Since the off-season began, the Detroit Lions have made it very clear that they have no problem giving up money to sign and re-sign players but in the case of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Lions plan on keeping their money to themselves. According to Detroit Lions insider and writer, Tim Twentyman, the Lions have chosen to not exercise the fifth-year option of his rookie deal for 2015 at a price of $5.5 million.
I can’t say that I blame them. Fairley, who was the No. 13 pick of the 2011 draft, has been extremely inconsistent since being drafted by the Lions. In his rookie season back in 2011, he only played in 10 games mainly because of injury and he missed three more games in 2012 due to injuries.
Now he did have a good season last year, finishing this season with 35 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a safety and a touchdown. There is no doubt that he had good performances especially against certain teams like the Bears and Giants but he has also developed a habit of being inconsistent for games or vanishing for games. The Lions didn’t draft him to vanish or be inconsistent.
Apparently Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, feels the same way according to his statement to the press about Fairley.
“He’s a phenomenal talent,” Mayhew said. “This guy can be whatever he wants to be. That’s probably why I’m on him so hard…If you look at him vs. Suh, he probably has better lateral quickness than Ndamukong does, he’s probably slightly a better athlete and definitely runs better in a straight line than Ndamukong. Ndamukong is a more powerful guy and he performs more consistent week in and week out.”
“I can tell you right now, wherever (Suh) is right now, he’s doing something to make him better either from a football standpoint or a business standpoint for next season,” Mayhew said. “That’s what he’s doing as we speak right now. That’s what the difference right now is between the two guys.”
“It’s an opportunity for him to go out and perform his best this offseason, perform his best during the season and hopefully it helps him become the best player he can possibly be.
“(The option) is $5.5 million dollars and I have to ask myself is he a $5.5 million player? There’s some performances where he is. There’s some performances where he’s not.
“I think it’s going to be an incentive for him to have an outstanding offseason and an outstanding season. That’s what I want more than anything else.”
Everything Mayhew said was correct. Fairley is talented and there is no doubt that he has the potential to be a great performer on a consistent basis but the Lions are not going to pay him money he hasn’t earned and deserved. I don’t know about you but for the Lions that’s saying a lot considering in the past they have paid players money they didn’t deserve. Most recently they re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew to four-year deal worth $16 million, which caused a lot of controversy but in this case, the Lions seem to be sticking to their guns and I like it.
According to DetroitLions.com, Fairley’s agent, Brian Overstreet, told Mayhew that Fairley responded positively to the news that his fifth year option won’t be getting picked up.
“I’ve been in contact with (Fairley) and his agent (Brian Overstreet) and with talking with Brian, Nick was kind of juiced up about that. He was excited about that,” Mayhew said of Fairley’s reaction to the team not picking up his option.
Now obviously actions speak louder than words but it is still nice to hear that he taking the news in a positive way and looks forward to being challenged. At the end of the day, the Lions want him to be a competitor and play at the highest level possible.
However, just like any situation, there are risks in this move by the Lions. If Fairley performs well like the Lions hope, he could very well test the free agency market and try to go somewhere else and leave the Lions completely. Since the Lions won’t be exercising the fifth year option of Fairley, the Lions only have one defensive tackle under contract for next season and that tackle is Ndamukong Suh. With that being said the Lions have more pressure on them to re-sign Suh. Now as of right now, the Lions seem confident that everything will be fine but if Suh doesn’t get re-signed, then the Lions could be possibly lose two key pieces to their defense.
I personally think this move is worth the risk that I just mentioned above but only time will tell. One thing is for sure, the Lions are smart to stick their guns and make Fairley earn his contract extension.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit