The Miami Dolphins have won the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes, according to Chris Mortensen. Their reward? Paying Suh the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history:
Ndamukong Suh will sign with #Dolphins on Tuesday based off parameters around $114 million and $60 million guaranteed, per sources.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2015
Suh also will get $60 million in first 3 years of 6-year contract, based on parameters set between #Dolphins and Suh's agent, Jimmy Sexton.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2015
As soon as Miami emerged as a possible landing spot for Suh last week, the Dolphins were really viewed as the heavy favorites to sign him. Once the free agency negotiating period began on Saturday, this notion that Suh was destined for the Dolphins was only solidified. While there were reports about the San Diego Chargers potentially getting into the mix and the Detroit Lions remaining in contention for Suh, the Dolphins continued to be the clear frontrunners.
For the Lions, it seems that the price tag for Suh simply went way beyond what they were willing to pay. Dave Birkett reported earlier on Sunday that the Lions were "reluctant to commit too much money to Suh." That's why they "recently have diverted some attention to trying to re-sign Nick Fairley," according to Birkett's report. Rather than break the bank and their salary cap to try to match the Dolphins' offer for Suh, the Lions seemingly already decided to move on to Plan B before the Suh to Miami news even broke on Sunday afternoon.
What exactly is Plan B for the Lions? It needs to be said up front that replacing the top defensive tackle in the entire NFL won't be easy. Suh is getting paid record-breaking money for a reason. The Lions' entire defense was really built around his dominance, and making up for the loss of that kind of player will be extremely difficult.
In all likelihood, Plan B begins with the Lions trying to re-sign Fairley so at least one of their starting defensive tackles returns. Beyond that, they could also bring back C.J. Mosley, and it's almost certain that they will sign a free-agent defensive tackle from another team. It's also very likely that they will draft a defensive tackle in order to rebuild their depth at the position.
In addition to getting things in order at defensive tackle, Plan B opens the door up to the Lions pursuing some notable free agents at other positions. Some of the money and cap space that would have been set aside for Suh can now be used to bring in a starting cornerback, starting offensive guard and depth at other positions, for example, so improving the overall talent on the roster will be a big part of Plan B.
At the end of the day, I certainly don't blame Suh for taking the money and going to Miami. He really would have been stupid to pass up what the Dolphins put on the table considering how ridiculous the numbers are. Plus, the Lions made a lot of blunders along the way by even letting it get to this point, as Birkett chronicled on Sunday.
Losing Suh obviously is a huge blow to the Lions' chances of contending in the future, but I think giving him $60 million over the next three seasons and $114 million over the next six years would have had the potential to do just as much damage. I was more than okay with the Lions shelling out $15-16 million a year to keep Suh in Detroit, but nearly $20 million a season? That number is really shocking, and I think the Lions made the right move by not getting into a bidding war with the Dolphins.