We’re only one week into June, yet as a Lions fan, I feel like it has already been a long summer and an even longer offseason.
Perhaps its the bad taste that still remains from last years late-season collapse?
Perhaps it has to do with the Lions organization and Martin Mayhew cleaning house of the coaching staff after that collapse and the anticipation of how the next regime will fair?
Or perhaps it’s the ongoing melodrama of the Ndamukong Suh contract situation and it’s ripple down effect on the rest of the team.
Suh is entering the final season of his contract and is sending mixed signals daily. He’s been in on-again, off-again contract extension talks with the Lions, a process hampered by a protracted agent change and the death of Mr. Ford, Detroit’s principal owner.
Suh opted to avoid the team’s voluntary workout sessions earlier in the year, even though he is a returning team captain. That obviously caused some controversy and raised questions about his commitment and leadership.
When Suh finally arrived in Detroit for OTA’s, he was in great condition as many expected he would be. What everyone didn’t expect were the words that were about to come out of his mouth.
Here’s what Suh said, as relayed by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
“I had an opportunity — probably a lot of you guys don’t know, I could have gone elsewhere when I was drafted. Had that decision in my hands. I chose not to take it because that’s just the way I saw it.”
Suh appears to be saying that he could have chosen to force Detroit to not select him with the No. 2 overall pick back in 2010, similar to what the Manning family did to the Chargers with Eli in 2004.
All of that drama aside, there is one major issue with relevance to Suh’s contract extension that the Lions would like resolved before the beginning of Training Camp. That issue is the signing of first-round draft pick, Eric Ebron.
The Lions can’t slide their first-round draft pick into it’s designated rookie salary slot just yet because they don’t have sufficient funds underneath the salary cap. A primary reason for that deficiency is the continued failure of Suh and the Lions to reach an agreement that should make Suh one of the richest defensive players in NFL history, at the same time providing the Lions with the necessary cap relief.
In what seems like a win-win for both sides, they are instead at a stalemate.
But it gets better.
Throw in the Kaepernick effect.
While Colin Kaepernick’s deal doesn’t make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league, it does set the market for offseason contract extensions this year for high-profile players and Suh is one of the most recognizable names in the league. If you think his agent, Jimmy Sexton, didn’t see the Kaepernick deal and think how he could use it to help gain more of an advantage for his client in their talks with Detroit, then you might underestimate Sexton’s bargaining talents. There’s a reason Suh hired him — it’s because he is widely considered one of the best in the game.
Whatever you think of Suh’s detached demeanor, it would be a huge blow for the Lions to lose him. When it’s just about football, Suh is very popular in this town and one of the most recognizable faces on the Lions roster. He’s one of the top defensive tackles in the game, and at 27 is entering his prime.
The longer this situation goes on however, the further it stretches the limits of Jim Caldwell’s new culture of team accountability. Caldwell’s reaction to Suh remains consistent with his overall coaching philosophy – trust his players’ professionalism and preparation and they, in turn, will demand more from each other in execution and deportment.