Lions Rumors

Lions Rumors: Gambling, Joseph, Gibbs

After the Lions were hit with multiple suspensions in April for player gambling violations and the announcement that the NFL was still investigating for further violations, Detroit has decided to take matters into its own hands, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive. The Lions are working to provide their players with a self-imposed supplemental education into the league’s policies on gambling.

The team’s violations led to the release of the players involved, except for former first-round pick Jameson Williams, who received a six-game suspension for making bets on non-NFL games while at the Lions’ facility. With so much damage done, head coach Dan Campbell gave some words on the team’s decision to implement further instruction.

“It’s much more an emphasis from us, as opposed to just leaving it to the league,” Campbell said. “Like, we need to make sure that we really hit this ourselves and make a point of it. We did, but obviously not enough. The proof’s in the pudding. So, for us, let’s take it out of their hands. They will have what they do every year, but now we need to put our own emphasis on it. And I think that is the best way to do it, is to highlight it.”

Here are a few other rumors coming out of the Motor City:

Lions Aiming To Have DL Levi Onwuzurike Healthy By Training Camp

The Lions have made a number of moves on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, but they could receive a boost if Levi Onwuzurike were able to return to the field. The defensive tackle is rehabbing a back injury which cost him the entire 2022 season.

The 25-year-old entered the league with health concerns related to his back dating to his college career. He was nevertheless able to suit up for 16 games as a rookie, totaling 35 tackles and one sack along the way. Expectations were relatively high for the former second-rounder entering heading into 2023, but an aggravation of his existing issue in the summer forced him onto IR.

Unable to rehab the injury to the point where he would be able to play again that year, Onwuzurike underwent surgery in October. That procedure was aimed at giving him the best chance of recovering and extending his career in the long term, but doubts understandably persist with respect to his playing future. When head coach Dan Campbell spoke about the situation in April, he left it up in the air whether Onwuzurike would be able to continue his time in the NFL. His most recent remarks paint a more optimistic picture, though.

“I would say he’s probably about right on schedule for what we thought,” Campbell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press“He just got on the grass, really about a week ago, to where he can begin to run… how fast can his body come back? We don’t entirely have that answer.”

Campbell left the door open to Onwuzurike having a notable role if he were able to return to full health in 2023. The Lions did little to address their defensive front during free agency, releasing veteran Michael Brockers while retaining a number of less expensive in-house options. They spent one of their two third-round picks in this year’s draft on Brodric Martin, who will look to earn a role during training camp in July. That is also roughly the point at which Detroit is aiming to have Onwuzurike back in the fold.

“Certainly, we’re hoping that we get him in camp at some point,” Campbell added. “But I can’t give you a timeline of that right now.”

2023 NFL Cap Space, By Team

The start of June has served as a key NFL financial period for decades. While teams no longer have to wait until after June 1 to make that cost-splitting cut designation, teams pick up the savings from those transactions today. With a handful of teams making post-June 1 cuts this year, here is how each team’s cap space (courtesy of OverTheCap) looks as of Friday:

  1. Chicago Bears: $32.58MM
  2. Carolina Panthers: $27.25MM
  3. Arizona Cardinals: $26.68MM
  4. New York Jets: $24.79MM
  5. Detroit Lions: $23.72MM
  6. Indianapolis Colts: $23.39MM
  7. Dallas Cowboys: $20.48MM
  8. Houston Texans: $16.81MM
  9. Green Bay Packers: $16.57MM
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers: $15.73MM
  11. Cincinnati Bengals: $14.92MM
  12. New Orleans Saints: $14.27MM
  13. New England Patriots: $14.12MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $13.9MM
  15. Cleveland Browns: $13.86MM
  16. Philadelphia Eagles: $13.85MM
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: $12.61MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $12MM
  19. Washington Commanders: $11.57MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $11.54MM
  21. San Francisco 49ers: $10.72MM
  22. Atlanta Falcons: $10.7MM
  23. Denver Broncos: $10.13MM
  24. Minnesota Vikings: $9.75MM
  25. Tennessee Titans: $7.99MM
  26. Seattle Seahawks: $7.94MM
  27. New York Giants: $3.82MM
  28. Las Vegas Raiders: $3.37MM
  29. Los Angeles Rams: $1.49MM
  30. Buffalo Bills: $1.4MM
  31. Kansas City Chiefs: $653K
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $402K

The Dolphins gained the most from a post-June 1 cut (Byron Jones) this year, creating $13.6MM in cap space from a deal that will spread out the cornerback’s dead money through 2024. But the Browns (John Johnson, Jadeveon Clowney) and Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott) created more than $10MM in space as well.

The Jets’ number is a bit deceiving. They are still working on a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, as the trade acquisition’s cap number — after a Packers restructure — sits at just $1.22MM. In 2024, that number skyrockets to $107.6MM. Rodgers’ cap hit will almost definitely will climb before Week 1, so viewing the Jets along with the other teams north of $20MM in space is not entirely accurate.

Minnesota is moving closer to separating from its $12.6MM-per-year Dalvin Cook contract. The team already created some space by trading Za’Darius Smith to the Browns. Cleveland, which is one of the teams connected to DeAndre Hopkins, added Smith and did so with help from its Deshaun Watson restructure. Watson was set to count $54.9MM against the Browns’ 2023 cap. That number is down to $19.1MM, though the Browns’ restructure both ballooned Watson’s mid-2020s cap figures to $63.9MM — which would shatter the NFL record — and added a 2027 void year.

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles sit atop the league in dead money, with the Bucs — largely from their April 2022 Tom Brady restructure — checking in at $75.3MM here. That total comprises nearly 33% of the Bucs’ 2023 cap sheet. The Rams, at more than $74MM, are not far behind. Despite the Bills and Chiefs — the teams most frequently tied to Hopkins — joining the Bucs and Rams near the bottom of the league in cap space, both AFC contenders also sit in the bottom five in dead money.

Traded NFL Draft Picks For 2024

As teams regroup on potential trade talks, 2024 draft picks represent the top non-player assets available. Although the usual run of draft-weekend trades featured teams moving up and down the 2023 board, a high number of 2024 picks have changed hands. The Cardinals resided at the center of such movement, but many other teams have already made changes to their 2024 draft arsenals. Three first-rounders have already been traded, and a fourth — barring an Aaron Rodgers injury — will be expected to transfer.

Here are the 2024 picks to have changed hands thus far:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

  • Lions obtained Vikings‘ pick in 2022 deadline deal that sent T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota
  • As part of Payton trade, Broncos collected Saints‘ third
  • As part of Anderson trade, Cardinals acquired Texans’ 2024 third
  • Cardinals picked up Titans‘ 2024 third in deal that allowed Tennessee to draft Will Levis at No. 33
  • Seahawks acquired third from Broncos in exchange for No. 83 overall pick (CB Riley Moss)
    • It is not yet known if Seattle will add Denver or New Orleans’ 2024 third
  • Texans landed third from Eagles in trade for No. 105 (CB Kelee Ringo)

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

  • Broncos acquired Rams‘ seventh in pick-swap deal for LB Kenny Young in October 2021
  • October 2021 Mark Ingram trade gave Texans seventh from Saints
  • Texans obtained seventh from Chiefs for DB Lonnie Johnson
    • Unknown conditions may keep pick from transferring
  • As part of Amadi swap, Eagles obtained seventh from Titans
  • Daley pick swap sent Titans seventh from Panthers
  • Jones pick swap sent Browns seventh from Falcons
  • In Johnathan Hankins pick-swap trade, Cowboys acquired Raiders‘ 2024 seventh
    • It is unknown which of Las Vegas’ 2024 sevenths will be sent to Dallas

Each NFL Franchise’s Richest QB Contract

The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.

On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Jay Cutler, January 2014. Seven years, $126.7MM. $38MM fully guaranteed

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Carson Palmer, December 2005. Six years, $97MM. $30.8MM fully guaranteed

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

In trading this contract to the Jets in April, the Packers restructured the deal. Rodgers’ exit will still tag the Pack with $40.3MM in 2023 dead money.

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ 2020 extension checked in with a higher AAV ($33MM) but did not approach his initial Minnesota pact for guarantees.

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Mark Sanchez, June 2009. Five years, $50.5MM. $28MM guaranteed

This was the former No. 5 overall pick-turned-TV analyst’s rookie deal, made possible before the 2011 CBA reshaped the rookie salary structure. Chad Pennington‘s September 2004 extension (seven years, $64MM, $23MM guaranteed) marks the top contract the Jets have authorized for a veteran QB.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Lions S Tracy Walker Eyeing Training Camp Return

One of the early developments so far from Lions OTAs has been the sight of Tracy Walker with the team. The veteran safety is taking part in on-field work during his ongoing recovery from an Achilles tear.

“It feels great to be back,” Walker said, via Tim Twentyman of the team’s website“I can’t hide the emotions, you know? It’s a blessing. I’m very excited. Honestly, I missed it. It’s hard to explain. It was cool I got time to spend at home with my family but at the end of the day I missed ball.”

The 28-year-old went down with the Achilles injury in Week 3, which marked a major blow to the Lions’ secondary. Walker had led the team in tackles early in the campaign, as he did the previous season. 2021 marked the second time in which he eclipsed 100 tackles, and he added one interception and six pass deflections, confirming his status as a key member of the team’s defense. Two years remain on his current contract, a $25MM extension signed last March.

In Walker’s absence, Detroit struggled mightily on that side of the ball for much of the season, one in which a late playoff push fell just short. If the former third-rounder can return to form, though, he should be counted on to play a signficant role alongside Kerby Joseph, who saw a large uptick in usage as a rookie with Walker sidelined last season.

Walker indicated that he expects to return in full during training camp in July, barring any setbacks. Presuming he is healed by that point, he will join Joseph, free agent addition C.J. Gardner-Johnson and second-round rookie Brian Branch as a contributor on the backend facing considerable expectations. Improved play on defense would go a long way towards Detroit securing a postseason berth in 2023, and a healthy Walker could play a large role in achieving that goal.

DB Notes: Lions, Joseph, Oliver, Cardinals

A scary scene transpired during the Lions‘ Week 5 matchup with the Patriots. An ambulance transported Saivion Smith off the field, and the Lions defensive back said he feared paralysis following a collision with Patriots running back Damien Harris. Smith left the game after the next play, after falling to the turf after a routine tackle attempt on Hunter Henry. The backup DB, however, said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Jeff Seidel) he made a failed attempt to return to the stadium from the ambulance and regained arm and leg movement at the hospital. The neck injury he suffered ended up requiring spinal fusion surgery.

Smith received full Lions clearance in April, re-signing with the team that month. The 25-year-old cover man’s deal is worth $940K and contains no guaranteed money, giving the Lions — who overhauled their secondary this offseason — flexibility to move on free of charge. The Lions moved Smith to safety last season, but he offers versatility. With the Lions adding two other DBs with extensive backgrounds at both safety and corner — C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Brian Branch — Smith stands to compete for a backup role.

Here is the latest news from NFL secondaries:

  • After years of shuttling Jimmie Ward between safety and the nickel role, the 49ers let the veteran defender walk (to the Texans) this offseason. They will use free agency addition Isaiah Oliver to replace Ward in the slot, per new DC Steve Wilks. “When [another Ward deal] didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency, and that’s what we went out and did,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). “So I’m excited about Oliver. He’s long; he’s physical, can tackle, can cover. He’s going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense.” A former second-round pick, Oliver spent the past five seasons with the Falcons. The 210-pound defender is ticketed to work alongside outside corners Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.
  • Kelvin Joseph may be in the Cowboys‘ nickel plans. After acquiring Stephon Gilmore via trade, the Cowboys are trying Joseph in the slot at OTAs, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes. The former second-round pick has worked as an outside corner over his first two seasons, though he has only played 330 career defensive snaps. The Cowboys lost both Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown to season-ending injuries last year. While Lewis remains on the roster, Brown, a longtime slot player, is unsigned.
  • Third-round Cardinals cornerback Garrett Williams received slightly more than the rookie-scale minimum to sign, per’s Howard Balzer, who notes the bumps come in Years 2-4 of his contract (Twitter link). This year’s No. 72 overall pick will earn between $1MM and $1.5MM from 2024-26. Third-rounders’ four-year deals are only partially guaranteed. Williams, a Syracuse alum, received a $1.1MM guarantee.
  • The Panthers brought back safety Sam Franklin earlier this offseason, tendering him as an RFA. But the fourth-year defender agreed to sign for slightly less than the low-end tender price. Rather than signing for $2.627MM (the tender number), Franklin is back in Carolina on a one-year, $2.51MM deal, Balzer adds (on Twitter). The Panthers gave the 27-year-old DB a $1.5MM signing bonus, which is spread through 2027 via void years. Franklin has been a core special-teamer in Carolina while working as a defensive backup.

Lions OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai Contemplated Retirement

The Lions’ offensive line figures to receive a considerable boost in 2023 with Halapoulivaati Vaitai back in the fold. The veteran guard was initially unsure of whether he wished to continue playing after missing the entire 2022 campaign, but this offseason convinced him to return to the field.

[RELATED: Lions Sign OL Germain Ifedi]

Vaitai underwent back surgery in September, and he was unable to recover in time to occupy his starting right guard role for the Lions. Detroit was pegged to have one of the league’s top offensive fronts heading into the season, but his absence weakened the unit and left his playing future in doubt. The 29-year-old remains unsure of the exact details of the procedure he had, but the recovery process has been encouraging from a short- and long-term view.

“After surgery, I was like, ‘Let me just rest. Let me just enjoy this time,” Vaitai said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News“And then when I started training again, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not ready to retire yet.”

The former Eagles fifth-rounder started all 25 appearances he made in Detroit across the 2020 and ’21 campaigns. A resumption of his first-team duties would come as little surprise if he showcases his health during the offseason. However, the Lions have made a few depth additions to their line to guard against Vaitai’s uncertain status moving forward. That includes a reunion with Graham Glasgow; the latter could compete for playing time at the RG spot on what is an otherwise intact unit.

Vaitai initially had two years remaining on his contract, but he agreed to remove 2024 from his pact in addition to taking a signficant pay cut. That move could give the Lions a cost-effective contributor up front if the TCU alum can return to his previous form. Especially if that turns out to be the case, Vaitai could use his rebound campaign to earn himself a notable deal on the open market next offseason to continue his career further, either from the Lions or another team.

NFL’s Gambling Investigation Into Lions Continues

Three of the four Lions hit with gambling suspensions in April are no longer on the roster. The team waived wide receivers Quintez Cephus and Stanley Berryhill and released special-teamer C.J. Moore, who re-signed in March. But the Lions’ gambling issue is not entirely in the rearview mirror, it appears.

The NFL is investigating a fifth Lions player for a potential violation of the league’s gambling policy, Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic reports (subscription required). The league has not yet interviewed the unknown player, but seeing as the Lions have cut three players and fired multiple staffers for violations of the policy, it is safe to say this is a widespread issue within the NFC North franchise.

The one player remaining on the roster after a gambling ban, Jameson Williams, said he was not aware he was breaking an NFL rule by placing a bet on a non-NFL game at a Lions facility. Williams and Berryhill incurred six-game suspensions for making bets on non-NFL games while at the Lions’ facility (or while with the team on the road), Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Cephus, Moore and Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney received indefinite suspensions, which will cover at least one full season, for betting on NFL games.

It hit me out of the blue, and it hit a couple other players around the league and on my team out of the blue,” Williams said, via Birkett. “I wasn’t aware of this situation, but as it happened, like I said, I took it on the chin, I was ready to move forward as things moved on and I got the consequences, so that’s been my whole plan moving forward from things and just looking at the better days.”

In addition to a potential fifth Lions player being suspended,’s David Perdum reports the NFL is conducting an investigation into more gambling violations. Since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that opened the doors for sports betting outside of its traditional hubs (primarily Nevada), 33 states and Washington D.C. have opened legal betting markets. Once a beneath-the-surface topic in the NFL, wagering on games and players (via daily fantasy sites) is now regularly promoted. The NFL has partnered with three sportsbooks in recent years.

In the time since the Supreme Court’s ruling, seven players have been popped for gambling policy violations. Defensive back Josh Shaw and wideout Calvin Ridley served indefinite suspensions, with Ridley being recently reinstated. Jets wide receivers coach Miles Austin also received a gambling ban. Following the April bans, the NFLPA sent an email to agents reminding of the league’s policy preventing bets on mobile apps while at team facilities, Perdum adds.

As for the Lions, they will be without Williams — last year’s No. 12 overall pick who missed most of his rookie season due to ACL rehab — for six games and may soon see another player suspended. This issue has affected Detroit most, and cleanup measures regarding NFL policy comprehension and messaging has almost definitely taken place there. But the NFL investigation could soon see more teams impacted on this front.

Jaguars Trade K Riley Patterson To Lions

The Lions’ decision to cut Riley Patterson led him to Jacksonville in August 2022. Nearly a year later, Detroit will step in to prevent Patterson hitting the waiver wire.

After the Jaguars announced they were cutting Patterson — complete with the customary farewell tweet — they have reached an agreement to trade him to the Lions. Patterson kicked in seven Lions games during the 2021 season. The Jags replaced Patterson with longtime Bronco Brandon McManus earlier Thursday.

Patterson provided the Jaguars with some rare kicker stability last season, kicking in all 19 games for the team after seven kickers came through from 2020-21. McManus obviously provides Jacksonville with much more experience, but the team will still collect an asset for its 2022 kicker. The Lions are sending the Jags a late-round pick, Adam Schefter of tweets. That asset will be a conditional 2026 seventh-round pick, per’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

The Lions initially added Patterson off the Patriots’ practice squad in November 2021. The former UDFA out of Memphis then finished that season as Detroit’s primary kicker. Patterson made 13 of 14 field goals for the Lions that year, but the team waived him coming out of the preseason. In Jacksonville, Patterson made 30 of 35 field goal tries during the regular season and missed just one extra point (36-for-37). He also notched a game-winning field goal to complete a 27-point Jags comeback win over the Chargers in the wild-card round.

Patterson, 23, is due a $940K base salary this season. He can be retained via RFA tender next year. The Jags tendered Patterson as an ERFA in March, but the Broncos’ decision to cut McManus — in part due to cap savings, as they designated him a post-June 1 release — changed the AFC South team’s plans. It will impact the Lions’ path at kicker as well.

In signing XFLer John Parker Romo last week, the Lions already roster two kickers. They finished last season with Michael Badgley in that role. Badgley kicked in 12 games for the Lions last season and re-signed with the team in March. Badgley is tied to a one-year, $1.2MM deal. The Lions guaranteed their incumbent just $350K, opening the door to a kicking competition. Badgley made 20 of his 24 kicks as a Lion last year; both he and Patterson went 2-for-3 from beyond 50 yards.

This trade allowed Detroit to avoid losing Patterson via the waiver wire; the Lions’ 9-8 finish gave them the No. 18 spot in the waiver order. The Lions waived wide receiver Keytaon Thompson to make room for Patterson on the Roster.