News & Analysis

Lions extend left tackle Taylor Decker, secure Matthew Stafford's blind side for years to come

Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker agreed to a four-year, $60 million extension Tuesday, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The $15 million average-per-year number is a bit below where we would have expected Decker to land, so this is a nice value signing for the Lions. Decker was set to play on a $10.35 million fifth-year option in 2020, and it appears as though that money remains in place. All in all, Decker should be under contract for the next five years in Detroit at a total cost of $70.35 million.

When Buffalo Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins agreed to a four-year, $60 million extension a few weeks ago, we assumed that the average-per-year number of $15 million would become Taylor Decker’s floor. Decker was drafted 16th overall by the Detroit Lions in 2016, just three slots behind Laremy Tunsil. Of course, Decker didn’t have nearly the same leverage as Tunsil did after getting traded to Houston from Miami for multiple first-round picks. Nevertheless, Tunsil signing for $22 million per year compared to Decker’s $15 million is pretty remarkable. 

What helped the Lions here was the fifth-year option, which comes at a tremendous disadvantage to left tackles. There is only one fifth-year option/franchise tag/transition tag amount for all offensive linemen, so while centers and left guards benefit, left tackles get the short end of the stick. Detroit was able to leverage this one-year option into a more team-friendly extension, and Decker still gets his long-term security. The Bills didn’t have the fifth-year option at their disposal with Dawkins, who was a second-round pick in 2017. 

The Lions are a hot pick to have a surprisingly good season, and Matthew Stafford will only benefit from having his blind side protector happy. The next Lion in line may be star wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who has one year remaining on his rookie contract. 

On the field, Decker has been solid every season he has played — and particularly so when healthy. He has also proven to be a better pass-blocker than a run-blocker, a split most teams would covet in todays NFL.

Decker has topped a PFF grade of 80.0 twice in pass protection and cleared 75.0 in a third of his four seasons. However, he has never broken that 75.0 barrier when it comes to run blocking, with two of his four seasons grading below average in that facet.

Last season represented a high watermark in terms of sacks surrendered, with Decker allowing seven of them across 653 pass-blocking snaps. Prior to that, he had given up five sacks combined in his previous two seasons. Its worth noting that Decker has contended with some elite pass-rushers in the NFC North and has still held his own.

While he is unlikely to ever be confused for the best pass-blocking left tackle in the game, even though this extension is a significant one, he isnt being paid like one, either. 

A big part of that expenditure is for the security of knowing the position is solid as Stafford plays through his 30s. The Lions know that Decker is more than good enough to protect Staffords blind side and not be a problem on the offensive line, and finding starting quality tackles is no easy task.

Last season, Stafford had a 94.1 overall PFF grade when kept clean in the pocket, one of the best figures in the league. Securing one of the five players responsible for maintaining that clean pocket is an important move for a team that had the room to make it happen. 

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