Lions’ cap outlook healthy for this season and beyond

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
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Theo Riddick is among the Lions set to become free agents after the 2017 season.

Allen Park – Following the four-year, $50.2 million extension signed by cornerback Darius Slay, the Detroit Lions still have plenty of cap space heading into the 2016 season. But more importantly, any unused cap will carry over into 2017, when the team has multiple key players set to hit free agency.

The breakdown of Slay’s contact indicates the cornerback received a signing bonus of $14.5 million. For cap purposes, that money is prorated over the length of time he’s under contract, in this case five years, bumping his 2016 cap hit up $2.9 million. His final cap number for this season jumps from $1.68 million to $4.66 million with the new deal.

In addition to the one-year contract recently signed by veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, which carries a $2.7 million cap hit, the Lions still have approximately $12 million in space heading into training camp.

Still, barring any more late splashes like the Boldin addition, the Lions are in position to enter the 2016 campaign with $7 million to $9 million in cap space.

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And the good news for the organization is whatever goes unused by the end of this season will be rolled over into what the team can spend next year. That’s important with the majority of the Lions’ highly-productive 2013 draft class set to hit the open market in 2017. That group includes running back Theo Riddick, defensive end Devin Taylor, guard Larry Warford and punter Sam Martin.

Of course, the team could be proactive with any of those players much like they were with Slay, working out a long-term extension in the coming weeks, preventing them from hitting the open market. Team president Rod Wood recently declined comment on any potential negotiations, and Riddick and Martin also rebuffed inquiries regarding contract talks earlier this week.

At this stage, it’s impossible to accurately estimate how much cap space the Lions could have in 2017. The cap, which has jumped $32 million since 2013, should continue to rise sharply, but won’t be officially set until early next year.  Plus, general manager Bob Quinn has tied playing-time and performance bonuses to many contracts this offseason, which if reached, will be deducted from the 2017 figure.

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