To start off Detroit Lions training camp, the Lions have decided to table contract negotiations with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the 2014 season. According to reports, team president Tom Lewand announced the decision to halt talks with Suh before the Lions’ first full practice of training camp today.
“In light of where we are, and most importantly, in light of getting ready for the season and keeping the focus where it should be, we’ve decided to table the discussions with Ndamukong on any further contract discussions until after the season,” Lewand said. “I think it’s the right thing for us to do. It’s the right thing for the team, I think it’s the right thing for everybody involved, and it allows us to keep the focus where it belongs.” – via the Detroit Free Press
Although talks between the two parties have been postponed and earlier reports from ESPN hinted that the Lions weren’t optimistic about re-signing Suh, Lewand, continued to insist to the media on Monday, that the team remains optimistic that they will eventually strike a deal with Suh, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Both Lewand and Mayhew declined to elaborate on what the sticking point is in contract talks to this point.
Mayhew said after last season that he expected a new deal with Suh to be in place around the start of free agency, and after Suh changed agents, he said he thought one would be reached by mid-July.
“This is one that’s taking a long time to get done,” Mayhew said. “We don’t have a lot of detail to give you on that but we still remain optimistic.”
Asked why he remains optimistic, Mayhew said: “I think he wants to be here.”
“I know him pretty well,” Mayhew said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about it over the years. I feel comfortable with that.”
“I feel good about (getting a deal done),” Mayhew said. “We have the formula for getting the guy signed. We have a player that wants to be here, we have a team that wants to (sign) the player. Those are the two most important things.” – via the Detroit Free Press
In my opinion, Suh didn’t seem like the type of player who would want to be bothered with contract talks during the season, so postponing contract talks made sense. However, Suh actually told the media today that it wasn’t his decision to table negotiations, but he declined to go into any further details about his contract talks with the Lions.
Now for those who didn’t read my last article or don’t know the details of this situation, let me break it down for you. Suh, is entering the final year of the rookie contract that he signed as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He is already the highest-paid defensive tackle in the game and he will probably remain one of the richest defensive players in the game on his next deal. As of right now, he is set to count $22.4 million against the cap in 2014, then he will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Now the Lions could retain Suh for another year under the franchise tag and according to reports, the Lions are open to still tagging Suh, if needed. However, I don’t think that is a smart decision because the franchise tag to keep Suh from reaching free agency, would cost the Lions nearly $26.7 million, a 20% raise from this year’s cap number —plus another $9.7 million in cap charges due to previous contract restructurings.
Plus, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press and USA Today, brought up last week, the Lions have to do a better job of managing their cap space this year and I’m inclined to agree. Nevertheless, general manager Martin Mayhew continues to say that he will keep an open mind on using the franchise tag on Suh.
“I think it’s possible,” Mayhew said of the franchise tag. “I wouldn’t close the door on that. The cap will go up next year. Every year, we have people concerned about our ability to function with the salary cap and, thus far, we’ve been able to go out in free agency every year and add to our team, make our team better, been able to keep our own players, extend some of our own players and function well with the cap, and I think the cap’s going to go up next year and probably the year after that, too.” – via the Detroit Free Press
Overall, I would have liked the Lions to have gotten a deal done with Suh before the season started because I didn’t want to risk him having an opportunity to see what else is out there. Plus you have to remember that the Lions did not choose to exercise the fifth-year option of Fairley’s rookie deal for 2015 at a price of $5.5 million. Now before, I re-break down how this affects the Lions and their contract discussions with Suh, let me make it clear that I never had a problem with the Lions not exercising Fairley’s fifth year option. To be honest, I agreed with the decision, Fairley is talented and there is no doubt that he has the potential to be a great performer on a consistent basis but the Lions should not pay him money that he hasn’t earned nor deserve.
However, just like any situation, there are risks. If Fairley performs well this season like the Lions hope, he could very well test the free agency market and try to go somewhere else and leave the Lions completely. Since the Lions didn’t exercise the fifth year option of Fairley, the Lions have more pressure on them to re-sign Suh.
If for whatever reason, the Lions don’t get a deal done with Suh, there is a real chance the team could lose their first-round picks from 2010 and 2011 NFL Draft. Like I said above, Fairley could very well perform at high level this season and if he does, then there are sure to be other options out there for him but he also won’t be cheap to keep. Of course this is all banking on the notion that Fairley performs well this season but you get the point.
Nonetheless, I stand by what I said before, which is that there is no need to panic about Suh. As I have said before, this all of this goes back to Suh and whether he really wants to stay in Detroit. He continues to say he wants to be here, so if he is smart and really wants to be here, he and his agent will eventually get a deal done, it just won’t probably happen until after the season.
“We’ve got a good track record, and it’s been our experience that when you have two willing parties that are focused on a common goal that you can get that done, regardless of timing,” Lewand said. “I still feel that way very strongly and I’m very optimistic about the eventual outcome here. But I really feel like, with everything that we have going on that’s so great, that we need to keep that focus on the field.”- via the Detroit Free Press
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.