On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Detroit Lions have spoken with multiple teams about a potential trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay. If a team trades for Slay, they’d have to sign Slay to a new deal. Schefter said the Lions are adamant on getting back value, and that Detroit is believed to move Slay this offseason.
It’s no secret the San Francisco 49ers are in the market for a cornerback. The team had a historically great pass defense in 2019. Ahkello Witherspoon got off to a hot start, suffered an injury, and never looked like himself during the second half of the season. In his third year, Witherspoon finished the season giving up five touchdowns and was eventually benched in the playoffs. Emmanuel Moseleey was arguably the best cornerback on the team. Statistically, Moseley was. He’ll be remembered for the 3rd & 15 play in the Super Bowl, but Moseley proved to be a good player in his first full season of action. He should be the starter next season. Moseley was that good in 2019.
Moseley should be the starter, but there will be growing pains. In 2017, Slay lead the league in interceptions with eight. He’s made the Pro Bowl the past three seasons. Yes, I know it’s a popularity contest, but Slay has consistently been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Richard Sherman recently said Slay doesn’t get enough credit. On the field, he would allow Robert Saleh to be even more aggressive and creative. It would allow you to continue to develop Moseley without having to worry about the mental mistakes all young players make. It’s tempting.
The issue for the 49ers is, do you give up a first-round pick for Slay—assuming that’s the compensation Detroit seeks—and give Slay a bunch of money? Slay has one-year left on his deal, where he’ll make $10 million for his base salary, and he has a $2.9 million prorated bonus that the Lions will pay. If the 49ers traded for Slay, they’d be responsible for his base salary and the $250k per-game roster bonus in his contract. Spotrac projects Slay’s market value moving forward at $14.9 million annually. When you’re trading for a player that has been top-10 for the good portion of his career, he’s going to cost a pretty penny.
There’s no question Slay will improve an already elite defense. You can kick Moseley inside and see if he beats out K’Wuan Williams. These are good problems to have. You can look at it as paying Slay long-term, letting Sherman walk once his contract is up after next season, and now you’re in a similar position with Moseley and the veteran Slay as your starters. Paraag Marathe is sure to make the contract team-friendly. If you see reports that the 49ers are interested in Slay, that’s a sign John Lynch is all-in. I’ll never be mad at a general manager being aggressive.