2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Tackles

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Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Lions defeated the Bears 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

1. Ndamukong Suh

Pros: Suh is a powerful defensive tackle who can play the nose or 3-tech spot: with his uncanny strength and ferocity he can beat nearly any center in the league and often stack even a guard-center double team, but he has the quick feet and bull-rushing ability to pass rush and attack the gap from the 3-technique as well. He is a ferocious, aggressive defender who can keep linebackers clean and close off interior running lanes. There aren’t many interior offensive linemen in the league who can match up with him.

Cons: Despite possessing impressive feet, Suh doesn’t play with great fast-twich quickness. He is generally not the first player off the snap, and when he does come off the ball he tends to rely too heavily on his unbelievable strength to defeat blockers. While this generally works, or at least works well enough to allow teammates to rally to a play, it has limited his production in recent years as opposing teams have learned his ways. He doesn’t have great hands to go with his great strength, and often times will bull rush an opposing blocker right past the play because he cannot disengage. He’s not an excellent pass rusher, though he can push the pocket.

Scheme Fit: Suh fits any scheme you want to run. He can line up as a nose or 3-tech in any kind of 4-3 over or under alignment. He can line up as a traditional 2-tech in a basic 4-3 alignment. He can be a 5-tech end in a 3-4 or in a 4-3 front that calls for a 5-tech. He can do anything Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton ask of him.

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  • Intangibles: Suh is a mixed bag. He is a fierce competitor who can inspire a team through his play and his dominance. He intimidates opponents like no other player in the league. He plays with a throwback mean streak that you don’t see too often in today’s NFL. Unfortunately, that mean streak extends to making foolish decisions, like stomping on Aaron Rodgers’ leg. Suh is widely considered the NFL’s dirtiest player, and while that profile used to be perfect for the Raiders, Reggie McKenzie has worked hard to change the locker room culture in the organization and Suh’s dirty behavior may not fit.

    Market Value: Suh is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and still in his prime at 28 years old. He is also head and shoulders above the rest of the free agency class in terms of playing ability and name recognition, and has proven marketability. His name sells tickets, sells jerseys, and gets TV ratings, and his playing ability gets results on the field. The recent six-year, $100M deal signed by JJ Watt for the Houston Texans has raised the bar for what defensive big men can make in the NFL, and with a lot of competition in the marketplace, many expect Suh to get an equivalent deal: perhaps 5 or 6 years, in the $85M-$100M range.

    Would he Sign with the Raiders: Maybe. He obviously would improve the defense dramatically, and he was a Raider fan as a child. He’s the type of impact player Raider fans have been dreaming of coming to Oakland since the 2003. He’s a throwback Raider, reminiscent of Lyle Alzado. And while Reggie McKenzie has been avoiding players with off-field issues, McKenzie also was a teammate of Alzado’s for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1985. Still, McKenzie may balk at making a six year commitment to a 28 year old player, with price tag as high as Suh’s. McKenzie will probably take his shot, but if Suh won’t come for a front-loaded deal that frees up cap space down the road, then Suh won’t come to Oakland at all.

    Next: DT Rankings: #2 Nick Fairley