(DETROIT, MI) -- Reports of the Detroit Lions franchise being up against the salary cap in 2002 are unfounded according to figures released yesterday by the National Football League Players Association. According to the report released by the NFLPA, the Lions salary expenditures total $57,914,621 million, leaving them nearly $13 million below the league's cap of $71 million.
The top three spenders according to the report were the New York Jets at $87.3 million; the Pittsburgh Steelers at just over $85 million, followed by the expansion Houston Texans at $76.5 million. On the lowest end of the pay scale were NFC North division rivals Green Bay Packers with just $39.7 million and the Minnesota Vikings, thanks to their failure to sign first-round draft pick Bryant McKinnie, at $44.2 million, third were the Jacksonville Jaguars at $49.3 million.
The real problems for Detroit will surface next season when the team absorbs a huge amount of "dead money" in salary cap accounting charges for releasing quarterback Charlie Batch and wide receiver Herman Moore. Detroit will take a $5 million charge for Batch, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers and $3.75 million for Moore, now semi-retired.
Detroit is still paying for a huge mistake they made in allowing veteran free agent guard Jeff Hartings sign a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lions CEO and President Matt Millen abruptly withdrew a six-year $24.03 million offer to Hartings, who later signed a six-year $24.25 million deal with Pittsburgh.
At that point Millen stated, "We could have signed Jeff Hartings, but we would have created more problems. Pittsburgh's got themselves a good player. He'll make them better, just like he would have helped us get better. But, at what price? That number ($24.05 million) is prohibitive."
In response to losing Hartings, Detroit signed journeyman Brendan Stai to a five year $9.72 million contract with a $2.75 million bonus. Stai washed out in Detroit in just one year and was traded to the Washington Redskins for a conditional draft pick.
Detroit had to absorb $2.2 million of Stai's signing bonus to trade him resulting in a scenario where Detroit took a bigger cap charge to get rid of Stai than they would have to taken had they signed Hartings. Now they have neither player and had to sign solid but again older guard Ray Brown to a free agent deal to solidify their offensive line.
THE RETURN OF "DIRT"
Detroit revived the "Dirt" Jordan era by resigning their former 7th round draft pick from Missouri Southern, Richard Jordan. The native of Hillsboro, Texas is best known for his play in relief of the injured Stephen Boyd in the 1998 season, when he put together a 10 tackle game for Detroit and for his catchy nickname "Dirt."
Jordan, 6' 1", 257, played for Lions defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer in Kansas City and with Detroit thin at the linebacker corps, they decided to go back to the feisty linebacker who after injuring his achilles tendon in 1999 appeared to lose a little speed and was released on the final cut by Detroit. Jordan has 48 career tackles, an interception and two passes deflected in his career.
Detroit released former MSU standout Josh Thornhill for the second time to sign the veteran Jordan.