First Ndamukong Suh left for the Miami Dolphins, now Nick Fairley is on his way out, as the Detroit Lions have lost their two starting defensive tackles. The Lions have told at least two agents that they are out of the running for free-agent Fairley, as first reported by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
On Tuesday, the Lions traded two 2015 fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and a seventh-round pick. Acquiring five-time Pro Bowler Ngata for a relatively low cost likely negated the need to negotiate an expensive deal with Fairley. Ngata’s cap hit will be $8.5 million next year for the Lions. Suh will make $20 million, guaranteed, over the next three seasons as a part of his six-year, $114 million contract with Miami. Fairley, 27, is scheduled to meet with the Cincinnati Bengals today, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and will likely command a substantial deal wherever he decides to sign.
The Lions will certainly miss having such a talented duo on their four-man defensive front. Suh is considered perhaps the best defensive tackle in the NFL, making explosive plays and accounting for 36 sacks in his five years in Detroit. Fairley was a solid counterpoint to Suh, helping to plug up holes while still accounting for 13.5 sacks in his four-year stint with the Lions. Detroit had among the best defenses in the league last season, and Suh and Fairley were considered major contributors. The Lions finished first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2014, and finished second in total yards allowed.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2015
Ngata is a capable replacement, however, and especially at the price of just two mid-round picks. Ngata, 31, was a nose tackle in Baltimore’s three-man front. He served mostly to stuff the run and fill gaps, but has still racked up 25.5 sacks in his nine-year career. Ngata is on the last year of a contract and Detroit will be able to re-evaluate their need after next season. He might be aging and less effective than he was in his prime, but Ngata should fill a gaping need for Detroit.
Fairley missed half the season last year with sprained knee ligaments. Before the 2014 season, the Lions declined the fifth year on his rookie deal over concerns about his health and drive, according to Birkett.