Mayhew’s comments came during a meeting with the media on January 28th about changes that would be made after last year’s disappointing 4-12 record. Apparently, he was not impressed with the 2012 performances of wide receiver Titus Young, guard Stephen Peterman and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch as they were released by the Lions this week.
Vanden Bosch will be missed most because he mentored the younger defensive linemen and was one of the vocal leaders on the Lions defense. But as I wrote in a setup article for a six-part analysis of the Lions, the team and its fans need to review and acknowledge some hard facts and deal with the departure of some popular/valuable football players.
“Guys that performed well this season ... those guys are in different situations than guys that didn't perform well.” Mayhew told the media. “When you win four games, you're looking for your under-performers. That's really what it's about.”
Young was an embarrassment on and off the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterman was the lowest-ranked starting offensive guard in the NFL last season. Vanden Bosch’s productivity dropped significantly in 2012. He finished with 3.5 sacks and no forced fumbles. In the playoff year of 2011, Vanden Bosch had eight sacks and four forced fumbles.
Money Was and Is a Factor
The salary cap is designed to keep financial order in the NFL. Whether you love it or hate it, the reality is each NFL team is expecting the 2013 cap to be approximately $121 million. It isn’t much when you consider most teams have 60-70 players under contract.
According to my calculations, the Lions were $1 million over the cap at the end of January. They will take a $900,000 salary cap hit for cutting former 2nd round draft pick Titus Young.
On the positive side of the ledger, the release of Vanden Bosch will save $5 million dollars and another $3.25 million was trimmed against the cap after cutting Peterman. It takes the Lion payroll down to $114.4 million for 2013, but they still need to be at least $20 million under the cap to sign draft picks and free agents.
In steps #2 and #3 of my six-part series, I recommended Detroit trade defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for draft picks and not re-sign defensive end Cliff Avril and safety Louis Delmas. Mayhew has obviously decided his early moves will concentrate on discarding nonproductive players with sizable contracts.
If he is truly convinced that Suh and Matthew Stafford are key playmakers on this team, Mayhew and Lions President Tom Lewand must aggressively renegotiate contracts with their star defensive tackle and quarterback. They must be long-term deals that eliminate at least another $15 million in 2013 payroll by mid-April.
Draft Strategy Is Clearer
The release of Young, Peterman and Vanden Bosch also make the NFL draft predictions posted in January look better. They include the selection of two defensive ends, two safeties, one cornerback and one offensive lineman with their regular draft picks. If they trade Suh, look for the Lions to use those two picks to draft another offensive lineman and either a running back or wide receiver.
“We're the 4th best team in a four-team division,” Mayhew said. “We didn't beat anybody in the division the whole season, so clearly, we're not good enough, and we've got to make some changes."
Change is good in the NFL, especially if it produces wins and keeps you under the salary cap.
Next Article - Now that the Lions have cut Vanden Bosch, Peterman and Young, it's time for the final article in the six-part series - Step #6: Fill roster spots with medium and low-cost free agents.