ALLEN PARK — Five-and-half-hours into the start of the negotiating period, the Detroit Lions have made their first major free-agent splash by coming to terms with offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
The deal is for five years and $50 million, according to multiple reports, although it can’t become official until the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Vaitai, 26, played his college ball at Texas Christian before being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He’s never been a full-time starter — in fact, he started just four games the last two years combined — while mostly serving as the swing tackle behind Lane Johnson and Jason Peters in Philadelphia. But he has also started in big games, including filling in for Peters during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017.
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He also fared well on his 477 snaps last season, especially as a run blocker. He ranked 11th among all offensive tackles according to ProFootballFocus. But his pass protection left more to be desired, allowing two sacks, eight hits and 11 hurries on 291 pass-blocking reps. He ranked 77th as a pass protector according to PFF, and graded out 22nd overall at the position.
Vaitai may not have been good enough to be a full-time starter in Philadelphia, but the Lions have seen enough to make him the fifth highest-paid right tackle in the league. He is expected to replace Rick Wagner, another high-priced right tackle — in fact, Detroit made him the top-paid player at the position in 2017 — who was let go over the weekend.
Wagner has already found a new home, coming to terms with the Green Bay Packers on a two-year deal.