Lions Former Second-Round Pick Pegged Cut Candidate

Levi Onwuzurike

Getty's All Lions' Christian Booher proposed the Detroit Lions releasing former second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike.

The Detroit Lions have more than $48 million to spend in free agency. According to Spotrac, they have the eighth-most cap space in the NFL as of February 14.

But’s All Lions’ Christian Booher explored ways Detroit could open even more cap space. Booher argued that one move the team could make to create more cap room is releasing defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike.

“Onwuzurike has had an underwhelming start to his career after being a 2021 second-round pick,” Booher wrote. “A decision to part ways with the Washington product this offseason would generate just under $1.8 million in cap savings.

“Onwuzurike still has potential to be an impact player for the Lions, so he may be a tough player to move on from. However, he was a healthy scratch at points and played in just 10 regular season games.”

In 10 games last season, Onwuzurike posted 5 combined tackles, including 1 tackle for loss. He also had 2 quarterback hits and 1 sack.

Onwuzurike, who the Lions drafted at No. 41 overall during the second round in the 2021 NFL draft, has just 2 sacks in 26 NFL games.

Why the Lions Could Cut Defensive Lineman Levi Onwuzurike

As Booher outlined, Onwuzurike has largely been a disappointment for Detroit. He didn’t have a major impact as a rookie and then missed his entire second season with a back injury.

Onwuzurike underwent back surgery during the team’s bye week in October 2022.

Coming off back surgery, Onwuzurike again made a minimal impact in 2023. As a result, his playing time decreased. The Lions made him a healthy scratch for 7 contests and when he dressed, Onwuzurike only played 21% of the team’s defensive snaps.

He lined up for 37% of Detroit’s defensive snaps in 2021.

The Lions could likely find a better option as a defensive line rotational piece. It’s paramount the Lions upgrade their pass rush as they head into 2024 as Super Bowl contenders. Detroit finished last season tied for 23rd in sacks, 27th in pass defense and 29th in yards allowed per pass attempt.

However, given that cutting Onwuzurike only yields $1.8 million of cap space, the Lions could easily decide to give him one more season to prove himself. Onwuzurike, who will turn 26 on March 2, will become a free agent in March 2025.

Onwuzurike’s back surgery is another reason not to give up on the defensive lineman. Lions defensive line coach John Scott argued as much in front of the media in November.

“With Levi I think we sometimes forget, Levi basically missed a year and a half of football,” Scott said on November 7, via The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “That’s a huge learning curve when you’re not able to get out on the field, so Levi’s another guy that he has some great talent and we see progression every day.”

Other Potential Lions Cut Candidates

While cutting Onwuzurike doesn’t offer much reward in cap saving, other possible cut candidates do.

Booher wrote that releasing left tackle Taylor Decker and safety Tracy Walker III would result in the biggest cap savings. The Lions could gain $15.3 million in cap space by releasing Decker and Walker.

However, it’s highly unlikely the Lions cut Decker. A much more plausible outcome with Decker, who has been a longtime starter and has one year left on his current deal, this offseason would be a contract extension that lowers his cap hit for 2024.

Unlike Decker, though, Walker appears to be a realistic cut candidate. Walker started six games in 2023 before losing his job to younger safety Ifeatu Melifonwu.

The last cut candidate Booher mentioned was defensive end John Cominsky.

Cominsky only had 2 sacks, but he was a solid starter for 11 games during 2023.

The Lions are in a very good situation with the salary cap even without cutting any of these players. But if Detroit wants or needs additional space, cutting Onwuzurike is a move that could provide that.

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