Just as the Detroit Lions were getting ready to kick off training camp on Monday, news broke that contract negotiations with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had been tabled until after the season. In other words, there wasn't much progress being made between Suh's agent and the Lions on a long-term deal, so the team decided to simply postpone the talks until 2015. What exactly does this news mean for Suh and the Lions going forward? Let's take a look.
What is the short-term effect of the Lions tabling negotiations with Suh?
We now know that Suh will for sure have a $22.4 million cap hit for 2014. The hope was that the Lions would be able to lower that a bit by signing him to a long-term deal, but now that number is basically set in stone. As a result, the Lions may have to restructure a contract or two at some point to create some additional cap space for the regular season.
Just generally speaking, this should eliminate the "distraction" storyline with negotiations not resuming until after the season. I'm sure there will still be talk about Suh's contract situation from the national media over the course of the season, but he has already made it clear that he doesn't have any interest in answering questions about it.
#Lions Ndamukong Suh: 'I have no reaction. I don’t talk about my contract, I said it at the very beginning I won’t, I’ll keep it that way.'— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) July 28, 2014
#Lions Ndamukong Suh: "Let’s talk about football, I’ve said it many times I want to be here (Detroit). No more questions about that.’’— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) July 28, 2014
Suh also doesn't want the media to ask his teammates about his contract. It will almost certainly come up occasionally, but my feeling is that after a few days, this story will basically disappear until 2015 on a local level. (The Tigers are going through a similar situation with Max Scherzer, and aside from an update here or there, it really hasn't been a notable storyline this season.)
What does this mean for Suh's future with the team beyond 2014?
The fact that there won't even be an opportunity for a long-term deal until 2015 certainly lessens the chances of him re-signing with the Lions in my mind. He could go out and have another Pro Bowl year, and his asking price could conceivably go up even more. At the same time, even if he has a down year, he's got a pretty strong track record overall, so I can't see his price coming down much or at all.
More than anything, this news seems like a sign that Suh will end up testing the market as a free agent next March (after the 2015 year in his contract is voided following the Super Bowl). He could still end up re-signing with the Lions even if he does become a free agent, but my feeling now is that he will at least see what else is out there. That could result in another team giving him an offer that goes far beyond the Lions' price range, or that could make Suh realize that whatever the Lions are offering is actually pretty good.
The other option here, of course, is that the Lions could stick the franchise tag on Suh and keep him in Detroit for at least one more season. This would buy the Lions another year of Suh and another year to negotiate a long-term deal with him, but it would come at a cost of $26.9 million for 2015. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said on Monday that there's a possibility the Lions could franchise Suh, but I think that statement had more to do with attempting to create leverage than anything. I just can't see the Lions agreeing to pay that much to Suh unless they are 100 percent sure that a long-term deal will happen and they simply need some extra time.
Will the Lions now consider trading Suh?
Mayhew said no talks and no thought of trading Suh— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) July 28, 2014
Will the Lions' decision to table negotiations hurt future talks with Suh?
Mayhew made it perfectly clear that the Lions were the ones responsible for ending the negotiations for the time being; Suh's side didn't walk away here. As a result, it would be understandable if Suh was unhappy with how the situation was handled, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
Suh said he has a "great" relationship with the front office. "Nothing's going to change."— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) July 28, 2014
Clearly Suh is saying the right things, but I believe him in this particular case. I think he's well aware that this is a business, and if the Lions come back to him with a significantly improved offer after the season, I can't imagine he will immediately turn it down just because they didn't negotiate during the season. At the end of the day, this is simply going to come down to the two sides agreeing on Suh's future worth. The timing of a potential deal may have changed, but it's still all about the money.
Where does everybody go from here?
For starters, hopefully this will be the last time we have to hear about Suh's contract until the end of the season. The whole point of tabling negotiations was to put this story on the backburner until 2015, and unless there's some unforeseen development before then, that's exactly what should happen. With Suh not answering questions about his contract and the Lions unlikely to discuss it going forward, everybody's focus should move on to other things for the remainder of the year.
In the grand scheme of the things, the Lions will have to hope that they can get something worked out once negotiations resume after the season. Mayhew may be confident that Suh will still be with the Lions a year from now, but there's no guarantee that will happen unless the franchise tag is involved. And a scenario involving the franchise tag might actually be worse than simply letting him walk given the financial ramifications, but losing Suh for nothing but future compensatory picks obviously wouldn't be ideal, either.
In the end, I guess the main thing is for the Lions and Suh to make the most of 2014. This could very well be his final year in Detroit, and it would be a shame if he only ended up having one playoff appearance to show for his time with the Lions. But we can spend the early months of 2015 worrying about his contract and his long-term future; going forward, as Suh said, let’s talk about football.