Pro Bowl Center Back Darius Slay Traded To Philadelphia Eagles For Two 2020 Draft Picks By Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions traded Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday for a pair of draft choices, one day after the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback took to Twitter to say he hoped the team’s signing of Desmond Trufant “speeds up” his trade out of town.
Slay received a three-year, $50 million extension with the Eagles as part of the deal, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. The deal makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL on average annual salary, with his rate exceeding that of Byron Jones, who on Monday agreed to terms with the Miami Dolphins on a five-year, $82.5 million deal.
The Lions get third- and fifth-round picks in April’s draft, where they now have nine selections overall and four of the draft’s first 85 picks. Along with No. 85, they own the third pick in the first round and picks 35 in Round 2 and 67 in Round 3.
One of the Lions’ most popular players on and off the field, Slay’s departure had been widely expected after he and the team spent most of the past year at odds.
Slay sat out voluntary workouts and mandatory minicamp last spring in a contractual dispute that never was resolved; his fun-loving personality never meshed with third-year Lions coach Matt Patricia, who abhorred his practice of signing and exchanging jerseys after every game, win or loss; and he didn’t hide his displeasure when the Lions traded his good friend Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks last fall.
Slay said on several occasions he hoped to retire a Lion, but that never seemed realistic as he and the team remained far apart on a contract extension. Slay wanted a deal that would make him one of the highest-paid defensive backs in the NFL, while the Lions had reservations about giving a 29-year-old who they saw in decline a long-term extension.
Instead, the Lions decided to move forward in a make-or-break year with extra draft capital they can use to bolster a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the pass in 2019 and has parted with four of its best players in the past five months.
Along with Slay and Diggs, who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round pick last October, the Lions cut defensive tackle Damon Harrison and sack leader Devon Kennard in recent weeks.
Harrison struggled through injuries and had a subpar season in 2019, but was arguably the team’s best player in the second half of 2018. He said on Twitter that playing for Patricia and the Lions “just wasn’t a good situation for me so I had to move on.”
The Lions released Kennard on Tuesday, a day after they agreed to terms with Jamie Collins on a three-year free agent contract.
In addition to Collins and Trufant, the Lions landed defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Nicholas Williams and backup quarterback Chase Daniel in free agency, and acquired safety Duron Harmon in a trade with the New England Patriots.
If they stay at No. 3 in the draft, the Lions should have their pick of cornerback Jeff Okudah, defensive tackle Derrick Brown or linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons.
Still, replacing Slay won’t be easy.
Slay leads the NFL in passes defensed since he entered the league as a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2013, and he’s often been tasked with shadowing the opponents’ No. 1 receiver in Patricia’s defense.
Last season, Slay tied for the team lead with two interceptions and 13 passes defensed despite missing two games and leaving two others with a hamstring injury.
Slay said at the Super Bowl in January that he hoped to sign an extension with the Lions but was willing to go elsewhere if that didn’t happen.
“If they give me the contract, I’ll be blessed and fortunate enough for it,” he said. “Like I say, I always wanted to retire as a Detroit Lion. But if it don’t happen, it’s cool. I’ll be all right. Like I said, if I don’t, somebody will be getting a great player.”
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called Slay one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
“Slay doesn’t get enough credit and that’s, once again, the market he’s in and sometimes the team doesn’t have a lot of success,” Sherman said at the Super Bowl. “But he’s one of the quickest, most athletic cornerbacks in our game. Outstanding ball skills. I think over the last five or six years, he has the most pass breakups and interceptions.
“He’s a ball hawk, man. He’s a ball-hawking guy and I have the utmost respect for his game and I enjoy watching him play.
Slay, who’ll reunite in Philadelphia with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the coach who drafted him in Detroit, is the fourth big-name cornerback to change teams via trade in the past five months. The Jacksonville Jaguars traded All-Pro Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for a package of picks last October on the same day that the Rams traded Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens, and the Jaguars have a trade pending of A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos, who were among the teams who showed interest in Slay at last year’s trade deadline, gave up a fourth-round pick for the 29-year-old Bouye, who has two years and $26 million left on his contract.
Ramsey, 25, netted two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder from the Rams, while Los Angeles got a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young for the 27-year-old Peters.