Nate Burleson Injury: Detroit Lions' Loss Opens Door for Ryan Broyles

Darin Pike@darinpikeContributor IOctober 23, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Nate Burleson #13 of the Detroit Lions runs after a reception against Michael Griffin #33 of the Tennessee Titans during the game at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans won 44-41 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have confirmed that Nate Burleson will be out through most of the 2013 offseason. The injury will pave the way for Ryan Broyles to gain footing in the offense and could spell the end of Burleson's time in Detroit.

Lions' Nate Burleson to have surgery, to miss up to 8 months

— Freep Lions (@freeplions) October 23, 2012

The Lions signed Burleson to what was considered to be a lopsided five-year, $26 million contract prior to the 2010 season, according to 

His production hasn't lived up to his contract. He's been a decent No. 2 wide receiver, but averaging 60 catches and 700 yards a season falls short of the type of production they were likely expecting.

Burleson's base salary in 2012 is $825,000. But it skyrockets to $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.5 million in the final year of the deal.

The Lions still have $4 million in prorated signing bonus money that will hit their salary cap if he's released. By waiting until he returns to the field in June or July they will avoid an injury settlement and can split his cap hit over the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

But in order to part ways with Burleson, they need a receiver to demonstrate he can replace his production.

Detroit could have been planning to part ways with Burleson prior to the injury. They spent a second-round draft pick on Broyles in April's draft.

The star receiver out of Oklahoma might have been a first-round selection if not for an ACL injury. He had his first meaningful action on Monday night, recording three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.

If he can maintain that type of production, there will be little reason to pay Burleson $10 million over the next two seasons. They may discuss restructuring his contract, but with Broyles and Titus Young ready to take on more snaps, there doesn't seem to be a need for Burleson, who will be 32 years old before the 2013 season starts.

Look for Broyles to step up and prove he can be a valuable receiver over the remainder of the 2012 season. He had as much success as any receiver against the Chicago Bears and will continue create separation and make plays for the Lions.


Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.