Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) prior to facing the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
1. The Raiders Will Pass on Ndamukong Suh
Ndamukong Suh is unquestionably the most visible potential free agent player on the market for 2015. As the #2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, he commanded a massive rookie salary, one which he has largely earned as one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. In 2014, he cost the Detroit Lions a staggering $22.4M against the cap, and he is looking to likely make more money on a long-term deal, either with the Lions or on the open market.
The Lions do have the option of re-signing or franchise tagging Suh, either option costing them a pretty penny. With cap space tight due to the contracts of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions may opt for letting Suh walk altogether.
The Viking Age
If Suh does hit the market, many Raider fans are salivating at the prospect of the menacing, nasty, oft-fined Suh in Silver and Black. Suh is very much a throwback Raider type of player, a modern-day Lyle Alzado. He plays angry, he plays dirty, and he plays very well. He is a force against the run and the pass, and he intimidates opponents. He’s a monster, and a great player.
But if he does hit the open market, he will likely command a deal in the range of what JJ Watt makes in Houston – 6 years, $100M with $58M guaranteed. Even if he doesn’t quite reach the $100M club, he can easily command $70 over 5 years from nearly any team in the league, and he’d likely need about $40M of that in guarantees. This means that any contract for Suh would involve a lot of years of big cap hits.
Reggie McKenzie doesn’t do long deals with big cap hits. Coming from the Ted Thompson/Green Bay Packers school, McKenzie favors short-term deals, low impact deals, and using free agency to add role players, not centerpieces. He would likely prefer to use the Raiders massive cap in order to get more role-players in on two or three year deals without massive guarantees on the back end.
This isn’t to say he’d spend it all on more LaMarr Woodleys and Maurice Jones-Drews: the 2015 free agent class may contain a number of younger, potential Pro Bowl players who could be acquired for a well less than half of what Suh would make, players like Jason Pierre-Paul or Demaryius Thomas. While there is something to be said for quality over quantity, there’s also something to be said for having six or seven starters taking up the same cap space as a single player.
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