Lawson was a consistent, but not flashy, cornerback for the Lions. A fourth-round pick by the Lions in 2014, he played in 62 games for Detroit, starting 54 of them, including being a full-time starter the past three seasons with the club.
While he has had 25 career passes defended, he has never intercepted a pass in the NFL. His only turnover forced in his five seasons in Detroit was a forced fumble/fumble recovery in 2017 that led to his first career touchdown.
Since the end of the season, both Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have said they have been looking to increase the number of big playmakers on offense and defense. While Lawson was often tight in coverage, he rarely made game-changing plays.
Another likely reason for Lawson's release was financial. He was due a $1.25 million roster bonus on the third day of the new league year later this week, making his cap charge for the 2019 season $5.8 million. By cutting him now, Detroit will save $4.675 million against the cap, moving the club close to $45 million in total cap room.
It's possible the Lions could use that cap space to go after at least one high-profile free agent like safety Landon Collins or edge rusher Trey Flowers. Both have some ties to the Lions -- many of Collins' old defensive teammates (Damon Harrison, Romeo Okwara, Devon Kennard) have thrived in Detroit, and Flowers played well in Matt Patricia's defense in New England.
Lawson's release also means only one player from the team's 2014 draft remains on the roster -- sixth-round pick TJ Jones, but Jones is a free agent this week and his future with the club is in doubt as a depth receiver on the team. It also leaves only five players drafted by Martin Mayhew for the Lions (Matthew Stafford, Quandre Diggs, Darius Slay, Sam Martin and Theo Riddick) still on the roster.