Martin Mayhew watches Lions practice on Monday. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — After minicamp last month, the Lions made a somewhat surprising move, releasing veteran cornerback Chris Houston just a year after signing him to five-year, $25 million contract.
As it turns out, the Lions decided to cut Houston weeks before making it official.
Houston struggled last year when he was healthy and was worse after suffering multiple injuries. He underwent toe surgery, but his fate with the team was already sealed.
“You never know how guys are going to go with injuries, especially something as serious as what Chris had,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Monday. “I anticipated that he would get healthy sooner. That didn’t happen, and so you move on.”
Houston’s camp believes he will recover and play football in 2014, but the Lions now must rely on some young cornerbacks to fill his void. Darius Slay, a second-round pick in 2013, will likely fill Houston’s role as the top cornerback while veteran Rashean Mathis remains in the No. 2 role.
“Darius Slay, we’re expecting a good performance from him,” Mayhew said. “He’s got to even out his performance (from his rookie season).”
Behind Slay and Mathis, though, the Lions will need production from Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood or rookie Nevin Lawson. Veteran Cassius Vaughn will also battle for playing time.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the team considered several factors when deciding to cut Houston, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in 2010.
“It was the whole gamut,” he said. “We look at everything. Most often it depends on how he can help our team, and then we obviously look at it from a number of different areas.
“So what we did with him, (we) made a decision that we’re better off moving in another direction and he was better off, obviously, moving on with his business, and thus the decision was made.”