A month ago, we teased the idea of the San Francisco 49ers inquiring about veteran cornerback Darius Slay of the Detroit Lions. On Wednesday, the Lions signed former Falcons CB Desmond Trufant, which points to Slay’s exit. Slay took to Twitter after Trufant signed to say, “Hope that speeds up my trade process.” Slay didn’t stop there. He responded to several other NFL players and tweets all but saying he wants out.
That puts Detroit in a difficult situation. That puts his potential suitors in an advantageous situation. A month ago, we were talking about the 49ers trading No. 31 overall for Slay. Now? I don’t think Detroit will get anything near a first-round pick, especially after signing Trufant.
Slay is entering the last year of a four-year, $48 million deal. His base salary for this season is $10 million. The 49ers could easily work out an extension and sign him to one of their usual team-friendly deals. Slay, who just turned 29 in January, is still a very good player. Pairing him with Richard Sherman for a year, and possibly being the veteran to replace Sherm after next year makes so much sense for the 49ers.
With the cap set to spike over the next couple of years, salary cap wizard Paraag can frame an extension—just like he did for Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward—where the cap hit is lower in 2020, and it steadily climbs as the contract goes on. Essentially, backloading the deal but framing the contract where the 49ers can get out of it after Year 2 or 3. Spotrac projects Slay to make just under $15 million a year.
Slay on the field
Let’s compare Slay’s numbers from 2019 to the 49ers cornerbacks, as well as Chris Harris and Trufant:
“YAC” is a good indicator of cornerbacks because it tells you how close they were in coverage or how sure of a tackler they are. If you’re not in a position to make a play, the receiver is going to run for days. As you can see, Slay and Sherman are head and shoulders above the rest.
Slay was targeted 84 times, allowed 49 receptions, and only seven of them were “explosive plays.” That’s why I feel like he’s the best option that is available for the 49ers. If opposing offenses can’t generate big plays against San Francisco, they don’t have much of a chance. Slay has the much-needed experience that would go a long way, especially in the playoffs. Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment, but this would give the 49ers the best secondary and cement them having the best defense in the NFL. What is he going to cost, though?
The good news for the 49ers is they’re not desperate. They don’t have to trade for Slay. If Detroit doesn’t like what John Lynch has to say, he can hang up. It never hurts to pick up the phone. Most of the time, you’re surprised the offer will go through.
Knowing the Lions are looking to get rid of Slay, I’m not offering a premium pick. My proposal would be a 2021 third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft for Slay. That way, I hold on to my two first-rounders in 2020, so I can wheel and deal throughout the draft. San Francisco is going to be good next year. I think the only question is how good? Because of that, that third-rounder will close to the end of the round. That’s more than worth it for Slay. Honestly, I’d start with a fourth-round pick in 2021, and offer two of my fifth-round picks in 2020.
Acquiring Slay sets up the 49ers for short and long-term success. You don’t sacrifice a valuable pick, and you are doing what every team attempts to do when they make a transaction: get better.