Daily Focus: Slay extension looks smart for Lions

Matt Claassen looks at Detroit's extension of a strong defensive player, and the Titans signing of the aging Andre Johnson.

| 2 months ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Daily Focus: Slay extension looks smart for Lions


Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.

Slay a solid extension for Lions: Darius Slay was set to become a free agent after the 2016 season, but the Lions have signed him to a long-term deal. Per ProFootballTalk, it is a four-year extension worth over $50 million and $23 million guaranteed.

As a rookie in 2013, Slay played as a sub-package corner with a few starts and he didn’t fare too well. He allowed 436 receiving yards on just 231 snaps in coverage for the fourth-most yards per coverage snap among cornerbacks that year. But he was asked to be a full-time starter in his second year and showed significant improvement. He played roughly three times as many snaps in coverage, but only allowed another 298 receiving yards. He also made several more plays on the ball (11 combined interceptions and pass defenses) while cutting down on the missed tackles in the run game.

As much as he improved between years one and two, Slay put forth a performance last year that was among the best cornerbacks in the league. His 87.7 overall player grade was second to only Tyrann Mathieu among corners. He also ranked in the top 10 in both coverage and run defense. In all, Slay had 10 above-average games compared to just two below-average games in 2015. Over Detroit’s final 11 games of the season, Slay allowed 350 yards, did not allow a single touchdown, and had nine pass defenses.

With just four career interceptions, he may not be the ball-hawk that some prefer from their cornerbacks, but he has become an incredibly consistent defender which may be even more valuable. If the contract numbers are correct, Slay will be among the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks in the league. It’s a lot of money, but Slay is an ascending player who has already proven he can perform at that level.

slay

Andre Johnson unlikely to have big impact on Titans: The Titans have some young receivers that were high draft picks and have brought in a couple free agents the past two offseasons, but are still open to finding more help at the position. With that in mind, they brought in former Texans and Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson to see if he can still be a difference maker. For a long time Johnson was underrated and among the best receivers in the league. From 2008 to 2013, Johnson graded among the top five wide receivers in five of the six years, and ranked in the top five in yards per route run. He’s become less productive the past two seasons, though, as he has aged. Last year he earned a below-average receiving grade for the first time of the 10-year PFF era. He also had his highest drop rate of that timespan.

At 35 years old, it would be surprising if Johnson can still be the player he used to be. However, if he can regain some of his prior form, he may still be able to have an impact for a receiving corps that we ranked 27th earlier this offseason.

(PFF Fantasy Insight: Dan Schneier pegged Rishard Matthews as the Tennessee receiver to watch in training camp. Dorial Green-Beckham, meanwhile, has been slipping down the depth chart, which might have prompted the Johnson acquisition. Jeff Ratcliffe ran down the Titans’ fantasy options before the signing.)

Keep checking on the PFF Training Camp Tour: With training camps opening this week, several of our analysts will be making the rounds across the country to check in with each team as part of our Training Camp Tour. We will have daily live updates, covering how players are performing, how depth charts are shaking up so far, and even chats with players. Keep checking back for the latest updates and check out our entire schedule for the preseason.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

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