The bloodletting has begun.
The Detroit Lions informed cornerback Desmond Trufant that he will be released when the new league year opens later this month, ESPN reported, the first of several moves the team is expected to make to get under the 2021 salary cap.
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Trufant, who played just six games for the Lions last season because of a recurring hamstring injury, was set to make $9.5 million in base salary this fall, with $3.5 million of that guaranteed.
Lions cornerback Desmond Trufant celebrates with strong safety Duron Harmon, right, after an interception in the end zone during the second half of the Lions’ 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The move will free up roughly $6 million in cap space.
The Lions currently sit above next year’s salary cap floor of $180 million — the cap has not yet been determined — and need to free up money to add Jared Goff in a trade, use the franchise tag on Kenny Golladay, make moves in free agency and sign their draft class.
“Obviously, there’s some uncertainty in terms of what (the salary cap) will be,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said this week. “From our planning standpoint, we’ve actually been weighing every single scenario from the most optimistic scenario of what it would be to the worst-case scenario. So it goes back to the process in the planning stages in terms of how it works.”
Neither Trufant nor his agent, Doug Hendrickson, returned messages seeking comment Thursday, but the move was not unexpected.
The Lions are optimistic about young cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye, Trufant, 31, has been injured each of the past two seasons, and Lions coach Dan Campbell was evasive Tuesday when asked about the futures of Trufant and fellow cornerback Justin Coleman.
Coleman, who plays primarily as a slot cornerback, is due $8.95 million this fall. By releasing him, the Lions would create about $6 million in cap space.
Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah breaks up a pass intended for Falcons receiver Julio Jones during the first half on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Atlanta.
“I hate that I’m going to have to do this to you,” Campbell said. “Look, we’ve been talking. Brad and I have talked about all that and I would say there’s going to be some things that go down this week one way or another. So when all that happens, you’ll know, but I don’t want to get too deep into all that.”
The Lions signed Trufant to a two-year, $20 million deal at the start of free agency last spring as a replacement for Darius Slay.
He suffered a hamstring injury in a season-opening loss to the Chicago Bears, aggravated the injury in his Week 4 return against the New Orleans Saints, and was placed on injured reserve in early December after hurting his hamstring again in a Thanksgiving loss to the Houston Texans.
Both Holmes and Campbell have noted the Lions’ depth issues at cornerback while complementing their young potential starters.
Okudah, the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, is expected back healthy after fall groin surgery, and Oruwariye made 15 starts and had one interception for the Lions last year.
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Outside of Coleman, the Lions do not have any other cornerbacks under contract for 2021.
“I just know overall, we need competition in that area,” Campbell said. “We need depth in areas, we need competition. I mean, just because for example, we’ve got two young cornerbacks, man, you still want competition. You want guys that they’re having to compete and that are able to push them, or they’re pushing for that starting position. I mean, it’s just, it’s healthy. It makes you better.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions to release CB Desmond Trufant in salary cap move