As a first-round pick under the the new CBA, Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley received a four-year deal with a fifth-year club option. As our Luke Adams wrote several weeks ago, the Lions declined to exercise that fifth-year option, which is worth about $5.5MM this season. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News says that the Lions’ decision in that regard is a “proactive risk.”
As McCosky writes, after several years of toiling at community college and Auburn, Fairley saw a “multi-million dollar-carrot dangling in front of him in the form of the NFL draft,” so Fairley re-dedicated himself in 2010. Indeed, “Fairley finally put in the time to get his body in shape, finally put in the time to understand the finer points of playing defensive tackle and, lo and behold, he became the most dominant player defensive player in the country, helping Auburn win the national championship.”
According to McCosky, the Lions are hoping that history repeats itself. By not picking up his option, Detroit hopes that Fairley will devote himself to his craft with the same intensity he displayed in 2010 and that the team will reap the rewards. Of course, if that should happen, then it will suggest that perhaps Fairley is one of those players that can consistently perform at an elite level only when he is at risk of losing a big payday.
Several other quick notes from Motown:
- Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press names Fairley as one of the five players for whom this offseason looms largest. He writes that the Lions continue to insist they are interested in a long-term deal with the big defensive tackle if he shows up to camp in shape and demonstrates a more consistent work ethic.
- Another player who faces a pivotal offseason, writes Birkett, is quarterback Kellen Moore. The Lions signed Dan Orlovsky several days ago, and although Moore could still win the job as Matthew Stafford‘s backup, ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein writes, “There was no way new Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who lost his job in Indianapolis in part due to not having an experienced backup behind Peyton Manning in 2011, was going to go into his first season without a seasoned backup.“
- In the same piece, Rothstein says it would not be a surprise to see the Lions draft a QB late to provide even more camp competition.