Halapoulivaati Vaitai

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.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/3/22

Here are Monday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: OT Mike Remmers (remains on IR)

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Raymond Calais (remains on IR)

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/29/21

Several key players returned to practice Wednesday. Here are the latest COVID-19 updates from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Activated from practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Rico Bussey

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Lions, Halapoulivaati Vaitai Rework Deal

The Lions have carved out a little extra cap room with help from Halapoulivaati Vaitai. On Tuesday, the Lions converted $1.335MM of the offensive lineman’s base salary into a signing bonus, giving them an additional $1MM in space for the rest of the year (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).

The Lions aren’t playing for much at this point, but they may need a few bodies to close out the year. If the season ended today, the Lions (2-12-1) would hold the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, behind only the 2-13 Jaguars.

Vaitai joined the Lions in the 2020 offseason, scoring a shockingly large five-year, $50MM deal. While quality offensive linemen are hard to find on the open market, no one expected that kind of deal for a player who had started just four games over the previous two years.

So far, the former Eagle hasn’t done much to justify his deal. Last year, he was limited to just ten games and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 51 ranked guard out of 80 qualified players. This year, it’s a similar story — he’s 49th out of 80. On the plus side, he’s been mostly healthy, starting in 14 games through 16 weeks.

The Lions will face the Seahawks on Sunday before wrapping the 2021 season against the Packers on Jan. 9.

North Notes: Clowney, Vaitai, Parks

Let’s round up a few notes from the North divisions:

  • For the second year in a row, Jadeveon Clowney is drawing interest from the Browns. Though Clowney’s recent visit to Cleveland did not result in a contract, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says the Browns still want to sign him if the price is right (and assuming the team is comfortable with his health). Clowney ultimately settled for a one-year, $13MM pact from the Titans last year after originally seeking a multi-year contract with an AAV of $20MM, and any deal he signs this year will likely be for much less than last year’s $13MM salary. But new Browns acquisition Malik Jackson believes Cleveland has what it takes to win the Super Bowl in 2021, and he suggested that Clowney should jump at the chance to sign up with the Browns. “If you want to hop on board, come hop on board,” Jackson said. “I understand the free agency market is not what he probably wants, but things are bigger than monetary value. You get a chance to be on a good team and set yourself up in the future.”
  • When the Lions signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year, $50MM contract last offseason, most expected he would suit up at right tackle. He missed six games in 2020 due to injury, but he played five games at guard, four games at tackle, and he split time between the two positions in one other game. New head coach Dan Campbell says he currently plans to slot the TCU product at guard (via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website). “[W]e’re a little intrigued about moving him inside to guard.” Campbell said. “That does intrigue us. We may as a starting point work there and see where we’re at.” Campbell should have a solid group to protect QB Jared Goff, with Taylor Decker at LT, Jonah Jackson at LG, Frank Ragnow at C, Vaitai at RG, and a deep OL draft to add a quality rookie at RT.
  • Before the Vikings signed former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods as part of their overhaul in the secondary, they tried to land Will Parks, as Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Parks spent the first four years of his career in Denver before signing a one-year pact with the Eagles last offseason. He didn’t make it through the 2020 season with Philadelphia, as he was waived late in the season and was claimed by the Broncos (though the Vikings put in a claim as well). But according to Wolfson, Minnesota wanted to bring in Parks on a veteran minimum pact — which the club also tried with Woods — and Parks turned them down.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/19/20

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/25/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team