SEPTEMBER 6: While the issue affecting the veteran lineman’s availability remains a mystery, it’s far from certain he’ll return when he’s first eligible. Vaitai is not a lock to play in 2022, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Kraemer will be Detroit’s starting right guard, according to the official depth chart the team released Tuesday morning.
SEPTEMBER 5: Halapoulivaati VaitaiThe third season of Lions will not start on time. The veteran offensive lineman is now on Detroit’s IR, enforcing a four-game absence. The nature of Vaitai’s injury is unknown.
The well-paid tackle is expected to return as the Lions’ right guard starter, but the team will have to make other plans for their September slate. This will be Vaitai’s second IR trip since signing with the Lions in 2020. The team has also claimed custody Drew Forbes off waivers from the Browns on Monday.
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A former Eagles rookie, Vaitai missed six games in 2020 with a foot injury but returned to play in 15 last year. Vaitai, 29, is part of a Lions source of optimism; him and the left guard jonas jackson ranked among the top 30 guards (by Pro Football Focus) in 2021. Featuring former first-round players Taylor Decker, Franck Ragnow and Penei Sewellthe Lions should field one of the best O lines in the league.
Detroit’s replacements from 2020 are no longer on the list, although Forbes is now in the mix. The squad now has four substitute inside linemen – a group that also includes the fourth round of 2020 Logan Stenbergfifth year veteran Evan Brown and DUFA 2021 Tommy Kramer. Brown was Ragnow’s main replacement last season and Kraemer has made three starts in 2021. Neither Forbes nor Stenberg have started a regular season game.
The Lions gave Vaitai a five-year, $45 million contract in free agency two years ago. He is expected to have $8.7 million on the team’s payroll in 2022.