As expected, Ndamukong Suh‘s fate in 2015 and beyond has been a preeminent storyline over the first few weeks of the offseason, and with the deadline for teams to put the franchise tag on potential free agents looming, opinions about what the Lions could and should do with Suh remain divided. By 4pm EST tomorrow, Detroit will either have to put the tag on Suh and hope they can work out a long-term deal over the next few months, or decline to use the tag and pray they can agree to terms before free agency opens on March 10.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press believes the Lions should tag Suh and absorb the $26.9MM cap hit that such a move would create. Birkett writes, “for a Lions team coming off its second best season of the Super Bowl era, the only thing worse than smashing the pay scale is letting your best player go and getting nothing but a 2016 compensatory pick in return.” Birkett believes the team is poised to make a Super Bowl run in 2015, and they should do whatever it takes to keep one of the game’s most dominant defensive players to help them make that run.
Justin Rogers and Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, meanwhile, believe the Lions should of course re-sign Suh if they can, but they should not put the tag on him. The franchise tag for Suh would force the Lions to create another $9MM of cap room, which they could do by restructuring the contracts of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and/or by releasing Stephen Tulloch. Indeed, a restructure of Johnson’s deal would create enough cap space by itself. But not only would restructures like that create additional financial problems down the road, the Lions would be hard-pressed just to fit their draft class under the cap if they were to put the tag on Suh, and it would be almost impossible to address their other roster holes in free agency.
Similarly, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes Detroit would be foolish to tag Suh. As he points out, if Detroit were to put a $26.9MM tag on Suh in 2015, the cost of the tag next year would increase by 20% to over $32MM. As a result, any negotiations on a long-term deal the team entered into this year would include about $59MM fully guaranteed for the first two years of the deal. Florio writes, “if the Lions are going to keep Suh, they need to rule out the franchise tag and put together an offer that will match or exceed the package that the Raiders or Jaguars or some other team looking to make a franchise-transforming cannonball into the free-agency pool will put together.”
The Lions will have to make their decision soon, and if they agree with Birkett, one of the year’s biggest free agent dominoes may not even get the chance to fall.