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Life after Suh

The Detroit Lions will have to press forward without the services of Ndamukong Suh. Regardless of the money saved, this is bad news.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ndamukong Suh is gone. He is no longer a Detroit Lion and he likely never will be again. It's a brutal reality for Lions fans, whether you thought the Lions were right to refuse to empty their pockets for him or not.

You may be angry at Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew for screwing the pooch when they restructured Suh's contract in 2013, kicking the can so far down the road that it was no longer their can to kick. And your anger would be warranted.

You may be frustrated at the Lions' poor luck for having to pay three highly drafted players under the old, cap-draining rookie wage scale that was trashed, ironically, the year after the Lions drafted Suh. Your frustration would have merit, too.

But maybe you're one of the superheroic fans who has already come to terms with the loss. Maybe you're able to look at the situation objectively and truly believe that the Lions shouldn't or couldn't have paid Suh what he wanted. And maybe you're right. And maybe you've been shouting this from the moment negotiations broke down in 2014. If you're that person, you probably are feeling pretty proud right now. But no matter how right you are, your team just lost a future Hall of Famer. This is not a time for celebration, even if history eventually shows the Lions made the right decision.

Myself? I'm somewhere in the middle. I finally realized that Suh wasn't going to be a Lion shortly after the franchise tag deadline passed without even a whisper of a rumor. I let hope slide in here and there, convincing myself that the Lions had wiggled their way out of financial trouble before, and they could do it again. But it was that financial "magic" that caused this all in the first place, and in the back of my head, I knew this couldn't (and shouldn't) continue forever.

Part of me believes that the Lions were right not to try and outbid the Miami Dolphins, which were clearly going to pay whatever Suh wanted. But then the other half of me knows I don't completely feel that way and I'm just legitimizing the Lions' front-office behaviors, like I do nearly every time they make a tough decision. It's not quite blind faith, but it certainly isn't the most objective analysis, either. Such is the life of a tortured fan. You know this choice was a crossroads between two paths, but it's impossible to know where each road leads.

From the get-go, this was a true Kobayashi Maru scenario. No matter what the Lions did, they would lose. They would either spend an outrageous amount of money, continuing their compulsive string of bad habits, restructures and refinances that put them into this fiasco in the first place. Or they would say goodbye to possibly the best defensive player to ever don the Honolulu Blue.

No one wants to lose a cornerstone of their roster, but it's also impossibly hard to be the ones to write that record-breaking check. We're constantly told that there are only a few specific ways to build a Super Bowl team and none of them involve spending nearly $120 million on a defensive tackle.  But "The Way" to build a Super Bowl team changes every year, and the game of football is constantly evolving. So perhaps being the team that empties the piggy bank for a defensive tackle will be viewed as the trend-setter five years from now. It's unlikely, but the exact phenomenon happened with left tackles in the 90s, and it's happening right now with slot receivers.

What I guess I'm trying to say through these jumbled thoughts above is simply this hurts and it was always going to hurt. When you strip away all the blame and the pseudo-rationalization, you're left with one simple fact: The Detroit Lions no longer have the best defensive tackle in football on their team. Maybe Detroit will thrive without him, and maybe their improved financial situation will lead to more long-term stability, but those are conversations to be had in the upcoming football-less months ahead. Right now Ndamukong Suh is on his way to signing a contract in Miami, and I hate it.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.