Cutting QB Brad Kaaya backfires on Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Brad Kaaya

Allen Park – Every cut day brings tough decisions, but one was more difficult than the others for Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn, and it was a decision that ended up backfiring.

The Lions opted to roll with two quarterbacks, waiving sixth-round draft pick Brad Kaaya with the hope he would clear waivers and land back with the team’s practice squad. That didn’t happen, as he was claimed by the Carolina Panthers, much to Quinn’s chagrin.

“That was a tough one,” Quinn told the team’s official website. “Brad came in and did a great job. When it came down to it, it was probably our hardest decision we made coming out of training camp. I’m personally happy for Brad that he’s on a 53. I’m disappointed that he’s not with us because I think he does have a future. We just had to make those tough decisions to keep the right 53 that’s going to help us win on Sundays.”

Other debated roster choices included keeping linebackers Steve Longa and Nick Bellore over Antwione Williams, and Jared Abbrederis instead of Jace Billingsley as the fifth receiver. As others have said, special teams contributions were the difference at linebacker.

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“That weighs heavily into the decision-making process,” Quinn said. “It (also) weighs heavily what positions they can back up, if they’re not a starter. Can they backup multiple positions or are they just a backup at one of the three linebacker positions? You take into account the versatility of the player and the special teams value. At the end of the day, the last four or five roster spots comes down to the special teams.”

Positional flexibility made the difference for Abbrederis. The 5-foot-9 Billingsley is limited to playing in the slot and returning kicks on special teams.

“If you’re going to be a fourth or fifth receiver in this system, you can’t just be a slot or an outside guy, you have to have position flex,” Quinn said.

At defensive end, Quinn acknowledged concerns about the team’s depth, but after closely monitoring the wealth of options that hit the waiver wire over the weekend, the team felt best sticking with what it had in undrafted rookies Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga.

“There was a lot of talk about adding a defensive end to the group, but on cut-down day, there was really no one available that we though was an upgrade over our backups,” Quinn said. “We’ll see how that goes the first couple weeks, but we’re good with our depth.”