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Making a pitch for an unlikely Ndamukong Suh return to Detroit

Unlikely, but not all that illogical.

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Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Back when rumors first emerged that the Miami Dolphins were planning on letting Ndamukong Suh go after the 2017 season, I shrugged them off. I didn’t even truly consider the idea of a return to Detroit. Why would he want to come back here, and why—despite the Lions’ serious issues on the defensive line—would the Lions invite that migraine back? There was no point in seriously considering it, it was time to just be thankful that Detroit wasn’t under the burden of that heavy contract.

And I still mostly feel the same. A reunion between Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions is extremely unlikely. But...

It’s the offseason: The season of dreaming. If y’all can fawn over the idea of Le’Veon Bell donning the Honolulu Blue, let me indulge for a minute about a Suh return.

I first started thinking about this idea after reading a story from MMQB’s Robert Klemko—as relayed by Bleeding Green Nation. According to Klemko, during joint practices last preseason, Suh, impressed by their efficiency in practice, approached the Eagles’ defensive line coach Chris Wilson and told him, “The way y’all practice is unbelievable. I don’t care about money at this point—I think I want to play with y’all next year for free.”

It’s worth noting that Suh denies the story, but he has every reason to deny it. While the Eagles coaching assistant that told the story to Klemko has little reason to lie.

Either way, one portion of the quote stood out: “I don’t care about money at this point.”

The biggest downside to a Suh return would be his hefty price tag. In retrospect, I think most Lions fans are relieved they didn’t end up handing Suh a six-year, $114.4 million contract. If the Dolphins truly release Suh, they’ll only be saving $3.9 million this year, while eating $22.2 million in dead money. But Miami may not have a choice considering they have the fourth-fewest cap space in the league.

But for a return to happen, both the Lions and Suh would have to have interest in striking a deal. Let’s tackle both sides of the negotiating table.

Why would Suh want to return to Detroit?

Of course Suh would want to play for the Eagles. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the team he saw on the practice field that day would go on to be Super Bowl champions. He could see greatness, and his suggestion that money doesn’t matter anymore means that he just wants to win right now.

Could Detroit pull off a pitch that they’re ready to win right away? It certainly won’t be easy. Suh has been around the organization, seen the negativity first hand and dealt with the losing culture. He may have been to the playoffs twice in Detroit, but he’s felt the sting of walking off the field a loser.

But the Lions are a much different team than they were just four years ago. Suh never publicly expressed any dislike for his Detroit coaching staff, but he’ll have a brand new set of coaches anyways. Management has completely changed since Suh’s last game in Detroit. Basically, the entire front office has been overhauled. By firing their head coach after back-to-back 9-7 seasons, the Lions have shown the rest of the league that they’re serious about winning, and winning right now.

And if Suh was impressed by the efficiency and hard work of the Eagles defense, Matt Patricia is exactly the figurehead the Lions would need to entice Suh. Patricia is known for his endless work ethic and brilliant defensive mind. Additionally, the Lions’ new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni is a defensive line guru, and Detroit’s defensive line coach Bo Davis was one of the most highly-regarded defensive line coaches in college football. This coaching staff is built to make stars out of their defensive line.

But the toughest sell for the Lions would be to convince Suh to move back to Detroit. He was always a polarizing figure in the city due to his numerous on-field scandals, and when he left for Miami, he soured his relationship with fans forever.

Why would the Lions want Suh back?

This one is easy. The Lions defensive line has been in shambles since Suh left. After ranking eighth in sacks (42) in Suh’s last year, Detroit has ranked 30th (26) and 20th (35) in the past two years respectively. Suh’s stats in Miami may not be all that impressive, but don’t get it twisted, Suh is still as disruptive as ever. Last year, he was the No. 5 ranked interior defender per PFF.

While many focus on the Lions’ lack of edge pressure from their defensive ends, they’ve had just as much trouble finding consistent pressure from the inside, maybe more. Suh would immediately come in and provide that.

Again, cost may be the biggest deterrent to bringing Suh back. Though he allegedly said that money doesn’t matter anymore, I’m sure his agent won’t be talking that way during negotiations should he hit free agency. Suh could take a discount for a team he views as a contender, but he still won’t come cheap.

However, the Lions do have fair amount of cap space—over $44 million per—and there would be no better player available to spend that money on. Spending that much in free agency isn’t the Patriot Way, but Bob Quinn has shown in back-to-back offseasons that he doesn’t mind spending a good amount of cash on positions of need. Just ask Marvin Jones Jr., T.J. Lang or Rick Wagner.

But, of course, there’s the personality clash with Suh. His fiery temper can be off-putting at best, and extremely destructive at worst. In 2017, he led all interior defenders with 13 penalties, including an ugly moment in which he grabbed the throat of Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett. Back in 2015, he also reportedly ignored playcalls from defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

That sort of drama would be a completely legitimate reason for the Lions to skip over a reunion, especially considering the price tag that would come along with him. But if Patricia thinks he can handle the ego, then maybe it’s worth a phone call.


I think it’s an extreme long-shot for any of this to actually happen. Convincing Suh to return to Detroit, even if it’s a completely revamped franchise, is going to be a very hard sell. But if the Lions think they can keep Suh under control and not let his impulsive behavior poison the team, I think it’s absolutely worth making preliminary talks.

Of course, the Dolphins first have to follow through on the reports that they will be releasing Suh, which is no guarantee. But it’s fun to dream.


Would you welcome Ndamukong Suh back to Detroit at the right price?

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