Written by: JT Bowen
Since 2019’s heated trade deadline that never materialized but at many points looked like a massive trade was going to happen, Detroit and star corner Darius Slay’s relationship has clearly been shattered.
It really started with the sudden and forgettable trade of Quandre Diggs, a team captain and one of Slay’s close friends, for a bag of Skittles. But Detroit’s unwillingness to commit long-term to Slay thus far has shown the marriage is steadily falling apart.
It’s unclear if Slay’s relationship with the Lions is still repairable, but regardless of his feeling towards the team he’ll play if he gets his money. Personally, I’m highly conflicted on the whole situation. Watching Slay grow into a top-3 to 5 cornerback over the past few years amid the Lions dreary state has been a rare bright spot. He has embraced the city and is a leader on the defense, and still playing at an elite level regularly. However, he wants a big paycheck and is approaching 30 years old, and I’m not sold on him continuing to produce as well towards the end of his $15 million+ deal he’ll likely receive.
Recently, the trade rumors that were flying around near the deadline have started to resurface, according to Adam Schefter. While no teams or potential packages have yet appeared, it’s very evident that the Lions are making Slay available and teams are interested. Hopefully, the Lions realized their huge mistake in trading Diggs for nothing, who immediately contributed in a big way in Seattle’s playoff push, and won’t give up Slay for unjust compensation. If the Lions can’t get a top-50 pick or higher, I’m not on board with trading Slay, and would try and ink him to short term, big money deal — something along the lines of 2 years, $32 million.
However, assuming the Lions do decide to part ways with the Mississippi State product, which is a very real possibility, it’s interesting to conjure up potential deals that could come into fruition with different suitors.
#1, Slay to Philly
Perhaps the most obvious suitor for Slay’s services would be Philadelphia. For years, it has seemed that the Eagles are just a few pieces from being a perennial contender, and a quality cornerback tops that shopping list. There were rumblings of Slay being headed out to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, and I fully expect the Eagles, who aren’t in a spot to draft a Day 1 high-caliber starting corner (the only one being Jeff Okudah), to still be inquiring about Slay’s availability.
Philadelphia has rolled with a ragtag bunch of corners for the last few years, with injuries and poor play leaving no clear best option on the roster currently. The Eagles’ secondary is pretty bad, especially with the potential departure of Malcolm Jenkins, but adding Slay to lock down the Amari Coopers and Sterling Shepards in their division would be a step in the right direction.
The Eagles currently have the 21st overall selection in the draft after squeaking into the playoffs last season, and it’s hard to see them parting ways with that pick, especially for just Slay, given the pressing need at receiver for the Eagles. So, I’d say the most likely package for Slay would be Slay for their second-rounder, the 53rd overall pick, and the 169th overall selection from New England in the fifth round.
I like to think the Lions will wait as long as possible to get the best value for Slay should they choose to trade him, but at some point, as offers start to dwindle in worth, they might bite on just a second. However, with Philly’s window for championships open but starting to close, they might snap on adding a proven veteran receiver from Detroit as well, adding Marvin Jones and Darius Slay for the 21st overall pick.
This would be quite the surprise for Lions fans, and frankly, I’m not sure if I’m on board with it myself. Marvin Jones is loved by Detroit and embraces the city back, and in spite of injuries is a very solid WR2. As he continues to age and coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries, I’m not sure how much value he’d fetch in the trade market, but Philly’s previous willingness to add talent for high picks (Golden Tate on an expiring deal for a 3rd) could make this move happen.
#2, SB Champs add a shutdown corner
Kansas City is clearly in a pretty good spot right now, and I congratulate them on a stellar season and well-deserved Super Bowl. As long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are present, as well as a Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce, maybe, they should and will be perennial contenders for at least the next decade.
The defense, though, has some questions. Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark headline some returning playmakers, but the Chiefs have some major contributors, especially in the secondary, set to depart, as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, two consistent corners for the team, could potentially both leave if not offered enough. Resigning interior penetrator Chris Jones is the main priority for the Chiefs this offseason, and it would be a surprise to see both of the aforementioned to return.
Enter Darius Slay. Sure, Slay is probably making more and will command more than either of those guys, but the improvement Slay would be is worth it. Kansas City will need lockdown corners with a number of rising quarterbacks and receivers in the AFC, and Slay brings immediate top-5 play and forms a menacing secondary with Tyrann Mathieu.
During the regular season, Jalen Ramsey headed to LA in a deal that netted Jacksonville two first-rounders and a fourth-rounder. Though Slay is five years older and probably not as great a player, I don’t see him fetching that type of return, especially with KC’s large window for championships, unlike the Rams. However, Brett Veach has shown he is willing to swing big trades for proven talent (giving up a first and a second for Frank Clark). Slay has been a model of consistency for the past few years in Detroit, and Steve Spagnuolo would greatly appreciate adding him to the secondary. With their second-rounder already belonging to Seattle, I could see Kansas City parting ways with their
first-rounder, the 32nd overall selection, for Darius Slay. If they’re reluctant to give up this year’s first, I’m okay with their 2021 first-rounder for Slay as well, but I’m unsure if the win-now mentality in Detroit would accept that.
More than anything, I’d be very happy for Slay to chase a ring that he’ll probably never get here.
#3, Rams last resort for a ring
LA is in a very interesting spot right now. On paper, they should be a Super Bowl contender — with Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Brandin Cooks, Andrew Whitworth, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and an outstanding coach in Sean McVay. After a brutal Super Bowl loss two seasons ago, they appeared poised to contend in the NFC once again, but missed the playoffs altogether. With Jared Goff continuing to toil in mediocrity, and Todd Gurley’s murky future, it seems as though the only opportunity at winning a Super Bowl would be a result of a dominant defense.
I know the Rams heavily invested in the cornerback position, acquiring Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars in exchange for an arm and a leg. However, after trading both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters during the season, the Rams have a pressing need at corner opposite Ramsey, especially in a loaded division. LA is strapped for cash currently, and with Jalen Ramsey set to receive a massive extension, Slay might seem out of the question. However, with some cost-cutting moves (releasing Todd Gurley and letting Cory Littleton walk), Slay could be had even at his price point.
I’m not entirely sold on nor do I agree with LA’s intrigue in adding another top-5 corner and paying over $30 million combined to them, but the current regime’s repeated tendency to swinging blockbuster trades and reported interest makes it entirely possible.
The issue with Slay heading west, though, is LA’s dearth of assets to send back. They don’t have first round selections in 2020 or 2021, and don’t have many players that would appear available. So, I would say the most likely deal for Slay would be comparable to a prospective Philly trade, something along the lines of Slay for the 52nd pick and 174th pick.
For fun, I tried to conjure up another trade, eventually coming up with Brandin Cooks and the 84th selection for Darius Slay. Cooks is a guy who has struggled with injuries and been shipped all over the place, but is still just 26 and a very solid player. I don’t love his contract (he is entering the 3rd year of a 5yr/$81 million deal), especially given Kenny Golladay’s upcoming extension, but taking a swing at him wouldn’t be out of Bob Quinn’s wheelhouse, and he would add a dynamic downfield threat that the offense needs. Less likely, but still intriguing nonetheless.
#4, Broncos acquire Darius Slay
Another team linked as a potential suitor for Slay, Denver is set to lose Pro Bowl corner Chris Harris Jr. in free agency this year, and could look to immediately replace him by adding the Detroit corner. Denver is a young team that shouldn’t immediately contend, especially in a division with Kansas City, but looks like they’re on the right path under Vic Fangio, with a potential franchise QB in Drew Lock, and some young pieces such as Courtland Sutton, Phil Lindsay, Justin Simmons and Bradley Chubb.
Adding Slay to slide right into a CB1 would be a nice move for John Elway to continue the veteran defensive presence with Kareem Jackson, as well as Von Miller. I’m not entirely sure it makes a whole lot of sense, especially with Denver not seemingly close to the precipice of contending, but the Broncos have displayed preliminary interest, so I figured I’d try and make a scenario out of it.
As previously mentioned, the most likely compensation for Slay would be a second and late fifth/early sixth round pick, so in Denver’s case, the 46th overall selection and the 179th overall selection.
However, without any research, another trade immediately popped into my mind. Former 1st-round choice Garrett Bolles has had an overall disappointing three seasons in the Mile High City, and I could see Denver parting ways with him this offseason for very little. Bolles is still (relatively) young and has shown flashes, but has struggled with penalties and consistency through three years. His athleticism and toughness that transcends the field are intangible traits that Detroit, who have questions afoot at the tackle position, would be wise to add — low-risk, high-reward move here, and at worse he adds depth for a couple years. Bolles and one of Denver’s third-rounders, the 83rd overall selection from Pittsburgh, for Slay.
Thank you for reading. It will be interesting to watch these next few weeks approaching free agency if any movement happens on the Slay front, but these are a few ideas.