Sunday morning, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press published an article featuring a rare interview with Ndamukong Suh days after he signed his new contract with the Miami Dolphins. It was an excellent read and an in-depth look into Suh's thought process during his final days of free agency. To get a glimpse into the mind of the normally withdrawn defensive tackle was a compelling discovery. However, if you are looking for answers as to how negotiations broke down between Suh and the Detroit Lions, you aren't going to find anything here.
Throughout the article, Suh had nothing but good things to say about Detroit, their fans and the Lions organization. He dispelled any rumors that there was any friction between him and coaches or fans. He constantly spoke praises of the city of Detroit and how it helped him grow into an adult.
Perhaps the toughest pill to swallow for Lions fans was Suh's insistence that he believed he would remain a Lion until the very end of the negotiating period:
"I thought at every single point through the process that I was going to be in Detroit," Suh said. "Even after they didn't do the franchise tag and I spoke to Mrs. Ford after that piece, I still felt just a great, great chance of me still being in Detroit. So, it wasn't until really, really late, late in the process is where I was like, 'Wow, I got to, I actually got to start thinking outside of Detroit.'
This, however, also seems extremely hard to believe. Throughout the entire process, Lions management remained unwaveringly confident that a deal would get done. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which a free agent had months to come to an agreement he truly believed would happen, while the front office publicly declared they wanted him back, and they were unable to negotiate a deal. But if Suh was really that focused on Detroit, why did things break down?
Unfortunately, Suh refused to give details into what ultimately drove his decision to go to Miami, saying, "There's a lot of factors that went into that, but I don't care to put them out." However, Birkett did note something important about the negotiations in his article:
The Lions, one of a handful of teams that pursued the 28-year-old three-time all-pro in free agency, made Suh a competitive offer to try to keep him in Detroit, but their bid of six years and $102 million with $58 million guaranteed came late in the negotiating process and couldn't match Miami's deal in terms of money or structure.
If the Lions' offer for Suh truly came too late, this is obviously a failure on the Detroit front office. Assuming that's what happened, the Lions must have lowballed Suh early in the process, and when they finally made a decent offer, Miami had already one-upped them beyond Detroit's financial capabilities. The Lions would have significantly underestimated the market and paid dearly for it.
Unfortunately, we'll never really know what the truth is. Detroit has every reason to leak to the media that they offered a fair deal, and Suh is equally justified to insinuate that the deal came too late in the negotiating process. Both sides are trying to save face, and that means the truth will remain buried from the public.
The article makes Suh look like the victim -- and maybe he is -- but Suh is a savvy guy. This interview served a purpose, and he played it beautifully. He proclaimed his love for the city, he expressed how hard it was to leave the Lions and he intimated that none of this was his fault, without directly saying the front office blew it.
Whether any of it was honest is for you to interpret. At this point, both sides have said their piece, and it's up to you to believe what you want. Me? I'm moving on. Suh already has.