Lions Pushed to Trade ‘Weakest Link’ Veteran From Roster Before Season

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

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

The Detroit Lions are starting to have enough talent and depth on their roster where tough decisions will have to be made in the future with many players both young and old.

At a spot like the offensive line, those choices might only be harder into the future considering the level of play at the position. Ahead of 2022, some think that the Lions should think about moving a veteran player via trade.

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According to Sobleski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the “weakest link” for the team’s solid offensive line. As a result, he has named Vaitai the one player the Lions should trade ahead of the season in a Bleacher Report piece.

As Sobleski wrote of Vaitai, “his level of play isn’t commensurate with his pay. Vaitai signed a five-year, $45 million contract prior to the 2020 season when the Lions were trying to build up their trenches.”

Now that Detroit has theoretically beefed up those trenches on the offensive side, Sobleski thinks a good way for the team to start streamlining their roster would be to ship Vaitai out, not just for the cost savings but for the experience it could provide a younger more cost-effective player.

“A Vaitai trade would save Detroit $7 million, and his spot can be capably filled by Evan Brown, who started 12 games last season for an injured Ragnow, Logan Stenberg or Tommy Kraemer,” he wrote.

Detroit will have to make some tough calls with some young players up front, and if they want to keep some of those names, many veterans on the borderline may have to go. Vaitai still seems like he is solid enough to be entrenched for the team now, but not everyone thinks he should be sticking around for 2022.


Vaitai Offers Lions Depth After 2021 Resurgence

While dealing Vaitai might save the Lions some cash both now and in the future, the fact remains he was part of the reason the team was able to look competent last season up front. The veteran guard had a major bounce-back season playing in and starting 15 games. That compared to just 10 starts from an injury-riddled 2020 season. The best part about Vaitai’s work? The Lions were able to get him to the point where he looked invisible on the field, which is significant for an offensive lineman. Vaitai’s play helped turn things around during a year when the Lions suffered plenty of major injuries, meaning it could be interesting to see how he would trend with a much healthier line in 2022. With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember Vaitai was signed by Bob Quinn and the team’s previous staff, meaning he could be re-evaluated soon.

Vaitai himself seems to think that the Lions will be in good shape this coming season up front, and he is bullish on the group being one of the best in the NFL.


Vaitai’s Career Highlights & Statistics

Vaitai, out of TCU in college, is only 26 years old and has 20 career starts under his belt from his time with the Eagles which is where he started his career. Vaitai has also played in 55 NFL games in his career, and was a former fifth round pick of the Eagles from back in 2016.

Vaitai helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII a few years back, and is an up and coming lineman in the league given these facts. A big selling point when he came to Detroit was his ability to play either tackle spot or guard, even though Vaitai is an offensive tackle by trade. In Detroit, he’s done a bit of both so far but been used at guard most regularly which is where he started in 2021. The results weren’t great early, but that could have plenty to do with his injury in 2020 given how he bounced back to start 15 games while looking solid.

Last season, Vaitai played well up front for the team amid a decent season for the offensive line all things considered. At this point, some think the team’s best option could be to sell high on their veteran lineman.

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