Nick Fairley provides plenty of bang for the buck (USA Today Sports Images)
The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Detroit Lions.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $121.5 million (3rd-lowest adjusted cap number in the NFL in 2013)
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $5.216 million (22nd in the NFL, as of July 19, 2013)
Best Bargain: One season after drafting defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Lions doubled down on interior defensive linemen and selected Nick Fairley with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Suh's contract included $40 million in guaranteed money over five seasons, while Fairley's deal was worth a total of $9,889,000, all of which was guaranteed.
[Related: Lions are still a work in progress]
Fairley has battled injury and off-field issues during his first two seasons in the NFL, but the former Auburn standout emerged as a force inside last season. In 13 games, including the first seven starts of his career, Fairley had 5.5 sacks and was second on the Lions with 11 tackles for a loss. Of course, those plays in the backfield were accompanied by eight flags for neutral zone infractions, encroachment and offsides, three "zebraspeak" ways of saying that Fairley needs to be more disciplined in 2013. Even with the penalties, Fairley's $1.274 million base salary and $2.697 million cap hit in 2013 are much-needed bargains for the Lions.
Potential Camp Cap Casualty: The Lions have already parted ways with expensive veterans Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman. The most likely candidates for release — Nate Burleson and Dominic Raiola — have already taken substantial pay cuts and should be safe, provided they're healthy and still in key roles when general manager Martin Mayhew is shaping the 53-man roster. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill is due $2.4 million in non-guaranteed base salary and his spot could be in jeopardy if either Kellen Moore or Thaddeus Lewis can demonstrate that they're capable of being the primary backup to Matthew Stafford this season. Veteran cornerback Ron Bartell appears to be buried behind Chris Houston and recent draftees Darius Slay, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green and his $1 million in non-guaranteed base salary could be on the chopping block.
Looming Contract Issue: On July 10, the Lions locked up Stafford with a three-year, $53 million extension that included $41.5 million in guaranteed money. Next up on the "to-do" list is Suh, who is signed through the 2014 season. To create cap space during the 2012 and 2013 offseasons, the Lions have turned to Suh to renegotiate his five-year, $60 million rookie contract. As a result, Suh's cap number next season has reached $21.4125 million. Suh can add $1.975 million to that, which the Lions would happily accept as a portion of that ($800,000) is tied to the Lions winning the Super Bowl in 2013.
If the Lions do not reach an extension with Suh before his contract expires in 2014, he will most likely become an unrestricted as the franchise tag would not be a viable option for the team to restrict Suh's movement. Assuming Suh triggers a relatively easy to achieve $1 million base salary escalator for 2014, the cost of franchising Suh in 2015 would rise to $26.895 million. The Lions will also be carrying $9.7375 million in leftover prorated amounts from the 2011 option bonus and pair of signing bonuses they issued in 2012 and 2013 on their 2015 cap.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Lions have 59 players signed for 2014 and the "Top 51" cap numbers on those contracts account for $134.26 million in salary cap commitments. The Lions will also have $1.1 million on "dead" money after releasing Jahvid Best on Thursday. If the salary cap remains flat, the Lions will have some serious trimming to do in 2014. Count the Lions among the teams that will be hoping the money from the new television contracts hits in a major way next offseason.
Previous salary cap outlooks
32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins
21. St. Louis Rams
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. Dallas Cowboys
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