First, let me start this off by discussing Ndamukong Suh. He’s agreed to a 6-year deal worth up to $114 million and $60 million guaranteed with the Miami Dolphins. The worst of all of this is that the Lions were very close in their offer. They gave him 6 years for $17 million per year and $58 million guaranteed. Now obviously the lack of a state income tax in Florida is huge, but the bottom line is, Suh is a mercenary. I’ve always felt that he will show up and work his heart out and always wants to win, but at the end of the day he will follow the money. No matter what.
Now I don’t blame him for taking the money. He made a business decision and in a sport with so little loyalty and many players getting cut early on to their deals, you should get paid what you’re worth. But it shows how little his words about Detroit, or the organization and coaching staff actually meant.
Now my big thing is if the Lions offered him this deal last April and he balked, that’s when the time for action was. I was in favor of keeping Suh last year, knowing the risk, but that was assuming the Lions actually had a shot at keeping him. Based on what he signed for, you would think that the Lions would have had a better idea of how negotiations were going. This may be looking back in hindsight, but the Lions would have been better off picking up Nick Fairley’s option ($5.477 million), trading Suh and drafting Aaron Donald. If I had been in charge of the team, that’s what I would have done if Suh had turned down the best possible offer you could give him. The Patriots have a philosophy that you should get rid of a player a year too early rather than a year too late and this is a perfect example. At the bare minimum, they should have drafted Aaron Donald. I assumed that when Mayhew was talking and seemed confident that a deal would get done, that he wasn’t being misleading.
Apparently he’s talking out of his ass, which is what we should always assume when a GM is talking.
And just to clarify, when I say that Martin Mayhew and the Lions do not have a plan B or a backup plan, I do not literally mean that they do not have a backup plan. Of course they went through scenarios like this and came up with some sort of backup plan. My issue is that their backup plan is crap, whatever it is. Because a true backup plan, a good backup plan, would have already had the player on the roster with a year in the current system so they could make a smooth transition. Of course you’re not going to easily replace an All-Pro defensive tackle, but having a rookie going into year 2 is better than a rookie or a free agent starting from scratch trying to fill an All-Pros shoes.
They misjudged these negotiations from Day 1. And while the Lions got screwed by being terrible at the worst possible time, three top 2 picks without a rookie salary cap, they still could have handled this better. The salary restructures made things even worse, and that’s why the Lions have dead money for Ndamukong Suh for this upcoming season. That’s why they couldn’t Franchise Tag him, or at least couldn’t do so and not make things quite harrowing for the next two years. If anything, as I said, they should have traded him and looked for a replacement. Sometimes the writing is on the wall, and when a guy says that he wants to be the highest defensive paid player and is looking to break the bank, maybe you should listen to him. Again, it’s better to pull the chute too early than pull it late, realize you don’t have a backup chute and end up having your ass hole bounce through your forehead as you hit the ground.
Bottom line, the Lions should have been more amply prepared for this and getting a compensatory 3rd round pick in 2016, while scrambling for free agents in 2015 isn’t good. Their only window to actually win a Super Bowl may have just closed.
Key Position Needs:
This is now the biggest need on the roster. The Lions have $17 million in cap space for this offseason and my guess is that more than half of that will go towards two defensive tackles. With Ndamukong Suh gone and Nick Fairley looking to get paid because of a thin market, the Lions are in need of two starters. This is utterly devastating and there’s not much to say about this. The best teams are built from the trenches out, look at the Cowboys this year, and one of their trenches has a giant hole in the middle.
The Lions need another top three cornerback to put on the roster, especially if they don’t keep Rashean Mathis. Darius Slay showed major progress and looks to be well on his way to being a true #1 cornerback. Rookie nickel CB Nevin Lawson got hurt early on and never got a chance to prove himself, but it’s quite clear that his replacements Danny Gorrer, Don Carey and Cassius Vaughn are not capable players. Even if they re-sign Mathis, they need to add another cornerback so they don’t have to count on Lawson, who is inexperienced and coming off an injury.
Because of the versatility of two of the offensive linemen, I’ve decided to list all of the line as a position of need. Riley Reiff could very easily kick inside to guard, with Travis Swanson sticking at center if they draft a tackle, which I think is the best solution. Another possibility is to sign a guard and leave Reiff and Swanson at their respective positions. I don’t think they would sign a left tackle just because of how expensive it would prove to be. A final option, which is my second choice, would be to draft Cameron Erving from Florida State. Erving can play anywhere on the offensive line, best suited for center, and then move Swanson to guard and leave Reiff at tackle.
Either way, they only have 4 offensive linemen for 5 spots right now. Unless of course they think that Cornelius Lucas is ready to start at left tackle with La’Adrian Waddle at right tackle and then they just have to move Reiff to guard. Personally, I don’t think promoting from within is the best solution given how the offensive line did last year with the amount of injuries they had.
#3 Wide Receiver
Now I don’t think that this will get filled in free agency, and quite frankly, I’m sure the Lions are praying that Eric Ebron steps up and they don’t have to fill this need. I’m hoping this too. But at the end of the day, the Lions need a 3rd pass catcher outside of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to step up. Whether it’s a wide receiver or Eric Ebron, the Lions need another option and hopefully he can return kicks too.
If the Lions had drafted Odell Beckham Jr or Aaron Donald, two of these three needs would be pretty much taken care of.
Update: Running Back (Duh)
I initially left this off, despite the cutting of Reggie Bush, because I want the Lions to target a running back in the Draft. With free agency going on right now, and my heart set on Duke Johnson, I completely forgot about this need. My apologies.
CJ Spiller will come at a high cost, as will most other free agent running backs, and the Lions already have dedicated a decent amount of time/money to Joique Bell. Not to mention they also have Theo Riddick, who played well when he was given the opportunity. In the end, signing a free agent running back would absolutely floor me. They do need a game-breaker home run threat, and I’m hoping they address that need by adding Duke Johnson or Tevin Coleman in the Draft.
Possible Free Agent Targets:
DTs: Nick Fairley,
Stephen Paea (Redskins), Dan Williams, Kendall Langford, C.J. Mosley
CBs: Rashean Mathis,
Cary Williams (Seahawks), Charles Tillman, Chris Culliver
OL: Mike Iupati (OG), Stefen Wisniewski (OC), Jake Long (LT)
On a separate note, I find it hysterical that the NFL set up this “free agent discussion period” so that players could discuss loose terms with teams and teams are flat-out giving players year-by-year breakdowns. This “legal tampering” period might as well just be called the start of free agency. There’s no way that there wasn’t actual tampering going on with how quickly some of these deals were put into place. And the best part? Now the league is actually upset about this happening.
Why shouldn’t they talk hard numbers? These guys have their future to look out for. They really should just have free agency start just after the NFL Combine and get rid of the rest of this.
Finally, I’m not calling for Martin Mayhew or Tom Lewand’s head. I think they’ve done a pretty good job thus far with the roster. Glover Quin and Golden Tate have been steals at their current contracts. They just botched this whole thing with Suh so badly that now the future of the team is in serious jeopardy. Then again I guess the Lions never won a playoff game with Suh, so how much worse could it get?