Ndamukong Suh Needs Monster 2014 Campaign for Any Shot at Megadeal with Lions

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 29, 2014

USA Today

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is one of the last of a dying breed in the NFL.

And no, not his "old-school" tendency to want to keep right on giving his opponent the business after the whistle blows.

Suh is one of the last "old CBA" players left in the league, the recipient of a huge rookie contract. It's been worked and reworked to the point that Suh's cap number in 2014 is an eye-popping $22 million and change.

2014 also marks the final season of that rookie deal, and if Suh is going to come anywhere close to his first contract with the second, then the 27-year-old is going to need to dial up his play before the whistle and tone down the nonsense after it.

The Lions and Suh had been working on an extension that would lower his 2014 cap number, but according to Tim Twentyman of the team's website, those talks have been put on hold until after the season:

As Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports, team president Tom Lewand released a statement:

I think it's the right thing for us to do. It's the right thing for the team. It's the right thing for everybody involved and it allows us to keep the focus where it belongs. I remain tremendously confident and Jim [Caldwell] said it [Sunday] in his press conference, we have a high degree of confidence that we can work out something that will be mutually satisfactory at the right time and the goal hasn't changed in the least.

Suh, for his part, kept the focus squarely on the field when asked about the situation:

Still, there's no denying that this creates a very interesting situation where the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft's future in Detroit is concerned.

For starters, while Rothstein might believe the franchise tag could still be in play for Suh in 2015, it's hard to see how. As Mike O'Hara of the team's website points out, tagging Suh next year would set the Lions back a cool $27 million.

That's not going to happen, folks.

In fact, if Suh is serious about being one of the NFL's highest-paid defensive players, then it's going to be an awfully tough pill for the Lions to swallow. If it wasn't, then the deal would already be done.

To begin with, Suh hasn't exactly been making chicken feed as a pro. In fact, he's the highest-paid defensive tackle in the National Football League in terms of average annual salary, just ahead of Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

McCoy, by the way, was drafted one slot behind Suh in 2010 and finished just ahead of Suh in the defensive tackle rankings at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last year.

Geno Atkins of the Bengals, who was also drafted in 2010, was the top-ranked defensive tackle at Pro Football Focus two years running (2011 and 2012) before getting his big payday from the Bengals last year.

The Class of 2010
PlayerPickTacklesSacksPFF BestSalary*
N. Suh213627.52(2013)$12.7M
G. McCoy311918.51(2013)$11.0M
G. Atkins12013629.01 (2011, 2012)$10.7M
* Per Spotrac

A payday that pays Atkins less than what Suh makes now.

In other words, for as good as Suh is at causing trouble in the middle, his salary is already maxed out compared to his peers. Sure, he is among the best 3-technique tackles in the NFL, but it's hardly a unanimous call.

If Suh wants a significant raise, then he needs to earn it. No more near misses or taking plays off, and most certainly no more boneheaded personal fouls.

Simply put, Suh needs to combine his rookie statistical output with his career-best ranking at PFF, mix and spit out a season even better than Atkins in 2012.

Atkins' 73.6 rating at Pro Football Focus that year was nearly 50 points higher than the second-place McCoy and nearly 60 points higher than Suh, who was fifth.

In short, Suh needs to leave no doubt as to who the best player in the league at his position is.

To his credit, Suh has been doing and saying all the right things. There was no holdout, and Kyle Meinke of MLive.com reports that Suh arrived at camp looking like "an Adonis," according to teammate Dominic Raiola. "He cut out more body fat and put on more weight," Raiola said, "which is scary."

Raiola also said that Suh's focus is 100 percent on football:

I think the media more so worries about it than what we do. I know when 90 gets here, he's going to work. All the outside stuff that goes on, we don't pay attention to it. I know 90 is going to work when he gets here, and practice harder than probably everyone on the field.

Make no mistake, whether it's Detroit or someone else, an NFL team is going to hand Suh (and McCoy) a lot of money. More than $10 million a year is a virtual certainty. Over $12 million is a safe bet.

However, if Suh is going to convince a Lions team that also has tackle Nick Fairley set to hit free agency next year that he's really worth upwards of $15 million a season, then a good season in 2014 won't be nearly good enough.

In fact, even a great year isn't going to cut it.

To reap those kinds of rewards, Suh is going to have to put on the kind of show that Colt McCoy still has nightmares about.

He can't give any less than his best in 2014. 

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.


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