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Lions have informed safety Tracy Walker he's being released

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News on

Published in Football

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions are releasing veteran safety Tracy Walker, a source familiar with the decision confirmed with The Detroit News.

The move was anticipated after Walker had been benched in favor of Ifeatu Melifonwu during the second half of the season. Walker started 43 games during his six years with the Lions. He appeared in all 17 regular-season games in 2023 — a year after tearing his Achilles — but he was a healthy scratch for all three of the team's postseason contests.

"Detroit, I want to thank you for welcoming me in as rookie and accepting me as family," Walker wrote in a post on Instagram. "I want to thank the Ford family for giving me the opportunity to be a part of something special over these last six years. I want to thank my fans and supporters for always having my back through it all. I want to thank the city for holding down for me."

The move carries significant salary cap ramifications. Following a contract restructure last offseason, Walker was due to carry a $12.8 million cap hit. With his release, the team remains on the hook for $7.3 million in dead money, but will clear $5.5 million off the books ahead of March's free-agency period.

Walker had signed a three-year, $25 million extension with the Lions following the expiration of his rookie deal in March 2022. He'd go on to tear his Achilles in Week 3 of that season, but vowed to be back for the season-opener the following year.

He accomplished his goal, but found himself replaced in the starting lineup by free-agent addition C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Walker reclaimed his job when Gardner-Johnson suffered a torn pec early in the season, only to lose it to Melifonwu in November.

 

Selected out of Louisiana Lafayette in 2018, Walker initially began his career as a backup behind Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo, seeing more than 250 defensive stats as part of a rotation as a rookie. Walker moved into the starting lineup the following year and delivered promising results with 103 tackles and eight pass breakups in 13 games.

In 2020, he battled through adversity on and off the field as the former coaching staff brought in competition for his job and shifted him to a reserve role. Away from football, Walker had to navigate the murder of cousin Ahmaud Arbery, which became a national news story.

Following a coaching change in 2021, Walker rebounded the first year under Dan Campbell, recording a career-best 108 tackles. But after pushing through his rehab to return, the safety's benchings were difficult, although the coaching staff praised him for his professionalism behind the scenes.

"I've always said life is 10 percent what happens to you, 90 percent how you respond," Walker told the Detroit News last month. "I always keep that perspective and try to live by it. I know my life could be a lot worse. Yeah, I'm not playing when I want to be playing. At the same time, I'm still highly respected in this locker room. I could use this situation as a distraction, to talk about how I disagree with certain things, but I won't. That's not who I am."


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