When Detroit declined (surprisingly, in my opinion) to pick up the option, it passed on paying Fairley just $5.5 million in 2014 and keeping him on the roster for an extra year at a pretty cheap cost. During the 2014 NFL owners meetings, Martin Mayhew said it was designed "to be an incentive" for Fairley.
The former Auburn standout is actually calling it "a good thing" both for his own personal motivation and for landing a new deal.
“I kind of said it's a good thing, kind of,” Fairley said per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press. “It kind of will put me into a new contract earlier than (other) guys coming out in my draft. They're picking up guys' fifth-year option, that gets me into a new contract. That's the way I look at it.”
Getting to a new contract faster is, obviously, a good thing. But losing out on $5.5 million? Not so much.
Mayhew pointed out in March that Fairley often isn't worth the money on the field.
"There are some performances where he is [a $5.5 million player], and some performances where he's not," Mayhew said at the time. "I think it's going to be an incentive for him to have an outstanding season, and that's what I want more than anything else."
Fairley hasn't been the player we saw dominate Oregon during the BCS Championship Game while with the Tigers.
But the defensive tackle, taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, believes he's "back" to his "Auburn ways."
“I'd say I'm back to my Auburn ways,” Fairley said. “I feel like back when I was at that national championship, and you know how that year went so looking to repeat it.”
Fairley's rocking his playing weight as well (closer to 290 pounds) and says he's eating "a lot of Subway" (and less "McDonald's and fast food" ... maybe he can make up the millions he lost in advertising) and plans to ride out his healthier diet for the entire year.
“For this year, I'm just going to stick through it throughout the whole year,” Fairley said. “I'm trying to stay away from fast food and fried stuff and trying to cut out all my soda. I kind of got lazy with it (last) year, I would say."
Consistency -- on a play-by-play and game-by-game basis -- has always been a knock on Fairley. If he can achieve it in 2014 and play to his "Auburn ways" he could easily make the Lions regret not picking up his fifth-year option.