When the Lions passed on Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 10th overall pick in the draft for yet another offensive weapon, their intention to keep defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh became even more obvious — especially since they decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Nick Fairley in order to give him incentive to play harder this year (until he gets paid and can underachieve again). But with the season approaching, the Lions have yet to extend Suh’s rookie contract.
Per Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Lions aren’t optimistic that they’ll get Suh re-signed. The problem ultimately flows from his $22.4 million cap number, which gives Suh the hammer of a 2015 franchise tag in the amount of $26.88 million. Which makes it hard to sign him to a long-term deal that pays out market value, especially with the market not exactly soaring at the defensive tackle position.
That cap number has been artificially increased by efforts to create cap space that included restructuring Suh’s contract and loading more dollars into 2014. Indeed, Suh will earn only (only?) $12 million in 2014. But good luck getting Suh, agent Jimmy Sexton, and/or marketing agent Jay-Z to negotiate the first year of a long-term extension based on the lower number.
It all points to Suh finishing his rookie contract, not being tagged, entering the mini-tampering period and finding out what other teams would pay, and either taking the Lions’ offer or signing elsewhere, for the same money or more (or possibly less, if other factors come into play).
Regardless, it quite possibly will be Suh’s last year in Detroit, thanks in part to the efforts of the team to do business while having three top-two picks from the last four years of the windfall system that existed before the rookie wage scale. They’ve extended two of them (Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford), and it looks like the third one will be walking away.