The Detroit Lions saved $11.5 million toward next year’s salary cap by releasing wide receiver Nate Burleson and safety Louis Delmas. Still with hopes of reaching a long-term deal with Ndamukong Suh, Thursday’s moves put the Lions more than $5 million under the projected cap of $126 million.
Pro Football Talk reported that the Lions still have interest in Delmas, but at a reduced salary. Delmas, who will first test the open market, played in all 16 games last season after missing 13 games over the previous two seasons. Although the former second-round pick survived the season without missing a game, many question his ability to play at the level he once did.
Delmas averaged four tackles a game during his first four NFL seasons, making him on pace for 64 tackles in a 16-game season. However, his ball-hawking style of play led to constant injuries that kept him on the sidelines for long periods of time. Delmas clearly made an effort to change his style of play in 2013: although he did play in every single game, his role in the run game was greatly reduced and he recorded just 49 tackles on the year.
If the former Lions safety finds a new home, Detroit may look for his replacement in the NFL Draft. Outside of Glover Quinn, who will be the starter at one safety position, the Lions remaining safeties include Don Carey, Dejon Gomes, and recent waiver claim Isa Abdul-Quddus (New Orleans Saints). Currently, the top safeties in this year’s draft are Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
Unlike Delmas, it appears that the Lions did not have any interest in bringing back wide receiver Nate Burleson at a reduced rate. Burleson, who was in the last year of his deal, told MLive that he was willing to take a major pay cut in order to return next season and had hopes of finishing his career in Detroit. The 32-year-old was not only a fan favorite, but was a team leader who was highly respected throughout the locker room.
Burleson has clearly been the Lions’ second-best receiver since first joining the team in 2010, making 194 receptions (12 for touchdowns) for 2,083 yards over four seasons. Detroit may have been unwilling to rely on the veteran for another year due to his struggle with injuries over the past two seasons, which caused him to miss 17 games. The Lions will still look to target the wide receiver position, most likely in the early stages of the draft.
With Burleson now out of the picture, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi may look to feature Reggie Bush in the slot much more often than last year. The growth of Joique Bell can allow the new offensive coordinator to feature an array of packages with both running backs on the field, just as his former team (the New Orleans Saints) did with Darren Sproles and others.
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