The Detroit Lions' signing spree on Wednesday was made possible by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh restructuring his contract. The Lions converted his base salary into a signing bonus, and Suh's cap hit dropped to $10.49 million for 2013 as a result. This gave the Lions an extra $7.68 million in cap space. Between that and the cap space they already had, the Lions were able to sign Chris Houston, Jason Jones, Reggie Bush and Glover Quin (for a combined cap hit of $8.18 million for 2013).
The downside to restructuring Suh's contract is that he now has a cap hit of $21.41 million for 2014. According to Spotrac, that is the highest cap hit in all of the NFL next year. It's more than Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford.
Because he had restructured his contract in previous years, Suh was already set to have a cap hit of $17.57 million before his latest restructure. The $3.84 million increase for next year isn't necessarily a huge deal, especially when you consider that the Lions had to create room to sign their top free-agent targets. However, it reaffirms that the Lions will have to work out a new deal with Suh next offseason. If not, they will risk losing him in the 2015 offseason.
Suh is actually under contract through the 2015 season, but he will have a chance to void the final year of his deal after the 2013 season. This almost certainly will happen, and it will make 2014 the final year of his deal. The Lions won't be able to franchise him because of the cost ($25.7 million), so it's either get him a new deal or let him hit free agency. Suh will get paid in a big way if he is allowed to hit the open market, but considering he's got all the leverage, he will get paid in a big way if the Lions are able to work out a new deal. Either way, he's going to get paid.
Aside from wanting to make sure he stays with the Lions, getting Suh a new deal will be important for cap flexibility next year. The Lions came into this offseason in the same situation with Stafford, and because they couldn't work out a new deal, they had to restructure Suh's contract. The Lions still need to sign Stafford to a long-term deal, but Suh really needs one as well. Stafford is still the top priority, but if the Lions want cap flexibility for next year, a new deal for Suh will be vital as well.
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