With defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh entering the final season of his contract, one of the Detroit Lions' top priorities this offseason is to sign him to a long-term deal. The original hope was for a deal to be done last month, but it looks like negotiations could stretch into the summer before anything is agreed to (much like Matthew Stafford's situation last year).
There is, of course, the possibility that no deal will be done at all. Perhaps the Lions won't be willing to offer Suh the kind of money he's after, or perhaps Suh will simply decide that he'd rather become a free agent next offseason. In any case, a scenario exists where Suh could depart Detroit for good next March, and all the Lions would get in exchange for losing him is the chance for a compensatory pick in 2016.
Clearly, losing Suh and getting only a compensatory pick back wouldn't be ideal. This is why trade rumors involving Suh have started to pop up. Earlier this week, for example, one report indicated that the Lions were at least talking about trading Suh, perhaps to improve their draft position.
On Friday, another report about a possible Suh trade popped up, this time from Mike Freeman. He reported that the Lions "have indeed had conversations with other teams about trading Suh." Does this mean they're on the verge of dealing him? Not so much. Once again, from Freeman:
"What the Lions are doing is standard operating procedure," one team executive said. "Just in case they don't think they can sign him, they're preparing for worst case. It's smart."
In other words, the Lions are doing their due diligence. They would be foolish not to.
Basically, according to Freeman, the Lions have simply tried to gauge what kind of value Suh might have on the trade market. They're not actively shopping him. Instead, they're just getting an idea of what they could expect in return for Suh if it gets to the point where a deal would actually make sense.
The thing is, the Lions are nowhere near the point where a trade would actually make sense. Case in point:
I'm told Lions trying to re-sign Suh; no trade ahead. He's on the same offseason program last 3 years. Absence not contract related
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 25, 2014
In case you're still thinking that a trade is actually in the works, Dave Birkett said this on Friday: "I don't have any indications the Lions are trying to trade Suh."
At this point, the Lions' top priority is still to sign Suh to a long-term deal. In the short term, they are a better team with Suh than they are without Suh, and considering this team has a win-now mindset, it wouldn't make sense to trade him away. A trade especially wouldn't make sense when you consider that the Lions would still be on the hook for a $19.5 million cap hit this year even if Suh is playing for another team. They'd get a few million dollars in cap savings, but that certainly wouldn't be enough to make up for the loss of Suh.
In the long run, perhaps a trade that prevents the Lions from handing out another massive contract would actually be beneficial. And if Suh makes it clear that he's not going to re-sign with Detroit, moving him for a top draft pick would make sense. The problem is that it's highly unlikely Suh will net you a top draft pick in a trade. He may be a proven talent, but why would a team trade away the right to draft a guy like Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins or Khalil Mack for what could end up being only one year of Suh? Sure, the Lions could let a potential trade partner negotiate a long-term deal with Suh beforehand, but if it gets to the point where a trade is that far along, chances are it's because Suh made it known that he wants to pick his own team as a free agent.
Anyway, to make a long story short, we're nowhere near the point where a trade for Suh is likely, and the idea that they're trying to use him as a way to move up and grab Clowney is pretty ridiculous. The Lions may have taken a look at what kind of market is out there for a deal involving Suh, but that doesn't mean they're actively trying to trade him away. They would prefer to keep their best defensive player in Detroit, both for 2014 and beyond. What will happen with the beyond part obviously remains to be seen, but for 2014, all signs point to Suh remaining a Lion.