Lions’ top-five salary cap bargains for 2020: Former Patriots dominate list, but Kenny Golladay takes top spot


The Detroit Lions‘ 2019 season can be broken down into two halves: before quarterback Matt Stafford’s back injury and following Stafford’s injury. Prior to losing their quarterback for the season, the Lions were 3-4-1 and in striking distance of the NFC playoff picture. But the Lions wouldn’t win another game after losing Stafford, finishing with a 3-12-1 record, the franchise’s worst record since 2012. And while his quarterback’s injury somewhat justifies last season’s second-half collapses, the pressure is surely on coach Matt Patricia, who has won just nine games during his first two years in Detroit. 

To help get things turned around, Patricia has brought in some of his former players from New England. This offseason, the Lions signed former Patriots defenders Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon and Danny Shelton, as Patricia looks to add some bite to a defense that finished just 26th in the league in scoring in 2019. The Lions, via the draft, added some talent to their offense, selecting running back D’Andre Swift with the 35th overall pick. The Lions also selected guards Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg in the third and fourth rounds (respectively) while spending a fifth-round pick on former Wisconsin receiver, Quintez Cephus. We’d be remiss not to mention the Lions’ first-round pick, Jeff Okudah, who was considered the top cornerback prospect in the 2020 draft. Each of these players is expected to help Detroit end their three-year playoff drought. 

With the start of the 2020 season just around the corner, we decided to look at the Lions’ top-five salary cap bargains, a list that includes arguably the league’s best bargain as far as the salary cap is concerned. 

5. D’Andre Swift, running back 

2020 salary cap hit: $1,552,530

Considering the fact that he was in the conversation as the best running back in the 2020 draft, the Lions certainly got themselves a bargain in Swift, who should compete for a starting job this season. And even if Kerryon Johnson is able to hold him off initially, Swift should still find a way to make an impact during his rookie season. 

During his three seasons at Georgia, the 5-foot-8, 212-pound Swift rushed for 2,885 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He also caught five touchdown passes while showing his underrated versatility out of the backfield. 

4. Duron Harmon, strong safety

2020 salary cap hit: $4,500,000

The 30th highest-paid safety in the NFL in terms of annual salary, Harmon played a key role on three championship teams with the Patriots. While he was never a full-time starter in New England, Harmon routinely came up with big plays at pivotal moments, as he recorded four interceptions in postseason competition. The 29-year-old Harmon will finally get his chance to be a full-time starter with the Lions, who can certainly use his help after finishing 32nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed in 2019. 

3. Jamie Collins, linebacker 

2020 salary cap hit: $6,333,333

A key member of the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX championship defense, the 30-year-old Collins comes to Detroit following a highly productive 2019 season with the Patriots. Last fall, Collins, a 2015 Pro Bowler, set career highs in sacks (seven) and interceptions (three). He also returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown while also forcing three fumbles for the NFL’s top-ranked defense. His 2020 salary puts him in a tie as the 25th highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, in terms of annual salary. 

2. Danny Shelton, defensive tackle 

2020 salary cap hit: $2,750,000

The third former Patriots player to make the list, Shelton’s 2020 salary is the 49th-highest total among defensive tackles. The 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Shelton spent his first three seasons with the Browns before joining the Patriots in 2018, serving as a reserve on New England’s Super Bowl LIII championship team. Shelton worked his way into the Patriots’ starting lineup in 2019, setting career highs with 61 tackles and three sacks. He also forced his first career fumble while helping New England finish second in the NFL in passing yards allowed and sixth in rushing yards allowed. 

1. Kenny Golladay, wide receiver 

2020 salary cap hit: $2,000,000 

Golladay is quite possibly the NFL’s biggest salary cap bargain. A third-round pick in the 2017 draft, Golladay has broken the 1,000-yard receiving barrier each of the past two seasons. In 2019, he earned his first career Pro Bowl selection after catching 65 passes for 1,190 yards. He also led the league with 11 touchdown receptions despite not having Stafford for the second half of the season. The 2020 season will be a pivotal one for Golladay, who is slated to become a free agent next offseason. 





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