The Detroit Lions traded defensive tackle Akeem Spence to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday afternoon in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2019, parting ways with a player who started 11 games for Detroit last season.
The 26-year-old Spence had one of his best seasons in 2017, making a career-high 39 tackles and tying a career best with three sacks. He also forced the first fumble in his five seasons in the NFL. The Lions had signed Spence from Tampa Bay, where he was a fourth-round pick in 2013.
Spence will be reunited with former Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who was hired by the Dolphins after former Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell was fired last season.
"Happy to be back with coach Kris doing what I know how to do best," Spence told ESPN in a text message Thursday afternoon. "Couldn't ask for a better situation."
I want to thank the Detroit Lions for the opportunity they gave me this past season to be a Lion. Also want to thank my coaches,teammates and the fans it was a great experience. We all know NFL is a business. With that being said happy to be a Miami Dolphin...!!! Gods plan!!!— Akeem spence (@AkeemSpence) May 3, 2018
Spence had thrived in the Lions' 4-3 system that allowed him to push into backfields, but it's not clear what his role would have been under new coach Matt Patricia. Add to that the free-agent signing of Sylvester Williams and the drafting of Da'Shawn Hand on the defensive line, and it made Spence, who was slated to be a possible starter this year, more expendable.
ESPN Insider Field Yates also reported that Spence took a pay cut earlier Thursday; his $3.15 million base salary for 2018 was cut to $2.575 million with the opportunity to earn some of it back. It was an interesting decision at the time because Spence had earned $750,000 in escalator bonuses to his base salary for 2018 based on his play last season.
The Lions recouped $500,000 in the pay cut, but it appears that might have just been a move to set up his trade to the Dolphins. He now joins a defensive line including Robert Quinn -- also acquired via trade this offseason -- Andre Branch and Cameron Wake.
ESPN's Field Yates contributed to this report.