Lions release OT Rick Wagner, clearing $6.1 million in salary cap space

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions are trending toward having two new starters on the offensive line next season after releasing right tackle Rick Wagner on Friday. 

Wagner, 30, signed with the Lions as a free agent in 2017. At the time, the five-year, $47.5 million pact made him the league's highest-paid at his position. 

Rick Wagner

But Wagner struggled to live up to those lofty standards. Battling various injuries, he was never able to play a full 16-game season during his three years with the Lions, all while his performance steadily declined.

He appeared in 12 games in 2019, missing one due to a concussion and the final three with a knee injury. In those dozen contests, he allowed 32 pass-rush pressures, while ranking 48th out of 60 offensive tackles as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Wagner was set to earn $9 million in 2020. His release frees up $6.1 million in cap space for Detroit heading into free agency, which is still slated to start on March 18. 

With Wagner's departure, Tyrell Crosby becomes the presumptive candidate to fill the vacancy at right tackle, barring the team adding a better option this offseason. A fifth-round pick out of Oregon in 2018, he's started seven games between left and right tackle the past two seasons. 

There are a number of veteran options expected to be available in free agency, including former Michigan State standout Jack Conklin, but current estimates for his services range between $15-17 million per season. Another name expected to draw interest in the right tackle market is Philadelphia's Halapoulivaati Vaitai, an up-and-coming talent. 

The Lions could also look to address the position in the first two days of the draft. While it remains unlikely the team uses its first-round pick on an offensive lineman, Houston's Josh Jones, USC's Austin Jackson or UConn's Matt Peart are among the options on Day 2. 

Wagner's departure, along with guard Graham Glasgow's impending free agency, is set to leave the Lions with a completely new look on the right side of its offensive line. The team has shown little interest in re-signing Glasgow at his projected, open-market value, which could top $10 million per season.