The Lions should keep, not trade Ndamukong Suh in 2013

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

A few days after yet another on-field incident could involve some form of league discipline, reports surfaced that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was involved in yet another off-field incident involving a motor vehicle earlier this month.

Though the latest traffic incident appears to be much ado about nothing — the Lathrup Village Police Chief doesn't think the matter warrants a "driving without due care and caution" charge — and the NFL announced that Suh will not be suspended for his questionable kick to the groin of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press writes that the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft has "become an albatross around the Lions' neck" and advocates for the team to trade Suh in the offseason.

Of course, trading Suh in 2013 is easier said than done.

From a contractual standpoint, Suh is signed through 2014 (the 2015 year in his rookie contract will void five days after the 2014 Super Bowl) and is currently due $22.7 million in base salary over the next two seasons. Suh is scheduled to earn $11.15 million in 2013, of which $2.7 million is fully guaranteed, and $11.55 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2014. Additionally, Suh has $4 million available in base salary escalators and incentives. Any team that acquires Suh will need to have $11.275 million in cap space in 2013 just to fit him on its active roster before reducing that figure with what is likely to be a very lucrative multi-year extension.

On the day before the 2012 league year began on March 13, Suh bailed out the salary cap-strapped Lions by agreeing to renegotiate his contract. Suh's $10.25 million base salary was reduced to $540,000, the league minimum for a player with two accrued seasons, and the remaining $9.71 million was converted to a signing bonus that was prorated over four seasons. The restructured deal lowered Suh's 2012 cap number by nearly $3.5 million, but added $2.4275 million to his 2013, 2014 and 2015 cap numbers. If the Lions were to trade Suh next offseason, the prorated amounts would immediately accelerate onto their 2013 cap, increasing his cap hit from $17.1725 million to $17.6925 million.

Suh has the talent to be a dominant, perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle and players like that do not grow on trees. Because his talent level is so high, other teams would have certainly have an interest in Suh, but questionable plays on Sunday, traffic-related issues off the field, and a large contract would limit what the Lions could get in return for Suh next offseason. In the short-term, the Lions, who are 22-37 in three-plus seasons under Jim Schwartz, would be better off keeping Suh for a run at another playoff appearance in 2013 before addressing his long-term future in Detroit before or during the final year of his rookie contract. A trade next offseason seems unlikely as Schwartz defended Suh during his weekly appearance on WXYT-FM on Tuesday.

"Ndamukong, I think, has done an outstanding job of staying free of penalties this year. I think he's had one offside penalty the whole year. I think that's been very commendable on his part," Suh said according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "And there's going to be a camera on him every single play. That's just life in the city when you're a player of his profile. And when that happens, there's going to be all kinds of things that people can interpret any way they want. I think that was one of those situations."

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