Raiola agrees to restructure contract
The salary-cap crunch is on for the Detroit Lions.
Center Dominic Raiola has agreed to restructure the final year of a contract that was going to pay him about $4 million in base salary in 2013 and count $6 million toward the salary cap because of a previous signing bonus.
The Lions are trying to create as much cap room as possible because they have 23 unrestricted free agents and also want to enter the free-agency market to fill some holes on a 4-12 team.
The team released three players last week -- receiver Titus Young, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and offensive guard Stephen Peterman -- which reduced their cap number by more than $8 million.
Raiola's restructure is likely going to save another $2 million to $3 million.
He told the FOX television affiliate in Detroit that he agreed to take less money because "I love playing in Detroit and I love Detroit."
General manager Martin Mayhew still plans to try to create even more cap space by restructuring the contracts of quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Nate Burleson in the upcoming weeks.
Raiola, 34, a second-round pick by Detroit in 2001, has missed only four games in his 12-year career and has started every game in 10 of the last 11 seasons. There was speculation that he might get released, but the restructure was a better option for both sides.
The Lions have no solid heir apparent at center other than possibly Bill Nagy, who has more experience as a guard and is coming off an ankle injury. Dylan Gandy has been Raiola's backup the last couple years, but he's more of a reserve player/special-teams contributor than a full-time starter.
The idea of relying on an inexperienced center, such as a draft pick, would be a risky move. It's a position that requires great knowledge to make all the calls for the offensive line. Experience at that spot is more important than physical talent.
Raiola just has to make sure he doesn't lose the job during training camp.
But bringing him back at a lower price for one more year is the best way to go under the circumstances. Although Raiola has his share of flaws, it keeps some continuity on the line, his intelligence on the field and his leadership in the locker room.
The Lions announced that Marcus Robertson has been promoted to the team's secondary coach, replacing Tim Walton, who left to become the defensive coordinator in St. Louis.
Robertson, 43, was a defensive back in the NFL for 12 seasons and was named to the All-Pro team in 1993 and 1997.
He spent five seasons as a secondary coach with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Lions last season. Robertson worked beside Walton with the title of defensive assistant/secondary.