Reports: Lions releasing CB Nevin Lawson prior to start of free agency

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Nevin Lawson

Allen Park -- For the third time this offseason, the Detroit Lions have cut a starter. Following earlier releases of safety Glover Quin and guard T.J. Lang, the team will be parting ways with cornerback Nevin Lawson, according to multiple reports.

Lawson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2014, has spent his entire five-year career with the Lions. He signed a two-year, $9.2 million extension last offseason.

By releasing Lawson prior to the start of the new league year, the Lions avoid paying a $1.625 million roster bonus due next week. The team will still be on the hook for a portion of Lawson's signing bonus, $1.125 million, as well as a $550,000 playing-time bonus he earned last season. Still, the move will clear more than $4 million off the books heading into the free agency signing period, which starts Wednesday. 

A full-time starter the past three seasons, taking over the job following Rashean Mathis' retirement, Lawson had notable strengths and weaknesses to his game. His physicality on the outside made it tough for opposing quarterbacks to complete passes in his direction.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lawson had a remarkable streak of 49 games preventing an opposing receiver from topping 75 yards, the longest in the publication's history of collecting data. 

But that physicality also made Lawson the team's most-penalized player. He drew 24 flags over the past three years, including 11 in 2018. 

Lawson has also struggled with ball skills. His future with Detroit first came into question when general manager Bob Quinn, at a January news conference, emphasized the need for more playmakers on the roster. 

"I think, big picture, we need more playmakers," Quinn said. "We need guys to make big plays."

Lawson has never had more than nine pass breakups in a season and has yet to record his first career interception. His 54 starts without a pick is the most by a cornerback in NFL history. 

Following the release of Lawson, the Lions are left with Teez Tabor and Mike Ford as the best options to compete for the starting job opposite Darius Slay. Tabor, who has struggled to find his footing with the Lions after being selected in the second round of the 2017 draft, recently got a vote of confidence from Quinn. 

"Listen, I still have faith in him," Quinn said at last month's scouting combine. "He obviously hasn’t played as much as I would’ve hoped. But I think we’re not giving up on him. I actually had a conversation with him a couple days ago. He’s a guy that we’re counting on to get better. Teez was pretty young when we drafted him. Some guys take a huge step between year one and year two, I’m hoping Teez takes a big step from year two to year three."

The Lions are almost certain to add some competition in free agency or the draft. The top name on the market is Ronald Darby, who checks the box as a playmaker with 54 pass breakups and six interceptions in 46 career games, but he carries durability concerns and is coming off an ACL tear. 

Greedy Williams

Other free agents include Steven Nelson, Bradley Roby, Kareem Jackson, Pierre Desir and Morris Claiborne. 

In the draft, LSU's Greedy Williams, Georgia's Deandre Baker and Byron Murphy are widely considered the top prospects, but it's difficult to make a case any of them are in play for the Lions with the No. 8 pick. That obviously changes if the team is able to trade down in the first round. 

On Day 2, a number of prospects could make sense if available, including Clemson's Trayvon Mullen, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye, Temple's Rock Ya-Sin and Michigan State's Justin Layne.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers