O'HARA: No option for Nick Fairley; players comped and rulings

Posted Mar 25, 2014

Mike O'Hara covers noteworthy items from the annual NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando, Florida

ORLANDO – A noteworthy Monday at the NFL Annual Meeting: No option for Nick Fairley, players cash in in pay-for-play, and owners primed to vote on rules proposals:

Fairley: General Manager Martin Mayhew is giving Nick Fairley a large green carrot for the 2014 season.

The carrot is motivation for Fairley to have the best season of his career, and the green represents the giant pay day Fairley can get for having it.

Mayhew volunteered without prompting Tuesday that the Lions will not pick up the fifth-year option for 2015 on the four-year rookie contract Fairley signed when the Lions drafted him in the first round in 2011.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the Lions have until May 3 to exercise the one-year option for Fairley that would have paid the defensive tackle $5.5 million.

Mayhew is not waiting for the deadline to make his intentions known.

“I have to ask myself, ‘Is he a $5.5-million player right now?’” Mayhew said Monday in explaining the decision not to pick up Fairley’s option during a meeting with Lions beat writers.

 “I think it’s going to be an incentive for him to have an outstanding offseason and an outstanding season. That’s what I want more than anything else.”

The decision carries some risk for the Lions. It will let Fairley become a free agent next year and free to sign with another team. However, the Lions can extend him at any time before free-agency begins in 2015.

Exercising the option would carry minimal risk for the Lions. The one-year salary of $5.5 million is guaranteed only for injury. Fairley could be cut any time before the start of the 2015 league year with no cost to the team.

In other words, if Fairley had a poor season in 2014, the Lions could cut him and lose nothing.

Fairley’s four-year contract has a gross value of $9.889, which includes a signing bonus of $5.69 million. His base salary for 2014 is $1.72 million.

Fairley is a remarkably gifted athlete.  An example of his explosive ability was displayed last year when he burst through an opening to smother running back Matt Forte in the backfield on an attempted two-point conversion run to clinch a victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

However, Mayhew feels he has not lived up to his potential because of inconsistent performance and not keeping himself in top shape.

“I’ve had a chance over the past two or three years to emphasize that to him,” Mayhew said. “It’s been fully stressed to him. He’s a phenomenal talent. This guy basically can be whatever he wants to be. That’s why I’m on him so hard.”

In many ways, Mayhew says Fairley is a better athlete than Ndamukong Suh, who plays tackle next to him. But in terms of desire and commitment, Fairley does not come close to Suh.

“You look at him versus Suh,” Mayehw said. “He probably has better lateral quickness than Ndamukong does. He may be a slightly better athlete. He definitely runs better in a straight line than Ndamukong does.

“Ndamukong is a more powerful guy. His performances are more consistent week in, week out. Ndamukong has a mentality of, ‘I’m going to be great. I’m going to do everything I can to be great.’

“I can tell you right now, wherever he is right now, he’s doing something that’s going to make him better, either from a football standpoint or a business standpoint for next season.

“That’s what the difference is in the two guys.”

Comped: Eight Lions players will get at least $100,000 under the NFL’s pay-for-play compensation program that rewards players who have outperformed their contracts.

The payments are based on number of snaps played in all phases of the game, on an inverse proportion to their base pay. The lowest paid players get the highest compensation.

Rookie guard Larry Warford, a third-round draft pick, was No. 1 on the Lions’ list with $260,000. Wide receiver Kris Durham was next at $220,000.

Six other Lions who got at least $100,000: cornerback Rashean Mathis, $188,000; rookie offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, $181,000; cornerback Bill Bentley, $127,000; running back Joique Bell, $122,000; defensive lineman Israel Idonije, $104,000; rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, $100,000.

The total compensation pool for the Lions was $3.46 million. The payments are made on April 1, 2014, and the payments do not count against the salary cap.

Rulings: Owners could vote Tuesday on a number of proposed rules changes. A change in the extra point, replay review and expanding the playoff field from six teams per conference to seven are among the proposals under consideration.