Entering the final year of his rookie contract, defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s fifth-year option will not be picked up by the Detroit Lions where he is expected to receive $5.5 million in 2015.
General manager Martin Mayhew told reporters at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida that the move was made so Fairley will be motivated to earn the right to acquire a new contract next offseason.
“It’s an opportunity for him to go out and perform his best this offseason, perform his best during the season and hopefully it helps him become the best player he can possibly be,” Mayhew said.
“(The option) is $5.5 million dollars and I have to ask myself is he a $5.5 million player? There’s some performances where he is. There’s some performances where he’s not.
“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.”
Mayhew also took the time to compare Fairley and fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is currently working on a contract extension with the Lions this week in Orlando with agent Jimmy Sexton.
“If you look at him vs. Suh, he probably has better lateral quickness than Ndamukong does, he’s probably slightly a better athlete and definitely runs better in a straight line than Ndamukong,” Mayhew said. “Ndamukong is a more powerful guy and he performs more consistent week in and week out.
“I can tell you right now, wherever (Suh) is right now, he’s doing something to make him better either from a football standpoint or a business standpoint for next season,” Mayhew said. “That’s what he’s doing as we speak right now. That’s what the difference right now is between the two guys.”
Since being drafted by Detroit with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Fairley has recorded 84 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 39 games played. He also finished the 2013 campaign with career high statistics, racking up 35 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a safety and a touchdown.
“He’s a phenomenal talent,” Mayhew said. “This guy can be whatever he wants to be. That’s probably why I’m on him so hard.”