The Detroit Lions have what looks to be a tightening roster bubble, and some surprises could be coming down the pipe as it relates to decisions.
Some veterans could have to go for the team in order to keep some younger players around, and a surprising name has been thrown out courtesy of Bleacher Report regarding someone who could go.
Writer Ian Wharton was charged to identify a player that each team should cut before the roster deadline, and for the Lions, Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the answer.
As Wharton wrote, Vaitai joined the team when the Lions had a shaky offensive front. Now that the narrative has changed, the team could save money and give a younger player a role while replacing their “weakest link” in Vaitai.
“A release of Vaitai would save Detroit $7 million, and his spot can be capably filled by Evan Brown, who started 12 games last season in place of an injured Ragnow, Logan Stenberg or Tommy Kraemer,” Wharton wrote.
Brown has played mostly at center, but the team does have guard depth, so the move isn’t out of the equation if the Lions do want to save money.
Still, it feels like the team will be happy to have a stable player like Vaitai giving them snaps in 2022.
Vaitai: Lions Line Focused on Being the Best
While some people are plotting a way to get rid of Vaitai already, it’s clear that the tackle has designs on sticking around and playing a big role for the team in 2022.
Talking to the media after practice on Thursday, August 4, Vaitai pulled no punches when talking about what he hopes for his position group. As he said, the goal is to be the best line in the NFL, and help the Lions have the best ground attack.
“Obviously our goal is to be (the) top offensive line. I feel like our goal is to be the top rushing (team) in the league. That’s our goal, and then be the best offensive line protecting. That’s our goal. The rest will take care of itself if we protect or run,” Vaitai revealed.
The reason for such a goal? As Vaitai explained, the lineman all have high standards for themselves and are pulling in the right direction.
“Our standard is really high as a unit. We want to be perfect so we can give Jared (Goff) some time to make his read, some checks,” he said. “Frank (Ragnow) does a really good job of of identifying the defense for us and helping us get in the right positions. So it’s really good. I feel like we’re working a lot, communicating with each other. It’s really good.”
To be the best, a team has to think like the best. Already, Vaitai and his line seem to have the right approach as it relates to chasing greatness. Perhaps this leadership could be a big reason he stays.
Vaitai’s Stats & Highlights
The notion that Vaitai hasn’t lived up to his deal might have a shred of truth to it only because it was a massive contract he signed before the 2020 season with former general manager Bob Quinn.
Vaitai’s deal pays him a total of $45 million dollars for five years, and doesn’t expire until after the 2024 season. Early on, Detroit didn’t get a huge return on investment from Vaitai thanks to the fact he was injured and played just 10 games in 2020.
That number increased to 15 in 2021 amid a bounce back season for the guard. If there’s good news, it’s that Vaitai is 29 years old and has also played in 80 NFL games in his career. He hasn’t been in the league terribly long after being a fifth-round pick in 2016.
Vaitai helped the Eagles win Super Bowl 52, and is a veteran piece with position versatility up front. A big selling point when he came to Detroit was his ability to play either tackle spot or guard In Detroit, he’s playing guard, but could flash at tackle if emergency struck.
Many think the team should simply cut bait with Vaitai, but it doesn’t seem like the team will do that. Still, it’s not stopping folks from suggesting that as the 2022 season draws near.
READ NEXT: Ex-GM Hints at Big Lions Trade