Ndamukong Suh might be the most coveted NFL player that is set to hit free agency on March 10. The Detroit Lions still have time to re-sign the defensive tackle, but if the two sides are unable to come to an agreement by then, other teams will begin making contract offers to the All-Pro.
Suh, the No.2 overall draft pick in 2010, has exceeded most experts' expectations. He has reached the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons with Detroit, being named to the All-Pro first team in every year except 2011. Last year, he recorded 8.5 sacks and 53 combined tackles.
The Lions and Suh have been working on keeping the 28-year-old in Detroit. According to MLive.com, team president Tom Lewand and Jimmy Sexton, Suh’s agent, met in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine. The two sides had some “extensive dialogue,” but it’s unknown if the Lions are willing to give Suh a $100 million contract, which is reportedly the kind of deal he is hoping to sign.
"That's a good question. That's an excellent question. And as I've said, we don't negotiate through newspapers," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think that's part of the negotiations, and I think I'll keep that between us.”
"We're not going to get in the paper and start saying what we offered, and they offered. ... That doesn't make a lot of sense from my standpoint. I don't know how that benefits us, or how that benefits the process. So we'll stay out of that."
A nine-figure contract would make Suh the highest paid defensive player in football, matching J.J. Watt’s six-year deal. Even if he doesn’t get the money he is looking for, Suh should have plenty of suitors this offseason.
In September, ESPN’s Adam Schefter highlighted the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys as teams that could pursue Suh, whom he said would likely leave Detroit in 2015. It could be difficult for Dallas to sign Suh, since they are trying to keep both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, who are also headed for free agency and will command large salaries. The Bears, who have nearly $24 million to spend under the cap, could use Suh, ranking 31st in points allowed last year.
Schefter has reported that Suh is very interested in playing for a New York team, making the Jets or Giants an option. The Giants don’t seem to be a likely destination for Suh, considering they already have a decision to make concerning Jason Pierre-Paul’s impending free agency. Spending $100 million on Suh might not make much sense for the Jets, who had the NFL’s No.5 rush defense in 2014 and need to address their offensive issues.
The Oakland Raiders might be the most logical suitors. Only the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars have more than the close to $50 million that the Raiders have under the salary cap. Suh has a poor reputation in the NFL and might be the dirtiest player in the league, but Oakland usually doesn’t shy away from any kind of controversy. Coming off a 3-13 season, the Raiders could certainly use the help, with the No. 22 run defense and after finishing 29th in sacks.
Suh is just one of a few top defensive players that could become free agents on March 10. Kansas City’s Justin Houston, Carolina’s Greg Hardy and New England’s Darrelle Revis could also find themselves without contracts.