Philadelphia Eagles: The Lions must really like Halapoulivaati Vaitai

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Over his four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Halapoulivaati Vaitai clearly made an impression on the Detroit Lions, as the ex-TCU tackle just got paid.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is probably having a really good time right now.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Texas Native and TCU graduate never quite carved out a consistent role in the City of Brotherly Love. Sure, Vaitai played a lot, but he only started in 26 games versus 61 total appearances, with only three starts this past season. Though he did recover a fumble in 2019, the second of his career, Vaitai also committed four holding penalties and has allowed a total of 16 sacks over 61 professional games.

These are not abysmal numbers by any means, but clearly they gave the Eagles pause; enough pause to trade up in the 2019 NFL draft to select their left tackle of the future Andre Dillard 21st overall.

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But you know who does have complete confidence in Vaitai? The Detroit Lions.

That’s right, the Lions have signed Big V to a five-year, $50 million deal. Considering his performance as an Eagle, this might seem a little bit shocking. This is certainly more of a contract for a consistent starter, and Vaitai has yet to actually start for a full season. His most consistent season was in 2017, where he took over at left tackle for Jason Peters full-time in Week 8. Sure, the Eagles won the Super Bowl that season, but it was also the season where Vaitai allowed seven sacks and received two false starts on 829 offensive snaps.

At 26 years-old, Vaitai is still young enough to get better with consistent playing time, but he’s also old enough to no longer be a prospect in the traditional sense.

In 2019, Vaitai graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked offensive tackle based on a 477 snap sample size. Based on this number, in addition to his body off work, Over the Cap estimated that Vaitai would earn $6.5 million a year on his second contract. At a little under twice that number annually with $13 million of his total salary guaranteed, the Lions are betting that Vaitai can remain an above-average offensive tackle in a full-time role, and actually serve as an upgrade over Rick Wagner, who signed his own two-year deal with the Green Bay Packers worth $11 million.

Vaitai is four years younger than Wagner, and thus is certainly worth more, but how much more could define this deal in the long-term.

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Look, I’m rooting for Halapoulivaati Vaitai in Detroit, I really am. Despite his inability to solidify his place as a long-term starter, the TCU product was always ready when his number was called, and played with heart even if he wasn’t always the most athletically gifted guy on the field. If Big V can elevate his game as a full-time starter, the Lions may be set at right tackle moving forward, but if not, it’s a good thing the Philadelphia Eagles cross-trained him at guard.