With Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh opting to withhold services as part of an effort to get a new contract in lieu of showing up and preparing for a contract-year push that could get him paid plenty come 2015, the Lions are getting a taste of life without Suh.
With a cap number of $22.412 million in 2014, the last year of his contract, perhaps the smart move could be to start living without Suh permanently.
The Lions have made no secret about their interest in players who won’t be on the board at the top of the draft. So maybe Suh could be used to help the Lions move up from No. 10 to something higher.
It’s easy to say. As usual, it would be harder to do.
First, the Lions would have to find a team that wants Suh, who is due to be paid $12.55 million in 2014. And that team would have to be willing to extend Suh’s contract, or his stay would be a short one.
Second, the Lions would still absorb a large cap charge for trading Suh before June 1. While the $12.55 million in base salary would be avoided, $9.737 million in dead money due to apply to Detroit’s cap in 2015 under Suh’s name would be pushed into 2014. That creates a total cap charge of $19.5995 million.
The good news? That’s lower than the number the Lions would carry if Suh doesn’t sign a new contract. And a trade would clear $9.7375 million in 2015 dead money off the books by pushing it into 2014.
But while the Lions would be able to handle the cap consequences (since they’re already carrying $22.412 million under Suh’s name), the challenge would come from finding another team that would absorb a salary that already reflects much more than the open market would bear for a high-end defensive tackle — and then attempt to satisfy his expectations for a new deal that would make it more than a one-year stay.
With the Jaguars willing to overpay center Alex Mack, whose offer sheet was matched by the Browns, maybe the Jaguars would be willing to take the 10th pick, Suh, and something more to give Detroit the ability to move up to No. 3. The Jaguars have the cash and the cap space to make something work. If the Jaguars would be interested, it ultimately would depend on whether Suh would be willing to embrace the opportunity to play in Jacksonville.
Ditto for the Raiders, a team that Suh has at times seemed destined to eventually join. They’re in win-now mode, they have the cap space (but maybe not the cash) to make it happen, and they could give Detroit the fifth overall pick, if one of the players the Lions covet (like Sammy Watkins) remains on the board after the Browns use the fourth overall pick.
Suh being part of a trade package to allow the Lions to climb the ladder remains a long shot. But with the draft still 11 days away, it makes sense to at least consider the ramifications of any possible move that teams now have extra time to analyze and re-analyze and overanalyze and analyze this.