Burleson & Raiola Restructure Contracts, Stafford & Suh Should Follow Their Lead

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

The Detroit Lions are in a bit of a cap crisis. As of this writing the estimated cap figure for the league is $121 million, and the Lions are approximately $2 million under the cap.

This includes center Dominic Raiola's recent restructuring. Along with Raiola, veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson has reportedly restructured his contract as well.

It's not enough, not with the number of free agents the Lions have to take care of and the amount of holes on the team.

Two other players should take a long look at their contracts and offer to take a pay cut. One—Matt Stafford—is already reportedly working on it according to Anwar S. Richardson of MLive.com.

Stafford's cap hit is a massive $20.8 million this season, with another $19.3 million next year.

That's a tremendous amount of money for one player. Ndamukong Suh's is nearly as big—his $18.1 million jumps up from $6.5 million this past season (though that dropped from $11.9 million in 2011).

These two amounts represent a huge chunk of change—and make Calvin Johnson's $12.2 look cheap by comparison. (Although Johnson's cap hit leaps to $19.7 million in 2015 and then $23.1 in 2016. I'd imagine that gets restructured sometime over those two years, though the NFL cap will be much higher anyway.)

Are there other places the team can cut? Sure. A trim here, a trim there—they can pare down a few contracts. But the amount of space eaten up by the rest of the team is almost minimal in comparison to just Suh and Stafford.

Both players may not like losing money—or even delaying it really—but they need to take the long view.

This team will not seriously challenge for the NFC North, much less a conference championship or Super Bowl, in its current form.

There is talent to be sure, but the gaps in it are too big. Stafford has to see he needs receivers and running backs to take the pressure off of himself and Johnson. Suh has to see that without a secondary and edge-rushers, the defense is never going to shut down other pass-happy teams.

The only way this team rebounds from a terrible 2012 in short order is to shore up the issues they have.

If they lack the money, that won't happen.

Part of being a team leader is taking a hit—even in the wallet—when the team needs you to.

The Lions need them to, and frankly, the Lions need them to lead as well.


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