HomeFootball DirtDetroit Lions to release safety Tracy Walker

Detroit Lions to release safety Tracy Walker

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C.J. Gardner-Johnson‘s injury led Tracy Walker back into the Lions’ starting lineup, but the veteran did not hold down the job. Detroit will now move on from Walker’s second contract.

Walker re-signed with the Lions on a three-year, $25MM deal in 2022, but an injury hampered him on that deal. The Lions are cutting bait Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. Walker had bid farewell to Detroit on social media recently, and the 29-year-old defender will look for a new team soon.

An Achilles tear sustained in September 2022 altered Walker’s run in Detroit. The former third-round pick had started 37 games with the Lions before that injury. Although he returned to action as the Lions dealt with multiple injuries in their secondary last season, DC Aaron Glenn did not keep the Louisiana alum in his starting secondary. That makes this release unsurprising, as the Lions have some big payments to make in the near future.

Walker started 15 games in 2021, commanding a nice contract in free agency. The Lions reinvested despite Walker being a Bob Quinn-era draftee. The Brad Holmes regime showed faith in the young defender, but the Achilles injury occurring three games into that deal’s life prompted the team to make other plans. Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $6.5MM pact in 2023.

Walker did return in time for Week 1 and suited up for every Lions regular-season game, but he lost his job midway through. Pro Football Focus graded Walker outside the top 60 among safeties this season, and Glenn benched him in early December. Returning to a starting role following Gardner-Johnson’s Week 2 pectoral tear, Walker started six games and logged at least 69% of Detroit’s defensive snaps in four more. Over the Lions’ final five regular-season games, however, Walker played all of four defensive snaps. He did not suit up in the playoffs.

The Lions overhauled their secondary in 2023, adding Gardner-Johnson, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and Brian Branch to the equation. Branch became Detroit’s slot cornerback, while CJGJ stuck at safety. Gardner-Johnson and Kerby Joseph served as Detroit’s Week 1 safeties, and after giving Walker another shot, Glenn used Ifeatu Melifonwu alongside Joseph down the stretch. One season remains on the 2021 third-round pick’s rookie deal. Playing out a one-year deal marred by injury, Gardner-Johnson is due to be a free agent again next month.

If the Lions do not designate Walker as a post-June 1 cut, they will be charged with $7.3MM in dead money. The team used a void year to spread out Walker’s cap hit; that helped balloon the dead cap here. Detroit will pick up $5.5MM in cap savings by making this move, assuming a June 1 distinction is not part of the equation.

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