Well, it looks like the deadline to sign Ndamukong Suh just got a little longer, make that a lot longer. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand told reporters yesterday at Allen Park that the team plans on tabling any contract discussions until after the season.
It appears both sides are still optimistic something can get done after the season, although it may be even harder once free agency is around the corner. I wrote not that long ago how Jimmy Sexton, Suh’s agent, is a deadline agent, and the deadline just became very clear. If a deal is not struck between Suh and Lions before the start of free agency next offseason, Suh will become a free agent and Lions will be on the hook for $9.7 million.
Regardless of what happens, it’s important to remember who’s to blame in this situation. The Lions organization has essentially been swiping the credit card (asking Suh to restructure his deal to make more cap room), and the bill is due. Both Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew said they wouldn’t rule out using the franchise tag next season, but at almost $27 million, it would be tough pill to swallow even with a rising salary cap.
It’s also important to note that the Lions were the ones who tabled the talks, not Suh. It’s easy to take shots and Suh and say he doesn’t want to be in Detroit, but here’s the thing, Suh and his agent are doing exactly what anyone else would do. He’s maximizing his value and trying to get the money he deserves. I’ll never fault any player for trying to get what they deserve.
Now, what Suh may eventually find out is that the Lions offer is the best one out there. Jeff Risdon over at DetroitLionsDraft.com, has a firm belief that the Lions have already offered Suh “substantially” more than what the Cincinnati Bengals gave Geno Atkins last offseason. So, what exactly does substantially more than 5 years/$53.3 million look like? Well, according to Risdon, the Lions “already (allegedly and presumably) [are] offering him far more than any other player at his position. It’s hard to imagine other teams ponying up over $16M/year for a defensive tackle, either.” $16 million/year is a lot of money to spend on a defensive tackle, albeit a pretty dominant one. The next question that undoubtably comes up is whether he’s worth that money, and frankly that’s only a question NFL organizations can decide.
Here’s what I wrote about Suh’s potential contract about a month ago:
While it doesn’t seem like a position to build your team around, a quick look at recent draft history tells a different story. Nine defensive tackles have been taken in the top 15 picks over the last five years.
The Lions drafted Suh to disrupt the quarterback, much like a team would draft an edge rusher to do. According to Pro Football Focus, Suh had 72 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hit, hurries) in 2013. I’m a firm believer in what Josh Norris of Rotoworld often says, “disruption is production.” Suh was second in Pass Rush Productivity amongst defensive tackles, pressuring the quarterback on 10.2 percent of his rush attempts.
That figure puts him above players like Mario Williams and Terrell Suggs (3-4 OLBs) and just below guys like Demarcus Ware and Chris Long (4-3 DEs). Every one of the players mentioned have earned “franchise player” contracts, topped off by Mario Williams’ six year, $96 million deal in 2012.
Another big issue surrounds the other players around the league that have new contracts coming up. I’m sure guys like Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt have been watching the Suh situation closely and vice versa. Each one of these players makes a case to be not only the highest paid at their position, but also in the league.
I love Suh as a football player. He shows up, plays hard, and wants to kill offensive lineman on every play. What more could you want? Sure, he can be salty with the media, but I’m not going to blame a guy for being introverted. If the Lions and Suh can eventually work out a long term deal then that is the best possible situation for both parties. At this point, the Lions were right to table the talks, avoid distraction, and go win football games.