Detroit Lions Must Now Decide If Ndamukong Suh’s Production Merits Record Contract


Tuesday morning, another NFL player in Ndamukong Suh’s defensive peer group got paid significantly when J.J. Watt, rush end terror for the Houston Texans, agreed to a 6 year, $100 million dollar extension with the team.

Those numbers will make Watt the highest paid defender in the NFL. Not only did Watt gain that particular distinction, but he became the defender with the biggest contract in football history, as well.

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Given such news, Suh must be feeling lucky. In the past several months, he’s watched both Geno Atkins and Watt cash in, meaning he’s certainly guaranteed a similarly sizable payday in free agency at season’s end. Additionally, Suh’s agent is Jimmy Sexton, from the same CAA group who represents Watt.

But, will Suh’s expectedly massive new deal come with the Detroit Lions? Will the team be motivated to move on him? That’s the significant unknown variable. Prior to this year, the team cut off negotiations with Suh until the offseason, meaning nobody knows where negotiations stood. Both sides seemed to be on good terms, but time has a way of changing things.

Watt’s deal, and the reaction of the league to it, will almost certainly provide Martin Mayhew with some extra hand-wringing to do in the months ahead. For the last three seasons, Watt has excelled at being one of the league’s most valuable defenders, swatting passes, sacking the quarterback and being a roving play maker.

Watt’s deal, and the reaction of the league to it, will almost certainly provide Martin Mayhew with some extra hand-wringing to do in the months ahead.

Suh’s value, while not felt as dramatically as Watt’s, lies in his ability to make his teammates better, force double teams, stuff the run and create pressure of his own. Though the players are cut from a similar cloth, it’s not fair to compare Suh and Watt. They play different positions and make a different impact on the game, meaning Watt actually might be slightly more commanding of a record deal than Suh.

Suh will likely place himself in the stratosphere of Atkins and similar defensive tackle company, but the question teams will have to ask: does Suh deserve to make as much as Watt, given Watt’s consistent, across the board impact on the game?

Since his breakout campaign in 2010, Suh hasn’t sacked the quarterback more than 10 times in a season. His high total of passes defended is six, and his high water mark for tackles is 48. By comparison, Watt has sacked 20.5, defended 16 passes and collected 69 tackles, winning the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2012. Suh hasn’t produced that much statistically or won such accolades.

Now, the Lions must decide if Suh’s production—even at defensive tackle—will ever be able to reach those numbers. He impacts the game in many different and positive ways apart from Watt, but will Suh truly be a significant impact threat on every play, thus deserving of a huge deal such as the one Watt received?

Such decisions aren’t easy, and either way, will likely be second guessed. The question has been in focus for a while, but with the record-setting deal of Watt, was likely brought into even more focus for the Lions on Tuesday.