Posted February 13, 2014

Detroit Lions cut Louis Delmas, Nate Burleson

Detroit Lions, NFC North
Louis Delmas has missed 15 games in five seasons. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Louis Delmas has missed 15 games in five seasons. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Detroit Lions were counting on safety Louis Delmas and wide receiver Nate Burleson to play critical roles in 2013. Delmas lived up to those expectations, playing 16 games for the first time in his career and seeing the field for 98 percent of Detroit’s defensive snaps. Burleson fell short, after breaking his arm in an odd, pizza-related car accident prior to the season.

Both now are looking for new teams.

The Lions cut Delmas and Burleson on Thursday, moves that will free up $11 million-plus off of their 2014 salary cap — previously, Detroit had been between $5-6 million over the projected line. The money saved may take the sting off losing two key veteran presences inside the team’s locker room, no small hit given the Lions’ issues with a lack of discipline during the now-terminated Jim Schwartz era.

Burleson had developed into an especially strong voice, on the team and in the public eye. He never quite delivered the way Detroit wanted on the field, however. The Lions signed him to a five-year deal before the 2010 season in hopes that he could play the complementary role to Calvin Johnson. Instead, Burleson maxed out at 757 yards receiving in the team’s postseason run of 2011, then missed a total of 17 games over the 2012 and ’13 campaigns.

Delmas’ importance in the secondary was made evident by the two-year, $9.5 million contract he was handed last offseason despite sitting out eight games in 2012 and constantly struggling with injuries. The Lions were extra cautious with him prior to Week 1, allowing him to sit out the majority of training camp and the playoffs to keep him healthy. The plan worked.

The 26-year-old Delmas may find himself a wanted man on the free-agent market (and because he was released, he can sign anywhere at any time, as opposed to waiting for the official start of free agency next month). Outside of Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, there may not be another available safety with as complete a game the former Lion.

His absence almost certainly will force the Lions to focus heavily on their safety spots for the second straight offseason. They were able to convince ex-Texan Glover Quin to sign with them a year ago, and he now needs a running mate where Delmas stood.

With or without Burleson in the fold, the Lions also figured to upgrade at receiver. Their positioning at No. 10 overall in the NFL Draft could give them a shot at one of the top options there: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans or others. This year’s free-agent class also appears to be rather receiver-heavy, from Denver’s Eric Decker to San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin and down through less heralded targets.

Who inherits the leadership roles vacated by Burleson and Delmas may be a trickier puzzle to solve. Huge contracts for Ndamukong Suh (whose 2014 cap hit currently sits above $22 million), Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson made some losses inevitable. These might linger.

FARRAR: NFC North free agency primer

11 comments
giwan1259
giwan1259

They need to get rid of more. Their management has hamstrung the team with the contracts they created

TomMaddocks
TomMaddocks

Delmas has never been the same since he wrecked the 2nd knee. The 1st one was bad enough, but the 2nd............

RandyBrown
RandyBrown

The writer grossly over inflates the on-field value of Delmas.  He was a major liability last season on a team that had major issues in the defensive backfield.   

strawwalker
strawwalker

@giwan1259  I agree the Lions need a lot more cap space than this. I'm guessing twice as much. New draft picks, and they have a 10 spot pick, which is not going to be cheap. They will need to sign at least one FA, either CB, DE or WR, and that is always expensive. 

northtowntv
northtowntv

@RandyBrown I agree Delmas was not on the field a lot during his tenure with Detroit.  Secondly, he was one player who always seemed to draw a lot of penalties, unnecessary ones that has Detroit labeled as undisciplined.  More to follow??

pirate
pirate

@PackersFanNumeroUno    The last thing Burelson is is a bum. He's a class guy, and a strong locker room presence. The problem is, at his age, the second to the last thing he is is a reliable, strong second option at receiver.

JeffreyClinansmith
JeffreyClinansmith

@KennethGray @RandyBrown  No he did not. Levy led the team in Interceptions last year and Mathis lead the team in deflected passes. Way to put out wrong information there Mr. Gray. Levy was second in passes deflected with a 15-9 edge over Delmas. Your statement is off my friend.