Ndamukong Suh is showing his teammates, the Detroit Lions franchise and its fan base that nobody is more important than the man in the mirror.
This should come as no epiphany to anybody who has followed the four-year NFL career of the former Cornhusker. His rookie deal has already paid him $51.8 million, more money over the first four years than any other player in NFL history.
Not bad for a defensive tackle, right? Wrong. It was made public in January that Suh had fired his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, who vamped Detroit with the original deal and at the time declared a highlight of the contract was that his client would get to free agency faster.
Mission accomplished. Now, after two Pro Bowl appearances and more than $200,000 in fines, Suh is poised to break the bank on a long-term deal that could exceed $80 million if he were to hit the open market next year.
The Detroit Lions are desperate to make his current deal more cap friendly by pushing millions down the yellow brick road, or in this case the platinum pathway, as the NFL free agency period draws near.
How desperate are the Lions? If Suh doesn’t scratch his John Hancock on a contract extension, his #90 jersey will cost the Lions $22.4 million against the cap for the 2014 season.
Combine that with Matthew Stafford’s cap number of $15.8 million and Calvin Johnson’s $13 million and you have nearly 39% of the $133 million 2014 salary cap gobbled up by three players – the most in the NFL.
The problem facing the Lions is there is nobody to negotiate with and it appears Suh is not anxious to get to the bargaining table. If Suh wanted to stay in Detroit, wouldn’t he have negotiated the extension already so the Lions could have a game plan in place going into free agency? Does he not want better players around him? He campaigned openly last year to be a team captain; don’t captains lead by example?
Is the absentee filibuster currently executed by Suh a thinly veiled exit strategy to bust out of the Motor City?
Suh’s new brain trust now includes Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) and his firm Roc Nation as representation for Suh’s marketing interests. Unfortunately for Jay-Z, one of his 99 problems is he has no certification to negotiate an NFL contract. This currently has the Lions sitting solo at a table for two like a desperate man waiting on his blind date.
Speculation now is that Suh may negotiate with the Lions himself, assuming a large influence from Jay-Z. That would not end well. Praise for Suh would be minimal during these conversations and negative actions could be highlighted. These standardized tactics inevitably strain the relationship between player and franchise and are not be beneficial to either party. Exactly why self-representation is unheard of.
Actions speak louder than words and Suh’s slow play of his contract extension combined with Jay-Z in the Suhsquad fold, should make the tea leaves easy to read – his intentions are to take his act to a larger media market.
If Suh has not extended his deal by Tuesday, the Lions should be proactive and have a trade partner in place to get Suh out of the organization immediately. The move would cost the Lions approximately $19 million in dead money, but would free up $3 million for free agency and possibly add a draft pick or two.
Having an unmotivated Suh in the locker room looking forward to his impending free agency would make for a cancerous environment and an anchor for new head coach Jim Caldwell’s inaugural Honolulu Blue crusade.
Would there be trade partners? Of course. There would be several teams interested in signing him long-term and if Suh rebuffed and still wanted to hit free agency, a year from one of the best defensive tackles in the league would be a steal for a team looking for the final piece for a Super Bowl run.
These are the financial foibles the Lions burdened themselves with as they still pay for top two draft selections in three of the final four years prior to the 2011 CBA that capped rookie deals. They cannot go back and change the past, but what they can do is make the best decisions for the future.
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Time is running out for the Leos to extend their prized defensive lineman, but they are not the ones to blame. The blame clearly rests on the broad shoulders of the man who apparently hopes to put Detroit in his rear-view mirror very Suh-n.