Lions value CB D.J. Hayden’s inside-outside ability

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
D.J. Hayden

Phoenix – It is only a one-year contract, but the figures indicate the Detroit Lions believe in cornerback D.J. Hayden and that the player is comfortable betting on himself.

On top of $3 million in guarantees in 2017, plus another $750,000 in workout and active roster bonuses, Hayden has the ability to earn an additional $1.5 million in playing-time and performance bonus money.

But where will he play? Drafted in the first round in 2013 as an outside cornerback, Hayden was moved inside last season, delivering his most consistent performance.

“You have to be quick and intelligent to move inside,” his former coach with the Raiders, Jack Del Rio, said at Tuesday’s AFC coaches’ breakfast at the NFL league meetings. “To be able to do both is definitely an asset.”

And that’s exactly what the Lions like about Hayden. He brings a versatility to the roster that general manager Bob Quinn felt the team lacked and he sees the free-agent addition pushing for playing time at both spots.

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“He’s going to provide depth at both inside and outside,” Quinn said. “We have guys that are primarily outside guys and we have (Quandre) Diggs, who’s basically only a slot corner, a nickel corner. So we definitely wanted to add a veteran corner to the mix that had the ability to play inside and out.”

Del Rio, who called it a “big blow” when Hayden was lost to a season-ending hamstring injury last season, continued to praise his former player on Tuesday, despite Hayden’s reputation as a first-round bust. Hayden was drafted No. 12 overall in 2013 out of Houston.

“I thought D.J. did a great job for us last year," Del Rio said. "It’s a shame he got injured at the end of the year. As far as whether or not a young man ever lives up to the top billing, the first-round pick billing or not, that can be a tough deal to ever live up to that hype. But he’s a good young man, and I wish him the best."