It was assumed that keeping hold of Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be tricky, but did anyone predict the stakes being as high as a $50M deal over 5-years? That’s what the Lions have agreed to pay the former Eagles lineman, drawing his services away from Jeff Stoutland’s grasp.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Vaitai was always seen as a developmental talent. Someone who had played both sides of the line during his time at TCU, his versatility was regarded as a huge bonus. What many didn’t anticipate was how early it would be tested.
Now nearly 26-years olf, Vaitai has 20 NFL starts and 55 regular season appearances under his belt…and he’s not even a starter. He’s played at both ends of the bookshelf and did so during the Eagles’ iconic Super Bowl run, and even transitioned inside to RG, beating out Stefen Wisniewski for a primary backup role in 2019.
It hadn’t all been a glistening success for Vaitai (just ask Ryan Kerrigan), but whenever the Eagles needed depth, he answered the call suitably. The TCU product played in 476 snap last years, grading out at 72.8 per PFF (25th out of 87 tackles). He started four games at right tackle (1 playoff start), the position he’d drifted away from, due to Lane Johnson’s injury.
Vaitai’s ceiling as a starter increased year-on-year, but the drafting of Andre Dillard stopped it in its tracks. Vaitai will get his shot with the Detroit Lions and I personally couldn’t be happier for him.
The question now becomes ‘is Jordan Mailata ready to take the next step?’ Because if he’s not, we can add a backup tackle to the Eagles growing list of needs ahead of free agency. But that’s a question we will explore tomorrow.
For now, three cheers for Big V getting a big payday.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports