4:43pm: The Lions waited until Tulloch passed his physical in order to avoid having to pay him $1.1MM as part of an injury protection settlement, Birkett reports. Tulloch previously said the long wait did not stem from an injury-related issue, but the linebacker took several physicals this offseason.
3:44pm: Tulloch had surgery this year, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter), and didn’t pass a physical until today. That explains the lengthy delay and could certainly affect his market, particularly at this juncture.
3:31pm: After months of Stephen Tulloch residing in limbo, the Lions released the longtime linebacker, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com reports. The 31-year-old veteran will be free to sign with any team. However, being cut nearly four months after free agency began does not help the 11th-year player.
The Lions will save $6MM by making this move after completing an odyssey that began in February.
We heard three weeks before free agency was set to open the Lions were planning to release the five-year starter, and Tulloch even thanked the team that day only to be kept on the roster until well after offseason workouts concluded. In waiting for Tulloch to pass the physical, the Lions weren’t in a rush to conclude this process after already paying him the $500K roster bonus he was owed, Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk reports.
“Obviously, I was told back in February that the team kind of wanted to go in a younger direction, which is understandable, but we had some things to work out in between, between that, that’s why kind of things haven’t really unfolded,” Tulloch said in June.
“[I’ve] just been training, getting ready. I know that a couple people reached out when they found out earlier in the off-season [I was going to be released], but obviously it’s been 3 1/2 months.”
Tulloch, who was excused from minicamp during this hiatus, won’t have much time to assimilate at his next destination if he is to land elsewhere. The former fourth-round pick in 2006 led the Lions with 108 tackles last season and started 15 games. The N.C. State product started 67 contests with the Lions, who signed him in 2011 after he spent the first five seasons of his career with the Titans. However, Tulloch’s career turned somewhat during September 2014, when he tore his ACL celebrating a sack.
The Lions did not use Tulloch much on passing downs last season upon his return from surgery, however, diminishing his value.
Lions GM Bob Quinn said recently the team had been in contact with several UFAs this offseason, and Detroit is in position to make a move if it so chooses. After this release, 88 players reside on the Lions’ roster. And the team stands to possess more than $20MM in cap space.
Tahir Whitehead will continue to work as a three-down linebacker for the Lions and looks set to step into Tulloch’s middle linebacker spot in Detroit’s base defense, Birkett writes, with 2014 second-round pick Kyle Van Noy set to receive the first crack at starting at the other outside spot.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.