Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/14/23

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Following a spree of illegal hits, Kareem Jackson was hit with a four-game ban back in October. That suspension ended up getting knocked down to two games, and following that absence, the defensive back has returned to the active roster. While Justin Simmons has long resided as the Broncos’ top safety, Pro Football Focus has graded Jackson as a top-20 player at the position this season.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai suffered a back injury that will require a stint on injured reserve, although there’s a chance the veteran lineman ends up having to miss the rest of the season. After starting all 25 of his appearances for the Lions between 2020 and 2021, Vaitai has started three of his six games in 2022.

Hunter Long was a third-round pick by the Dolphins in 2021 but only lasted two seasons in Miami, hauling in a single eight-yard catch. He was part of the Rams’ offseason trade return for Jalen Ramsey but hasn’t appeared in a game this season. The tight end landed on IR in early September with a thigh injury.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Bears, Poles, Gary

Graham Glasgow became a cap casualty this offseason, seeing the now-Sean Payton-run Broncos dump his four-year, $44MM contract. The veteran interior lineman had taken a pay cut in 2022, after losing his job (to Quinn Meinerz) following an injury absence. Glasgow returned to the Lions, who had drafted him in 2016, on a one-year deal worth $2.75MM deal. Given backup money, Glasgow indeed began the season as a utility man. But the Lions have needed to use the eighth-year veteran at three positions this season, with injuries sidelining Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Glasgow has done enough to remain a starter when the unit is at full strength, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett).

Glasgow, 30, has started the past six games and done so at left guard, right guard and center. Moving forward, Glasgow will be Detroit’s RG starter. Vaitai won that job out of training camp but needed time off after an early-season injury. While Vaitai is back after knee and back maladies, the 2020 free agency pickup has not showed top form upon returning. Pro Football Focus grades Glasgow as the No. 5 overall guard. The former third-round pick now has the opportunity to use this season to fetch a nice contract in free agency once again, though the Lions could also have interest in retaining him. The team removed a year from Vaitai’s contract, amid a pay cut that followed his missed 2022, and has Jackson in a contract year. The Lions have some questions at guard moving forward.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Although the Bears have since extended Montez Sweat, executives took issue with GM Ryan Poles‘ pre-deadline strategy. One anonymous GM said (via the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora) the move of indicating Jaylon Johnson was available barely 12 hours before the deadline did not give teams enough time to gauge his trade value, assess the player’s future or negotiate a contract. A report indicating the Bears would let Johnson’s camp seek a trade — after Bears extension talks were not progressing — came out just after midnight CT on Oct. 31. The Bears ended up keeping Johnson, and Poles has said the team wants to keep the contract-year cornerback. No team has franchise-tagged a corner since the Rams cuffed Trumaine Johnson in 2017, but Chicago does have the tag available with Sweat signed days after that trade.
  • The Bears obtained Sweat from the Commanders for a second-round pick. The above-referenced GM said the Falcons were on track to land Sweat for a third-round pick before Poles put the Bears’ second-rounder on the table. Atlanta is believed to have increased its offer twice in response. Another anonymous GM told La Canfora the Bears should have been selling at the deadline. While execs did not agree with the Bears giving up a pick likely to land in the 30s for Sweat, the team proceeded this way for Chase Claypool last year and now has an upper-echelon edge defender signed long term.
  • Weeks after seeing DC Alan Williams step away, the Bears fired running backs coach David Walker, per The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns. Workplace behavior led to Walker’s dismissal, ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin adds. The Bears’ HR department had previously disciplined Walker, according to Cronin, with the second infraction leading to the firing. Matt Eberflus hired Walker, 53, last year. HR was also involved in Williams’ exit; the two matters are unrelated. Omar Young is now coaching Chicago’s RBs.
  • Rashan Gary‘s four-year, $96MM Packers extension calls for a $34.6MM signing bonus, which represents the fifth-year outside linebacker’s guarantee. Additionally, Gary will collect a $6.2MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2024 league year, according to OverTheCap. On Day 3 of the 2025 league year, Gary will earn an $8.7MM roster bonus.
  • The Lions bumped linebacker Trevor Nowaske up to their active roster due to another team’s effort to poach him off the practice squad, Campbell said. A rookie UDFA out of Saginaw Valley State (Mich.), Nowaske joined Detroit’s active roster last week.

Lions Place S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DE James Houston On IR

The injuries C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Houston sustained in Week 2 will lead to two key defenders moving off the Lions’ roster. The team placed the veteran safety and young defensive end on IR on Tuesday.

Initially reported as an ankle ailment, Houston is actually dealing with a fibula injury, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett). Additionally, Halapoulivaati Vaitai may be facing a multiweek absence. Campbell said the team’s right guard starter could be out for a bit, though he added (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) it does not look like an IR move will be necessary.

Gardner-Johnson may be on track to miss the rest of the season. The fifth-year DB is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. With Houston suffering a fracture, he may also miss the rest of the year.

Despite the Eagles expressing interest in re-signing Gardner-Johnson this offseason, he ended up with the Lions on a surprising deal. Gardner-Johnson, who denied a report of the Eagles submitting a multiyear offer, signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal. While players have landed big-ticket contracts despite season-ending injuries in the recent past — Allen Robinson, Bud Dupree and Dak Prescott are three of note — Gardner-Johnson was aiming to use this season as a trampoline toward a more lucrative pact. A surgery taking place would wound those aspirations. The Lions have exclusive negotiating rights with CJGJ until March of next year.

Houston’s injury will blunt some surprising early-career momentum. Houston went from sixth-round pick to Detroit’s practice squad, debuting on Thanksgiving Day. The Jackson State product managed to rack up eight sacks after that late start. He started one game for the Lions this season.

While it is not known if Gardner-Johnson and Houston are both done for the season, it obviously represents good news Vaitai avoided a serious injury. A back issue sidelined Vaitai throughout last season, leading to a pay cut. The former Eagles draftee also considered retirement this offseason. The Lions have Graham Glasgow back in place as insurance, and although Vaitai beat out the returning blocker for the RG post, Glasgow has been a starter for most of his career. While the Broncos released Glasgow to pick up cap space in March, he started 33 games for the team — at guard and center — from 2020-22. Glasgow, 30, has started 91 career contests.

Latest On Lions’ RG Competition

The Lions’ offensive line was a key to their suprising success in 2022, and the club will return four-fifths of its starting front from last season. The only OL spot up for grabs is at right guard, and the battle between Graham Glasgow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai for that job is a close one.

Per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, Vaitai entered training camp as the betting favorite for the post, which he manned from 2020-21 after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Lions in March 2020. He struggled a bit in his first season in the Motor City, a campaign that was tainted to some degree by injury, but he rebounded with a strong 15-game performance in 2021. Unfortunately, he was forced to undergo back surgery last September, which caused him to miss the entire 2022 slate and to even consider retirement.

While Vaitai elected to resume his playing career, he did have to take a pay cut to remain on the roster. Meanwhile, Detroit reunited with Glasgow and allowed Evan Brown, who served as Vaitai’s primary replacement last year, to depart in free agency. Glasgow, a former third-round pick of the Lions, spent the last three seasons with the Broncos, and he will provide experienced insurance at both guard positions and at center in the event he does not win the right guard gig.

As Rogers notes, Vaitai was absent for a brief time in this year’s camp due to injury, and since then, he and Glasgow have largely split first-team reps at RG. Glasgow’s efforts in this positional battle have been compromised a bit by the fact that he has to step in for starting pivot Frank Ragnow whenever Ragnow needs time off, but he believes he has acquitted himself well just the same.

“I was saying earlier, I think if you can play center, you can play guard,” he said. “I would like to get more guard reps, but at the end of the day, it’s just the price of doing business.”

Both players have plenty of financial motivation. After being released by Denver three years into a four-year, $44MM contract, Glasgow is due just $1.5MM in base pay on his one-year pact this season (though he can earn up to $4.5MM). And Vaitai, as part of the above-referenced pay cut, agreed to remove the 2024 season from his contract, which means he, like Glasgow, will be eligible for free agency next year.

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.

Lions OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai Agrees To Pay Cut, Removes 2024 Season From Deal

Although the Lions featured one of the NFL’s better offensive lines last season, they were missing one of their starters throughout. Rather than make Halapoulivaati Vaitai a cap casualty, the team will see if the former starter can contribute in 2023.

The Lions reached a pay-cut agreement with Vaitai, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News tweets. Vaitai has also agreed to trim the 2024 season off his contract, making him a free agent after this coming year. Vaitai was attached to a five-year, $45MM deal — one signed in 2020 — but after he missed all of last season, he agreed to a reduction that will create cap space for the Lions.

[RELATED: Lions, Panthers Pursuing DJ Chark]

Vaitai’s base salary will drop from $9.4MM to $3MM in 2023, per OverTheCap, with 2024 now being a void year. Vaitai’s 2023 cap hit will be reduced from $12.45MM to $5.1MM. As of Thursday morning, the Lions hold $26.1MM in cap space — third-most in the NFL. The void component here would add $3.8MM in dead money onto Detroit’s 2024 cap if Vaitai is not re-signed before the 2024 league year.

A September back surgery sidelined Vaitai last year, leading Evan Brown to replace him as the Lions’ primary right guard. Vaitai, 29, had worked as Detroit’s starter there from 2020-21, having come over from Philadelphia. Brown, who was Frank Ragnow‘s injury replacement in 2021, has since signed with the Seahawks. The Lions, however, have brought back Graham Glasgow as a potential guard option.

Formerly an Eagles tackle fill-in, Vaitai collected $20MM guaranteed as part of his 2020 agreement. He already reworked that deal in 2021 to create cap space. The Lions will see if they can get more out of that deal, and rather than refuse a pay cut and head into free agency coming off an injury-erased season, Vaitai will aim to return to form in Detroit. The Lions still have all five of their O-line starters in place from 2021, with Ragnow, Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson and Penei Sewell under contract.

Glasgow’s cap figure will check in at $2.68MM, Rogers adds (on Twitter). The Lions also used a void year to finalize this reunion, though only $1.47MM would accelerate onto Detroit’s 2024 cap were Glasgow not re-signed before the start of the next league year. Glasgow, 30, wanted to return to Detroit but said (via Rogers) the 49ers and Panthers showed interest as well. The 49ers have since added Jon Feliciano as an interior swingman. Glasgow could wind up with a bigger role in Detroit, looking like the top replacement for Vaitai. Should Vaitai be unable to return to full strength, Glasgow has a clear path to becoming a Lions starter again.

Lions Notes: Williams, Goff, Smith, Vaitai

The Lions have dealt with a number of injuries on offense, including a notable one suffered even before the draft. Rookie wideout Jameson Williams has yet to play this year, as he continues to recover from the torn ACL he suffered in the CFP title game.

midseason return was once the team’s target, but plans have changed with respect to his timeframe. Head coach Dan Campbell echoed confidence that the Alabama product will see the field in 2022, but that will not come any time soon.

“There’s still hope,” Campbell said, via Justin Rodgers of the Detroit News“There again, he’s put together a pretty good month, a real good month. So we feel like we’re going to have him before this season’s out. It’s hard to say when that’s going to be. I would say at least probably another month. But I do feel like we’re going to get him before this is said and done.”

The Lions currently have DJ Chark on IR, but Campbell insisted that a lack of depth at the position will not play a role in the team’s handling of the highly-touted Williams with respect to his return. Here are some other notes from the Motor City:

  • 2022 was widely considered the year in which the Lions decided whether or not Jared Goff could be a long-term solution at the quarterback position. To date, the 28-year-old has committed nine turnovers (six interceptions and three fumbles) this season, giving him a total of 23 in 20 games in Detroit. Not surprisingly, then, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes that no one in the organization “truly believes Goff is the quarterback of the future” (subscription required). The Lions are one of only two teams in the league with a one-win record (1-5), so they are on track to have a top choice in next April’s draft. That will give them a prime opportunity to find a franchise signal-caller amongst this year’s celebrated class of prospects; in doing so, they could move on from Goff, who has no guaranteed money remaining on his deal after this year.
  • Saivion Smith suffered a neck injury during the team’s lopsided loss to the Patriots in Week 5. As a result, the former UDFA will undergo neck fusion surgery next month, Birkett tweets. Smith, 24, confirmed that he did not suffer a concussion on the play, but is still facing a lengthy recovery after the procedure. His absence will be felt in Detroit’s much-maligned secondary.
  • Halapoulivaati Vaitai is, of course, dealing with injury troubles of his own. The starting o-lineman continues to recover from back surgery, and is unlikely to see the field in 2022. The degree to which he is able to return to previous health and form could go a long way in determining his financial future, since, like Goff, no guaranteed compensation remains on the final two years of his contract. The 29-year-old agreed to a move affecting the books in 2022, though; ESPN’s Field Yates reports that the Lions have restructured Vaitai’s deal, creating roughly $2.4MM in cap space (Twitter link). In advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline, Detroit has just over $3MM in available funds, though their placement at the bottom of the NFC certainly points to the team being sellers, rather than buyers, on the market.

Lions OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai Likely To Miss Rest Of Season

Lions starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai was placed on injured reserve shortly after Detroit finalized its initial 53-man roster with little-to-no information as to why. Soon after, it was revealed that back issues had been ailing the seven-year veteran, leading to back surgery that pointed towards a lengthy absence. Head coach Dan Campbell gave an update recently, claiming that Vaitai’s odds of returning this season are “very slim to none right now,” according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Vaitai has missed time here and there during his tenure with the Lions, but this extended absence will be the first of his career. Vaitai was set to head into the season as the right guard of a rather impressive offensive line. If healthy, a defender looking at the line from left to right would see Penei Sewell, Vaitai, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, and Taylor Decker. Through seven weeks, though, Vaitai has remained on IR while Jackson has played less than half of the team’s offensive snaps.

Due to the absences of Vaitai and Jackson, as well as the center Ragnow, Detroit has been forced to rely on the efforts of backup linemen Logan Stenberg, Evan Brown, and Dan Skipper. Stenberg got the start in Week 1 for Vaitai. When Jackson and Ragnow sat out Week 2, Skipper and Brown came in to replace each, respectively, leaving only two of the Lions’ original starting lineman in the lineup. When Ragnow returned the next week, Brown stayed in the lineup and Stenberg found himself on the sideline. The Lions stuck with that lineup until Jackson returned, pushing Skipper to the bench, while trying their hand at Stenberg, again. Brown would come in for Stenberg in Week 5 and, after a Week 6 bye, Brown remained as the only backup lineman in a starting role.

It appears that Brown, initially tabbed as the team’s backup center, is who the Lions have decided to trust with Vaitai’s empty spot. Jackson still appears on the injury report, but, if he can stay healthy, the Lions should be able to roll forward with that line for the rest of the season.

Vaitai is only in the third year of a five-year deal and is under contract through the 2024 season. The season-long injury absence may lead to a contract restructure of some sort, but, as long as Vaitai can return to full health, he should remain the Lions’ top option at right tackle for the future. Brown, on the other hand, is on a one-year deal and could play himself into a new contract elsewhere or even, potentially, with the Lions, making Vaitai a potential trade chip.

Lions G Halapoulivaati Vaitai Undergoes Back Surgery

When the Lions placed Halapoulivaati Vaitai on IR shortly after finalizing their 53-man roster, the extent of his injury was unknown. Dan Campbell provided more clarity on the matter, which now appears to have the veteran guard facing an extended absence.

Vaitai underwent back surgery this week in Dallas, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News notes. Campbell is not ruling out the seventh-year blocker for the season, but the Lions will be without their right guard starter for an extensive stretch.

This news comes during a week in which the Lions placed Vaitai’s primary backup, Tommy Kraemer, on injured reserve. Kraemer also suffered a back injury, one that caused him to miss the team’s season opener. Third-year guard Logan Stenberg started against the Eagles and is expected to remain in that role in Week 2. Stenberg, a 2020 fourth-round pick, had not started a game through two seasons. He committed two penalties and allowed a sack in his debut.

Although Kraemer (three starts as a rookie last season) did not play in Week 1, the Lions waiting until this week to place him on IR means he cannot return until Week 6. It is uncertain if the former UDFA will be ready by then. Vaitai’s timetable became clouded because of his procedure. He could be staring at his longest absence as a pro.

A former fifth-round Eagles pick, Vaitai signed a five-year, $45MM deal with the Lions in 2020. Detroit’s Bob QuinnMatt Patricia regime authorized that contract. Vaitai has moved from right tackle to right guard during his time with the Lions, who drafted Penei Sewell to play right tackle last year. The high-priced acquisition has started 25 games for the Lions in two seasons, including 15 last season. Vaitai is signed through 2024, though the team can escape the contract with just more than $5MM in dead money in 2023.

The Lions were expected to feature one of the NFL’s top offensive lines this season, but they have suddenly seen that unit depleted early. In addition to Vaitai’s shutdown, center Frank Ragnow and left guard Jonah Jackson missed practice Thursday. Left tackle Taylor Decker is battling a calf injury, leaving Sewell as the only Detroit O-line starter not dealing with an ailment presently. As a result of the injury troubles, the Lions signed guard Kayode Awosika off the Eagles’ practice squad this week.

Lions Place G Halapoulivaati Vaitai On IR

SEPTEMBER 6: While the issue affecting the veteran lineman’s availability remains a mystery, it is far from certain he comes back when first eligible. Vaitai is not a lock to play in 2022, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Kraemer will be Detroit’s right guard starter, according to the official depth chart the team released Tuesday morning.

SEPTEMBER 5: Halapoulivaati Vaitai‘s third Lions season will not begin on time. The veteran offensive lineman is now on Detroit’s IR, mandating a four-game absence. The nature of Vaitai’s injury is unkonwn.

The well-paid blocker is expected to return as the Lions’ right guard starter, but the team will need to make other plans for its September slate. This will be Vaitai’s second IR trip since he signed with the Lions in 2020. The team also claimed guard Drew Forbes off waivers from the Browns on Monday.

[RELATED: Offseason In Review, Detroit Lions]

A former Eagles draftee, Vaitai missed six games in 2020 due to a foot injury but returned to play in 15 last year. Vaitai, 29, represents part of a Lions source of optimism; both he and left guard Jonah Jackson ranked as a top-30 guards (per Pro Football Focus) in 2021. Along with former first-rounders Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell, the Lions are expected to field one of the league’s top O-lines.

Detroit’s fill-ins from 2020 are no longer on the roster, though Forbes is now in the mix. The team now rosters four backup interior O-linemen — a group that also includes 2020 fourth-rounder Logan Stenberg, fifth-year veteran Evan Brown and 2021 UDFA Tommy Kraemer. Brown served as Ragnow’s primary backup last season, and Kraemer made three starts in 2021. Neither Forbes nor Stenberg has started a regular-season game.

The Lions gave Vaitai a five-year, $45MM contract in free agency two years ago. He is due to count $8.7MM on the team’s 2022 payroll.