The Detroit Lions waded cautiously into free agency this off-season, handing out low-money, incentive-laden deals to all but the most sought after players they signed.
General manager Bob Quinn explained that approach at the NFL annual meetings in March, saying, “We want these guys to earn their contracts.”
Fair enough. So what do the new additions have to do to earn their money?
Most of the free agents the Lions signed this off-season have some type of play-time incentive in their deal. Some have per-game roster bonuses, others have incentives tied to the number of snaps they play along with (in some cases) how the Lions do as a team.
Here’s a breakdown of what some of the Lions’ signings need to do to earn additional pay this fall:
• CB Johnson Bademosi: A special-teams standout most of his career, Bademosi has both playtime incentives and an escalator for 2017 in his contract. He can earn $100,000 if he plays in 30% of the Lions’ defensive plays and another $300,000 if he’s an original selection to the Pro Bowl (not taken as an alternate). Additionally, Bademosi can bump his 2017 base salary up as much as $1.1 million. His pay next year jumps from $1.3 million to $1.5 million if he plays 35% of the defensive snaps, another $200,000 if he reaches 50% playtime, $300,000 more if he’s picked for the Pro Bowl and another $400,000 if he has four interceptions. Bademosi has never had an interception in his career.
• LB Jon Bostic: Bostic will earn $40,000 if he’s on the 53-man roster for one game. His contract was acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots.
• S Rafael Bush: The favorite to start at strong safety, Bush can earn up to $900,000 in incentives based on defensive playtime. He will make $100,000 if he plays 45% of the Lions’ defensive snaps, and increments of $200,000 more if he plays 55%, 65%, 75% and 90% of the defensive plays. He also has per-game roster bonuses of $15,625 for every game he’s on the 46-man active roster. Last year, he was limited to one game by a torn pectoral muscle.
• DE Wallace Gilberry: Signed to be a rotational pass rusher, Gilberry has up to $250,000 in incentives tied to playtime and the Lions’ performance. He’ll earn $50,000 if he plays 50% of the defensive snaps and the Lions improve their NFL or conference ranking in points allowed (they ranked 23rd overall last year, at 400 points). That bonus reaches $100,000 if the Lions win at least eight games and he plays 50% of the snaps, $150,000 if he plays 55% of the snaps (with the same defensive improvements), $200,000 if he hits 59% playtime and $250,000 if he plays 65% of the plays. Gilberry also has a non-cumulative incentive for sacks. He’ll make $100,000 if he has five sacks, $150,000 if he has 6.5, $200,000 if he has eight and $250,000 if he reaches 9.5. In 2013, Gilberry had a career-high 7.5 sacks.
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• DT Haloti Ngata: After missing two games with a calf injury last year, Ngata will earn a bonus of $15,625 for every game he’s on the 46-man roster.
• WR Andre Roberts: One of a handful of players battling for the No. 5 receiver spot, Roberts will earn a $65,000 roster bonus if he’s on the 53-man roster for one regular season game.
• DT Tyrunn Walker: Walker can earn up to $350,000 in roster bonuses ($21,875 for every game he’s on the 46-man roster) and has a playtime incentive that will pay him up to $650,000 if he takes in 65% of the Lions’ defensive plays. If he doesn’t play that much, Walker, who missed the final 12 games last year, can earn $150,000 for 35% playtime, $300,000 for 45% playtime or $450,000 for 55% playtime.
• S Tavon Wilson: One of four players competing for the starting safety job opposite Glover Quin, Wilson can earn up to $500,000 in playtime incentives. He’ll make $100,000 if he plays 35% of the defensive snaps, another $150,000 for 50% and $250,000 if he plays 65%.
• LB Tahir Whitehead: Slated to be the Lions’ starting middle linebacker this fall, Whitehead will earn $250,000 if he plays 60% of the defensive snaps and another $250,000 if he’s selected to and participates in the Pro Bowl.