The Detroit Lions have agreed to a three-year contract extension with quarterback Matthew Stafford a little over one year after they handed out a seven-year extension to receiver Calvin Johnson. Now, all eyes turn to the Lions and their defensive cornerstone defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Suh’s rookie contract is due to expire after next season but he is slated to count a little over $21.4 million against the cap next season. Technically, Suh’s contract doesn’t expire until after the 2015 season but the last year is voidable. Given the large contracts Detroit has handed out in the last two years and the fact that Stafford and Johnson will be paid over $200 million between the two of them over the course of their contracts, the Lions will not be able to afford Suh at that price and still fill other gaps on the roster.
It would make sense for the Lions to try and negotiate a contract extension with Suh, the second overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. The coming cap hit all but guarantees the Lions won’t be able to use the franchise tag on Suh because it would mean the Lions would have to pay Suh $25 million which is not going to happen.
The ball is entirely in Suh’s court. The Lions need Suh and because his contract was negotiated before the rookie pay scale was implemented he is already on the list of highest paid defensive linemen. Suh wants to stay in Detroit. He has bought a house in the area and has said he wants to stay with the team.
The Lions need Suh on the defensive line, even with his sometimes controversial behavior on the field. The two-time All-Pro is the lifeblood of the defense and Suh is just as important to the success of the Lions as anyone on the roster not named Matthew Stafford.
Suh is almost guaranteed to get more money if he goes to free agency and allows teams to bid on his services. Will the Lions be able to afford Suh and pay him as one of the top defensive tackles in the game? Will Suh give the Lions a hometown discount after watching Stafford and Johnson get massive paydays? The ball is in Suh’s court and it isn’t likely to leave his court before he becomes a free agent.