Where Will Ndamukong Suh End Up?

Ndamukong Suh to sign with the Miami Dophins on Tuesday March 10th - Photo credit: ESPN

Ndamukong Suh was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2010, and he’s been their star defensive tackle for a couple of years now. So it was a little bit surprising to some when he didn’t get the franchise tag this year. Naturally, football fans nationwide are now wondering where Suh might take on the spotlight next.

Given his reputation for poor sportsmanship, some teams might not be willing to take on Suh with open arms. Other teams, such as the Washington Redskins, have been rumored to express interest but might arguably be better off leaving some room in their cap space. Then there are teams such as the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys, who are also rumored as potential frontrunners for Suh’s employment due to expressed interest and a lack of personal income tax in each of their states, but both of these teams have other positions to worry about before signing on a DT. In the case of the Cowboys, they also have enough well-paid players on their hands that they may not want to drop the big bucks on another just yet.

Bearing all of this in mind, here are ten teams that just might be selling jerseys with Suh’s name on them by the time the next season rolls around, along with the reasons they may or may not consider adding Suh to their roster.

Detroit Lions

The choice not to tag Suh this year was a strictly financial decision. Detroit didn’t pick up his option primarily due to the limitations it would have placed on their salary cap, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want him to play ball. They’re still in the midst of contract negotiations in the hopes that they can keep him on as a free agent, hopefully with a long-term deal that will make both sides happy.

Of course, it isn’t that common for players to continue donning the same jersey once they get a shot at free agency. In addition, there’s buzz that the Lions have already found a replacement for Suh in the form of Kendall Langford. Langford’s got a little more height and weight than Suh, even if his stats don’t always quite compare. More than likely, the Lions are just considering him as a back-up plan in the event that Suh decides to move on. Otherwise, team officials and players are pushing for Suh to return.

Miami Dolphins

As stated above, Florida has no personal income tax, which could be a big draw for a high-paid player like Ndamukong Suh. While it’s true that they have other needs at the moment (they could use one or two good receivers and cornerbacks, as well as linebackers), Steve Ross has never been one to shy away from a good bidding war when there’s a valuable player up for grabs. And with current tackle Randy Starks potentially getting the boot, it’s hard to say that the need isn’t there.

That said, Miami might not be able to afford as much cap space as many believe. Sure, they’ve cleared a lot of room by cutting players like Cortland Finnegan, Brandon Gibson and Nate Garner. That’s why they have the above needs in the first place. But creating more cap space is why players like Starks remain as potential candidates on the chopping block, and the Dolphins might not be so hot on the idea of spending the majority of those savings on a player who might bring them even more controversy than former guard Richie Incognito.

New York Giants

Ndamukong Suh has left his agent, Jimmy Sexton, with free reign over which team’s jersey he dons next. While many are claiming the likely possibility that this simply means Suh will end up playing for whichever team is willing to put up the most dough, let’s not forget that it is ultimately Sexton’s job to make his client happy. This might mean that the Giants have a chance, even if they big slightly less than other teams. After all, Suh has actively stated in the past that he wouldn’t mind playing for New York. The Giants also have need of strong defensive players at the moment, so it isn’t outlandish to believe they might throw their hat in the ring.

If, however, Sexton’s priorities are motivated by monetary gain, then the Giants will not likely be signing Suh on at any point in the near future. The Giants are already allocating a large amount of their cap space to star players such as Prince Amukamara and Eli Manning. They just recently franchised Jason Pierre-Paul for close to fifteen million dollars, which is more than the amount of cap space they’ll have left after finishing his contract. That’s not even taking into account the fact that some of that money will be going toward the upcoming draft. Suh may want to play for New York, but he and his agent might have to humble themselves a bit before the Giants could be able to afford him.

New England Patriots

Despite winning the most recent Super Bowl, the Patriots might be in line for a new star player. They saved a few million dollars on their salary cap when they franchised kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead of safety Devin McCourty. Joining the open market alongside McCourty will be defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, which will clear up another eight million in cap space. According to well-known Pats insider Tom Curran, bringing on Suh might help to fill the gap that New England is putting in their defense roster by passing on these contracts.

Of course, Curran also notes that Suh’s salary is going to be especially high. It wouldn’t make too much sense for the Pats to cut a couple of good men to save cap space, only to turn right around and hire one player whose salary is more expensive than the others’ salaries combined. Curran also points out that Suh, who has previously been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL, does not exactly play it by the book. New England has a fairly positive public image right now, and there’s no reason for them to take any risks. They’d have to be pretty worried about what the loss of Wilfork will do to their defense before they would be too likely to consider taking on a player who might pose a risk to their reputation.

New York Jets

As mentioned above, Suh has previously stated his desire to play ball for a New York team. The Jets have about fifty million dollars in cap space, which they have to spend due to the spending floor set by the NFL. The Jets are also in need of a few good men, as last season was more than just a little bit unkind to them. They could easily offer Suh a healthy salary, which will only add to the appeal of moving to a state for which he’s already keen on playing ball.

However, the Jets might want to use that cap money for offense rather than defense. Although they could arguably use some help on both sides, they don’t need quite as much help when it comes to defense. They’ve already got deals with nose tackle Damon Harrison, not to mention defensive ends Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. Potential extensions on these deals could be fairly costly, limiting the amount of funding they could allocate to signing on Ndamukong Suh.

Chicago Bears

With Chicago’s new coach and new GM, it might be time to adopt some new players as well. Considering that only two teams in the NFL allowed as many yards as the Bears did last year, they could use some stronger defense on their side. With about twenty-five million in cap space, they could easily make Ndamukong Suh their top priority in terms of boosting their defense for the following year.

Unfortunately, Suh alone might not be enough to bolster the Bears’ defense, meaning that their best option is to save some of the cap space for the upcoming draft. There are some talented defensive tackles such as Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton up for grabs this year, and putting all of their money toward a player whose salary they can only just afford might not be the most prudent move for Chicago right now. Besides, there are more than enough teams that can outbid the Bears to begin with, so there’s a good chance that Sexton will not sign Suh with Chicago no matter how much they offer.

Atlanta Falcons

Dan Quinn recently took over the head coaching position at Atlanta, and many are pegging him as a straight-shooter who isn’t in the game to fool around. With the Falcons in need of some solid defensive players, Quinn should see the value in a tackle with the pass-rushing skills that Suh has at his command. Quarterback Ra’Shede Hageman is also a fan of Suh joining the team, and it never hurts a coach’s decision to draft a player when he knows that his teammates are willing to work well with their new teammate.

The downside is that Sexton most likely isn’t going to sign his client to a team that pays anywhere below twenty million, and most believe that Suh is after a long-term deal. Assuming that “long-term” in this case means a commitment of at least five years, Atlanta will have to be comfortable promising Suh anywhere upward of one hundred million dollars over the next few years. They might choose to spend that money elsewhere, such as other free agents and the upcoming draft. It’s difficult to say whether they’d go this route or not. While other agents might save them money, at least a hot commodity like Suh ensures they won’t have to resort to using fake noise ever again. They also might not have the draft as an option when it comes to searching for talent, since many are suggesting they may lose a draft pick as part of their penalty for the fake noise controversy.

Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is one of the best prospects for Suh, as they have a fair bit of cap space and they need defense badly enough that they may be willing to spend a fair amount on a player like Suh. If punter Pat McAfee’s recent tweets are any indication, then it would appear that the players are more than open to having Suh on their team. It doesn’t hurt that Ryan Grigson, the Colts’ current GM, tends to bid what he thinks he needs to whenever there’s a decent player on the line.

Unfortunately, signing Suh for this season might not be the best move for either the player or the team. Despite more than forty million dollars’ worth of cap space, the Colts might choose to stay their bid for purely pragmatic reasoning. The playing style that Ndamukong Suh honed over the course of his field time with Detroit does not necessarily fit into the Colt’s 3-4 defense. They use a two-gap rather than one-gap approach, and his formidable skills won’t necessarily make it any easier to adopt a completely new style overnight. There’s a good chance that Suh will end up being the most well-paid defensive player in the NFL this year, and there’s no sense in dropping that kind of coin on a player whose abilities to fit the team’s needs are virtually untested.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags’ defensive-minded coach, Gus Bradley, should have no trouble molding Suh’s skills to fit the playing style of the team. This means that, unlike Indianapolis, Jacksonville does not have to worry about the sort of practical difficulties that sometimes accompany the signing of a new player. Many believe that the Jaguars are going to make a bid for Suh, and their finances would very much allow it. With Florida’s lack of income tax, and with more than sixty million dollars’ worth of cap space (not to mention a cap floor that has to be met by 2016), Jacksonville has a lot to gain and almost nothing to lose. They’re also in no position to turn down a decent opportunity after last season’s poor performance on the field.

And therein lies the problem. Sure, Jacksonville has more cap space than any other team in the league. Sure, Sexton wants Suh to sign with a team that can afford to pay him well. But considering Suh’s clout, it’s questionable that he would play for a team coming off of a fairly shaky season just so he could earn a few extra bucks. Unless Suh’s confident that he can lead the Jags to a higher ranking next year, it might come down to a choice between avarice and pride. If he chooses the former over the latter, then he could easily be wearing black and teal next year.

Oakland Raiders

Oakland is in a unique position this year. While many teams have cap space but might not wish to spend it on Suh, or have a need for Suh but lack the cap space, Oakland is somewhere in the middle. Basically, they have more than fifty million dollars in cap space, and they’re still a ways off from meeting the spending threshold required by the NFL. Taking on Suh would get them a lot closer to meeting the cap floor, which means that Oakland will likely put in the highest bid of all the teams competing for Suh’s favor. With Jimmy Sexton in complete charge of which team he joins, this might easily be enough to solidify the Raiders as his next team.

In fact, it’s relatively difficult to think of a reason that Suh won’t end up with the Raiders. While the Raiders may create some of the same hesitations as Jacksonville, their team is still a better fit for Suh in terms of sheer attitude. Unless one of the above teams is able to make Sexton an offer that he and his client simply cannot refuse, Suh is likely to wind up playing for Oakland. Given the team’s reputation for big personalities, Suh and the Raiders should suit each other well.