How The Lions Gambled And Won In 2013 With Louis Delmas

A lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans seem to be excited on Monday after reports surfaced that former Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas is visiting the Steel City. What many don’t realize, however, is that Lions gambled and won last season with the former second-round draft pick, and that the Steelers would likely have to gamble quite a bit as well should they ultimately wind up signing him.

Delmas was an unrestricted free agent last offseason after playing in just eight games in 2012 because of an ongoing knee problem, that several seem to think is degenerative in nature. After getting looks from the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers at the beginning of the free agency signing period, Delmas ultimately re-signed with a Lions on a two-year deal worth a max of $9.465 million.

So how did the Lions gamble and win with Delmas? For starters, Delmas’ contract was very incentive laden with play-time incentives and included a 2013 minimum base salary of $715,000, and a $1 million signing bonus. As Kevin Seifert of reported shortly after Delmas re-signed, the 2013 incentives were to kick in when Delmas participated in at least 42 percent of the Lions’ defensive plays. In other words, he would receive $109,375 for every game that he was on the 46-man active game roster with the opportunity of earning an additional $1.75 million if he were to appear in all 16 regular-season games.

The above is an example of a NLTBE (not likely to be earned) incentive as far as cap cost goes. Why? Because Delmas only participated in 41.97 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps in 2012. As far as his 2013 cap charge goes, he only counted $1.215 million. Yes, Delmas played in all 16 games and because of that, the Lions will be debited $1.75 million against their 2014 salary cap.

So could the Steelers sign Delmas to an incentive laden contract like the Lions did? Yes, they could, but any incentives tied to playing time would be counted as LTBE (likely to be earned) as the safety played nearly every defensive snap in 2013. For example, if the Steelers gave Delmas the same kind of per game incentive, they would have to account for the full amount in their 2014 salary cap being as it is deemed likely to be earned. If at the end of the season he didn’t meet the incentives, they would receive a cap credit in 2015 for the difference.

If the Lions thought Delmas’ knee was no longer a big issue, they likely wouldn’t have cut him. Had they kept him, they would’ve had to pay him a $5.5 million base salary and a $500,000 roster bonus in 2014 without any incentives attached. You see what they thought about that idea.

As previously mentioned, Delmas, while he played in all 16 games last season for the Lions, he was also on their injury report every week of the season and listed as questionable 15 out of 16 games. In addition, it wasn’t uncommon for him to only practice one day a week because of his knee issue.

Now, put yourself in Delmas’ shoes for a minute. After proving in 2013 that he could play in every game, would you want another incentive laden contract this season? Maybe that’s all he will get when the smoke clears, but I certainly expect that he will be making the rounds and visiting with several doctors of interested teams before finally signing. The Steelers just happen to be the first.

  • cp72

    I know he is a veteran guy, but Dick Lebeau’s defense has proven time and again extremely difficult to learn the first couple years you are in it. I would think being limited on how many practice reps you can have will only make it more difficult.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Gambling that he can hold up with the knee. Then gambling that he can be as good as Clark in his heyday. (I think I would rather try Will Allen as he was quite good in 2012 when injuries to Clark and Troy happened). Then gambling that he learns it quick enough, while gambling a lot of cap money. No thanks! Way too much risk for the potential reward.

  • JT

    Will Allen is far more of a gamble performance wise. If he was anything like 2012 Will Allen he doesn’t get cut by the freaking Cowboys. And regardless, he doesn’t have to be as good as Clark in his heyday. He just has to be better than nothing. Which the Steelers currently have. They won’t sign him for a lot a cap money. That’s not how kicking the tires on a guy like this works. Way less risk than you think for an enormous reward.

  • JT

    Well somebody has to learn it. Because the reality is there will be definitely one, if not two new FS in 2014 not including Shark. Delmas at least has the knowledge and experience, even if not the reps.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    As per previous post, from a medical perspective, I am OK with his knee for 1-2 seasons on our team knowing he will need sporadic cleanup surgeries and a cautious practice schedule but it is an upgrade for us and we would not ask him to start presumably if we hand Clark’s spot to Shark.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yes, that sounds lovely if the Steelers could get him on their terms — very cheap, incentive laden, etc. But it probably won;t happen. Also, there’s a lot less FA signings of big contracts nowadays. Watch what happens after the idiots blow the big bucks in the first waive of FA signings in March. There will still be some quality guys left over. A bigger concern is that most teams have a lot more money to blow than the Steelers, so it;s either leftovers or some shrewd pickup that might only be a part-time player.