Lions GM on Suh: 'Big priority for us'

ByMichael Rothstein ESPN logo
Thursday, January 8, 2015

ALLEN PARK, Mich. --Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the team is open to all options with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, including potentially using the franchise or transition tags on the free agent-to-be.

"He certainly is a big priority for us and he's an important part of our football team the past five years and I think the world of him," Mayhew said.

Mayhew said he spoke with Suh on Monday and he is "looking forward to working with him" to try and get a deal done. Mayhew said the team would prefer to sign a long-term deal with Suh, who would be one of the most sought-after free agents in 2015 if he reaches March without a deal.

The Lions cannot designate Suh for a franchise or transition tag until Feb. 16 and have until March 2 at 4 p.m. ET to make that decision. If Suh is franchised or transitioned, it would cost Detroit over $26 million in cap room for 2015.

Mayhew reiterated Monday what he has said often -- that Suh has told him he wants to remain in Detroit. Suh declined to talk about his contract status throughout the 2014 season after the Lions halted negotiations prior to training camp in 2014.

New deals for Houston defensive end J.J. Watt as well as Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are all part of the negotiations with Suh, Mayhew said, along with how Suh is viewed -- as a defensive tackle or a defensive playmaker regardless of position.

"We'll continue to work on it," Mayhew said.

Mayhew said he believes the influence of Lions coach Jim Caldwell along with the team's 11-5 record could factor into whether or not Suh will return to Detroit.

The 28-year-old Suh was taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft by Detroit after an All-American career at Nebraska.

With the Lions, Suh has been a dominant force in the middle for five seasons, making the Pro Bowl four times and being named first-team All-Pro four times. He's also been remarkably durable in his career, playing in 78 of 80 regular-season games for Detroit while making 238 tackles with 36 sacks, 13 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception.

The Lions and Suh spent most of last offseason trying to negotiate a new contract, but the team halted negotiations at the start of training camp for the 2014 season because they said they wanted to focus on football. Throughout last offseason, Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand said often they were confident they would sign Suh to a new deal.

With Suh comes one of the most dominating talents in the game, but also a player who has a history of being fined for player-safety violations. The only two games Suh missed in his career was due to a suspension after stomping on then-Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. He was also initially suspended for Detroit's playoff game against Dallas this season before his suspension was overturned and replaced with a $70,000 fine for stepping on the calf and ankle of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

In all, Suh has lost $420,669 due to fines and suspensions.

He has been particularly rough on quarterbacks in his career. In 2010, he was fined $7,500 for roughing Jake Delhomme and $15,000 for unnecessary roughness on Jay Cutler. In 2011, he was fined $20,000 for roughing Andy Dalton, and in 2012, he was fined $30,000 for kicking Matt Schaub in the groin. In 2013, he was fined $31,500 for roughing Brandon Weeden, but that fine was later rescinded.

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