player around who has managed to give them good minutes. When combined with other restructures, it puts the Lions in the neighborhood of about $25 million in cap space.

This week, the Lions already managed to get another major restructure, having Romeo Okwara slash his pay. The fact that a pair of veterans elected to stay on new deals instead of simply force a trade or release has proven striking to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News.

“Lions could have cut Okwara and Vaitai, but I find it interesting they got both to agree to significant pay cuts that actually saved more cap space in 2023,” Rogers tweeted.

That could point to the notion of a solid culture for the Lions, something it’s looked as if the team was building and fostering for a while now. The veterans agreeing to slashes in pay to stay is certainly interesting, and shows a commitment to the coach and the roster.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai Restructure Pathway to Cap Space

The move with Vaitai is a welcome one, because it seemed since the start of the offseason that the team could target him for a restructure to clear cap space.

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 likely complecated matters given he missed 2022 with a back injury.

If Vaitai had been released, 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. Detroit gets to keep him while also lowering his overall cap hit. Vaitai might be staying on the roster because the team is happy with the depth and starting chops he provides to the line.

Restructures with Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara have already been revealed. It seems Vaitai was the team’s best shot to gain a little bit more money under the cap, and they managed to do so with the move.

What Lions Could Do With Cap Space

Why have the Lions been doing so many restructures? Many could make the argument it’s to set up a bigger move for the team in the near future, potentially via trade or free agency signing.

Detroit still has needs at defensive tackle and linebacker, and could also potentially want to add another wide receiver or tight end to the mix. Doing those things isn’t going to be cheap, and there could be lots of options on the market that the team could explore.

At linebacker, the team could add another big-ticket item like Bobby Wagner, who many see as a fit thanks to his playmaking and veteran prowess. In terms of the defensive line, the free agency market is a bit barren, but a trade could always be explored there. At wideout, DJ Chark could eventually return. At tight end, Irv Smith, Cameron Brate and Geoff Swaim remain on the market.

While all of that sounds appealing, it’s also true that Brad Holmes could simply be setting himself up to have plenty of wiggle room the rest of the offseason and into the NFL draft. He might also be looking to save money for future deals the Lions have to do with key in-house free agents.

Either way, the Lions now have plenty of money to play with, and theoretically, they aren’t finished with the offseason. That’s exciting for fans to note in late March.

Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x