From the beginning, Ndamukong Suh has said he wants to stay in Detroit long-term and the Detroit Lions have said they want Suh in Detroit long-term.
Nevertheless, with Lions’ training camp right around the corner, Suh does not appear to be close to signing an extension with the Lions.
Earlier today, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Lions are “not optimistic” they will be able to sign Suh to a new deal.
Lions are not optimistic about signing Ndamukong Suh to a new contract. He enters camp counting 22,412,500 against sal cap.—
Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) July 24, 2014
If Lions can't get Suh signed, his franchise tender would be $26.7 million in 2015 – or he becomes a unrestricted free agent in his prime—
Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) July 24, 2014
Although this news may be disappointing for some fans, I encourage, most of you to relax, at least for now. While it would have been nice to see the Lions and Suh get a deal done before training camp, I still feel it is too early to say that a deal won’t get done.
Now for those who don’t know the details of this situation, let me break down. As of right now, Suh, is entering the final year of the rookie contract that he signed as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He already is the highest-paid defensive tackle in the game and will remain one of the richest defensive players in all of football on his next deal.
He is set to count $22.4 million against the cap in 2014, then he will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Now the Lions could retain Suh for another year under the franchise tag. However, I don’t think that is a smart decision because the franchise tag to keep Suh from reaching free agency, would cost the Lions nearly $26.7 million, as Mortensen mentioned in his tweet above.
So that puts the Lions in a situation where they are forced either to re-sign Suh now, or risk watching become an unrestricted free agent.
Now Dave Birkett of USA Today, brought up how the Lions have to do a better job of managing their cap space this year and I’m inclined to agree.
“Despite Suh’s cumbersome cap figure — or maybe because of it — the Lions have managed their cap more judiciously this year. They only made one major signing in free agency, wide receiver Golden Tate, and went the entire offseason without doing a simple contract restructure for the first time since at least 2010.
Suh restructured his contract to convert a large portion of his base salary into a signing bonus at the Lions’ request each of the last two years. Such a maneuver frees up immediate cap space, but pushes cap commitments into future seasons in the form of bonus prorations.
Those prorations are why Suh has such a big cap number this year, and why he’ll count at least $9.7 million against the cap next season regardless of whether he re-signs with Detroit.
The Lions, who entered Thursday with $1.97 million in cap room, less than all but just three teams, signed stars Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford to long-term extensions each of the last two offseasons. Stafford got $41.5 million guaranteed on a three-year extension last July, while Johnson got $53.25 million guaranteed on a seven-year extension in the spring of 2012.” – Dave Birkett of USA Today
Lions coach Jim Caldwell insisted at the end of minicamp in June that Suh’s contract won’t be a distraction.
While I understand Coach Caldwell’s comments about Suh’s contract not being a distraction. It does make you wonder when a deal actually get done with between the Lions and Suh.
Let Michael Rothstein of ESPN tell it, Suh seems like a player who wouldn’t want to have contract discussions during a season, so that means Suh and his agent Jimmy Sexton, who also happens to represent Jimmy Graham, have two options.
“Suh has seemed like a player who would not want to have contract discussions during a season, especially if he is now potentially playing for a new deal either with Detroit or elsewhere.
It would behoove the Lions to say they would not negotiate during the season. Doing so gives a timeline for any real negotiations and eliminates what would otherwise be a constant distraction for a franchise needing to minimize them at every possible cost.
This leaves Detroit and the Suh’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, with two potential windows to hatch a deal — if there is even the true desire to do so: Either between the start of training camp and the beginning of the season, or between the end of the season and the start of free agency. ” - Michael Rothstein of ESPN
If you ask me, the Lions need to get a deal done with Suh before he has an opportunity to see what else out there. As Michael Rothstein of ESPN brought up in his article, you have to remember that the Lions also have to think about the possibility of having to deal with the re-signing of defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
You have to remember that the Lions did not choose to exercise the fifth-year option of Fairley’s rookie deal for 2015 at a price of $5.5 million. Now before, I break down how this affects the Lions and their contract discussions with Suh, let me make it clear that I never had a problem with the Lions not exercising Fairley’s fifth year option. To be honest, I agreed with the decision, Fairley is talented and there is no doubt that he has the potential to be a great performer on a consistent basis but the Lions should not pay him money that he hasn’t earned nor deserve.
Apparently Fairly felt the same way because he did reportedly respond positively to the news that his fifth year option won’t be getting picked up.
“I’ve been in contact with (Fairley) and his agent (Brian Overstreet) and with talking with Brian, Nick was kind of juiced up about that. He was excited about that,” Mayhew said of Fairley’s reaction to the team not picking up his option.
Now obviously actions speak louder than words but it is still nice to hear that he taking the news in a positive way and looks forward to being challenged. At the end of the day, the Lions want him to be a competitor and play at the highest level possible.
However, just like any situation, there are risks. If Fairley performs well this season like the Lions hope, he could very well test the free agency market and try to go somewhere else and leave the Lions completely. Since the Lions won’t be exercising the fifth year option of Fairley, the Lions have more pressure on them to re-sign Suh. If for whatever reason, the Lions don’t get a deal done with Suh, there is a real chance the team could lose their first-round picks from 2010 and 2011 NFL Draft.
All this is to say, that in my opinion, all of this goes back to Suh. He says he wants to be here, so if he is smart, he and his agent will do their best to get a deal before the Lions season opener against the New York Giants. Only time will tell.