Even though the Lions declined his fifth-year option and demoted him to a reserve role, defensive tackle Nick Fairley says he still wants to stay with the Lions beyond this season, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Even though he’s bummed about not being a part of the first unit, he says that this offseason hasn’t made him question his future with the organization.
“What it means, I couldn’t tell you to be honest,” the the 6’5″, 291 pound lineman said. “I want to be here. I want to stay here in Detroit.”
General Manager Martin Mayhew had the option to exercise Fairley’s fifth-year option for just $5.5MM, but he opted against it due to Fairley’s inconsistency. That means that a strong 2014 season will make it difficult for the Lions to retain Fairley, but Mayhew said that he is hopeful the 26-year-old will use it as motivation. The former No. 13 overall pick has had his work ethic called into question throughout his NFL career, and a fat new contract could be the carrot on a stick that gets him to realize his potential.
Fairley has also struggled with weight issues in the past. He played as heavy as 322 pounds in 2013 and reported to camp last month at 308. After undergoing sleep apnea surgery this offseason, he dropped down to 295 pounds but poor eating habits spiked his weight once again. Currently, he’s weighing in at 315 pounds and sees that as a comfortable playing weight.
A starter when healthy his first three seasons, Fairley might not be more than a rotational two-down lineman in the Lions’ new defensive scheme, Birkett writes. The Lions have used Jason Jones as an inside rusher in sub packages this summer and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh rarely comes off the field.
In 15 games last season, Fairley recorded a career-high 6.0 sacks, 22 tackles, and a safety.