I’ve heard many Detroit Lions fans grumbling about the massive $22.4 million cap hit that Ndamukong Suh will inflict this year, and I can’t blame them. Suh has been a terror during his four-year NFL career, racking up 27.5 sacks and wreaking general havoc in opposing backfields, but is he deserving of the second-highest salary in the league next season?
Some would say that Suh has been the reason for Detroit’s success defensively, and it’s hard to dispute: Suh is a beast of an athlete that demands a double team every down. And despite the extra attention, he still gets to the quarterback and disrupts offenses in every phase.
The Lions’ defense without Suh would look quite different, and not for the better. But could they cut him and spend the money on other defensive playmakers that could make this defense even better?
There are a plethora of talented defensive linemen in this year’s draft, and at number 10, the Lions will likely have their choice of whichever one they choose, except Jadeveon Clowney. With Suh’s salary off the books, the Loins could also pursue a corner in free agency, another huge need for this Lions team.
Even without Suh, a front four of Nick Fairley and Louis Nix III flanked by Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah looks fairly formidable. Add in a talent free agent like Brent Grimes or Alterraun Verner, and things start shaping up better than they were before.
The problem? Suh’s guaranteed money. The Lions owe Suh about $20 million in guaranteed cash over the next two years. So even though cutting Suh would save the Lions about $13 million this season and $4 million next, they’d be losing $20 million, all of which would be owed this season if Suh were to be cut.
The $17 million saved by the Lions wouldn’t be enough for them to draft Nix (anticipate the 10th pick making about $12 mil over four years) and sign either Verner or Grimes, each of whom will draw something around $5-7 million per year.
Since the Lions still have to resign a few free agents of their own like Joique Bell and Willie Young, the small amount of money saved for 2014 would not be enough to sign a draft class and go after a top free agent corner.
Yes, Suh’s contract is bad, but cutting him is not the answer. He’s an elite defensive tackle in today’s game and he will continue to be elite for years to come. Furthermore, I believe Suh will pick up his player option next season and the Lions will get him for a relatively cheap $13 mil, giving them a bit more flexibility to accommodate the monster deals Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson just signed.
Like it or not, Lions fans will be hearing a lot more “Suuuuuuuuuuuh” from the Ford Field crowd.