Cap casualties: Lions release WR Burleson, S Delmas
Feb 13, 2014 at 2:09p ET
It was Cap Casualty Day in Allen Park, Mich.
Cutting Burleson knocks about $5.5 million off the books. Delmas saves another $6 million.
The club had to do something because it was facing major salary-cap hassles this offseason.
These two moves reportedly have put the Lions under the cap, but there's still not much room at this point to try to fill any holes in the lineup through free agency.
The next move that would help in that regard is if the Lions can negotiate a contract extension with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to reduce his current $22.4 million cap hit for 2014.
It's unclear right now whether that's a legitimate possibility.
The departures of Burleson and Delmas undoubtedly make receiver and safety -- along with cornerback -- the team's primary areas of need for the NFL Draft in May.
No matter who they get to fill those voids, the Lions will have a difficult time replacing the personalities they've just lost.
These were the two guys who typically gave the speeches in those familiar pre-game player huddles on game days.
It's still an outside possible that the Lions could bring them back at a greatly reduced price -- Delmas more so apparently than Burleson -- but both players are expected to pursue other possibilities as free agents.
Burleson, 32, was one of the most visible players on the team because he was the most accessible. His outgoing personality also made him one of the leaders in the locker room.
"The last 4 years in Michigan been incredible!" Burleson tweeted after his release was confirmed. "MY TEAM, FANS & the CITY will (miss) more than you know! Thank You! Love Detroit!"
This was a guy who even opened up a clothing line called "Lion Blood.". He believed in Detroit and was willing to take less money to end his career here, but the Lions have decided to go in a different direction.
Burleson admitted it was a "tough time" for him when he got the call Thursday morning from general manager Martin Mayhew, but Burleson conceded he wasn't totally surprised by the news.
"I understand the business," he said.
That was clear a couple months ago when he openly acknowledged he would renegotiate the final year of a five-year, $25-million deal he had signed as a free agent in 2010.
"I put that out there early," Burleson said a day after the season ended. "That's pretty much the only option. Take less money or release me.
"I love this team, but at the end of the day, I don't control any of that."
Burleson, an 11-year NFL veteran, finished last season with 39 receptions for 461 yards and one touchdown in nine games.
He got off to a great start but then missed seven games after suffering a broken forearm in a car accident. That came after missing 12 games the previous year because of a broken leg.
Still, you can make the argument that Burleson is a quality NFL receiver and that some team will pick him up for at least one more year. If not, there's no doubt a broadcast career in Burleson's future.
"He was a great mentor and a great person," Lions receiver Ryan Broyles said of Burleson in a message posted on Twitter. "He's truly been a role model to me."
Nobody is going to miss him more than the Detroit media. He was their go-to quote the last four seasons -- always willing to give his take on any topic, including being a team spokesman in good times and bad.
The joke when Burleson got injured the last two seasons was that reporters would wear black the next day in mourning.
Delmas, meanwhile was considered the emotional force in the secondary because of his high energy.
Knee problems left him with the label of injury prone, but Delmas played in all 16 games last season. To do that, he had to sit out practice much of the time, which had to take a toll throughout the season on the overall chemistry in the secondary.
What's interesting is that his release came a week after new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had identified him as one of the "difference-makers" on the defense.
Delmas, 26, was a second-round draft pick coming out of Western Michigan in 2009. Before the knees hampered him, he was an impact type of player.
That wasn't the case so much last season, even though he managed to play all those games.
In reality, the knee problems probably weren't going away, either. Even Delmas had admitted he'd likely have to deal with them the rest of his career.
Losing him and Burleson is simply life in a league driven by a salary cap, especially for a team that has so much invested in its top three players. Business decisions have to be made, for better or worse at times.
One thing is certain: The Lions' locker room is going to be a lot quieter place next season without these two voices being heard.