The Lions are releasing cornerback Nevin Lawson, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The move saves the Lions $4.675MM against the cap and leaves the club with just $1.125MM in dead money. 2019 would have been the final year of the two-year, $9.2MM pact that Lawson inked last March.
Although ESPN’s Josina Anderson appeared to confirm the news as soon as RapSheet reported it (via Twitter), Detroit beat writers were a little less certain. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press said that the Lions have not yet notified Lawson that he is being cut, and that the club is “working through some things” with the sixth-year pro (Twitter links). It could be that the Lions were asking Lawson to accept a pay cut or perhaps delay the $1.25MM roster bonus that he was due later this week.
Likewise, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News tweeted that he has not received any confirmation of the Lawson release. But Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, citing ESPN’s Adam Schefter, says that the release is a done deal.
Given the cap savings and Lawson’s impact on the team’s defense, the decision is not surprising. Lawson started 14 games for the Lions last year, 15 games in 2017, and all 16 in 2016, but he has yet to record an interception in his NFL career. He is a decent member of a DB rotation, but he is not a top-flight starter. Rothstein speculates that the Lions could use their cap space (up to about $45MM after the Lawson release) to pursue a high-profile free agent like Trey Flowers or Landon Collins.
Lawson will likely be scooped up in the second wave of free agency, and he may even return to Detroit at a reduced rate. The Lions selected the Utah State product in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.