Ndamukong Suh has just become the biggest free agent in this year’s class.
It has been widely expected that the Lions will pass on their chance to retain his services and not use the franchise tag on him. Suh has become one of the most productive and feared defensive players in the NFL over the last couple of years. The numbers speak for themselves. In the five seasons he spent with Detroit, he recorded 239 tackles and 36 sacks. Suh also led all the defensive tackles in the league last season in quarterback pressures of which he recorded 59 of those to go along with his 8.5 sacks he piled up as well. This sort of consistent, high level production is hard to find and develop for most NFL franchises.
For many, they draft a player who they think could become a standout defensive tackle or end and unfortunately either through not adequate coaching, lack of commitment on a player or both, that player is then lost through the cracks and does not live up to the hype and build up he was given. It is a credit to Suh that even through coaching changes he has kept his level of play high and given the Lions a very dependable and productive player on defense they can rely on to step up big when needed.
The Lions did a great job of drafting Suh and developing him over his career into now being the top level defenseman that he is. There comes a time though that a franchise must make a tough decision when it comes to who they can afford under the salary cap and unfortunately for the Lions and their fans that time came for Suh and them to part ways.
Detroit has other holes to fill on the team and must do so on a tighter budget than some other teams. Suh has and will continue to be a player that can wreck a whole game plan for an opponent if he is on his A-game on a specific Sunday. The defensive tackle still has plenty left in the tank in terms of posting great to dominant years for a team and being an anchor on the defensive line. He would be a perfect player to go to a team that could use his skill set and physicality that is always in demand for NFL defensive lines.
What made this a tough choice for the Lions was that Suh was going to be due $26.9 million this upcoming season had Detroit used the tag on him. That would have put him only second to Tony Romo in terms of largest cap hit. This also would have resulted in the Lions compromising most of their off season plans in terms of who they would want to contact and possibly join the team.
Yes they would of had Suh in the fold for another season but with almost the exact same team around him, very little if any upgrades in terms of talent. It would have been a situation that the Lions would have regretted putting themselves in and then having to answer questions all season about will he get a new contract or not.
Suh could end this free agency with one of the largest contracts ever given to a defensive player in the history of the league. He may not get the amount of guaranteed like J.J. Watt of the Texans received in his new deal ($30.8 million) but he will be the closet individual to come to getting that high level of money. This all likely could be Suh’s last big payday in his career and his agent and camp will make sure they can as much out of his stock as possible when teams come a calling to talk about coming to them to play.
The potential market for Suh is huge with the off season not yielding a lot of available high end defensive players who can make an impact like the one Suh does. Also, many teams are looking for defensive tackle help in their defensive lines. A bidding war could easily start up for his services and drive that price and years figure he has in his head even further up. Teams such as the Jets, Browns and Raiders are ones who have a lot of money to spend in terms for upgrading their team, Suh certainly would fit that for any of those teams.
The Suh sweepstakes starts in earnest today and will be hotly contested until he is certain and comfortable with a specific team and their vision for him.