Most Lions fans are sick and tired of hearing about Ndamukong Suh and can’t wait until Tuesday at 4 PM when he’s able to sign with a team. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is arguably the most impactful player of the league may not longer don the Honolulu Blue and Silver. So die-hard Lions fans I present to you a point and counterpoint of sorts regarding the pending decision.
Suh Stays (Reportedly Suh is signing with Miami for a 6 yr/$114 mil contract w/$60 mil guaranteed)
Suh Leaves (Roughly 17 mil to work within the salary cap)
The Lions have already been busy to bring back some key players: P Matt Prater 3 yrs/$9 mil, LB Stephon Tulloch undisclosed amount, DE George Johnson original round tender, WR/KR Jeremy Ross exclusive rights tender, QB Kellen Moore 2 yr/Undisclosed, QB Dan Orlovsky 1 year/undisclosed, LS Don Muhlbach and DL Darryl Tapp 1 yr/ 950K. That would seem like a lot, but the most pivotal player who needs to return now is Nick Fairley.
Fairley who dropped in the Lions lap during the 2011 draft played well and event great in spurts being Suh’s Robin, but has missed about 25% of games in his 4 year career. His stats aren’t outstanding, but they didn’t have to be then, but they will now if he returns. Losing a NFL interior lineman best 39 sacks that Suh provided will be impossible for Fairley to match given he has only 13.5 career sacks. With the Lions hard pressed to fill the gaping hole on the DL they will likely have pay more than he’s worth and more than they can afford. If the Lions DC Teryl Austin feels he can scheme without a stellar front line then expect them to go elsewhere. Fans won’t like it, but Fairley probably won’t be back based on the Colts aggressive recruitment and deep pockets.
Here’s a more cost efficient option of Defensive Linemen who can be difference makers:
DT Vince Wilfork (Former New England Patriot)
A gobstopper in the middle for years is getting up in age, but has still shown himself to be a highly effective who can demand the double team. He’s another player who has championship experience and can become a much needed leader on the defense. I would be cautious to sign him more than a 2-year deal, but he could be the first brick in rebuilding the foundation that allowed the Lions to be a top ranked defense last year.
DT Jared Odrick (Former Miami Dolphin)
A swap of DTs seems like a stretch and that the Lions are getting the short end of the stick, but remember this is a package deal. As consistent an interior lineman as there is and probably has a huge chip on his shoulder considering how he was disregarded by the Fins. Coming to Detroit would be a daunting task, but also provides him the opportunity to show he can produce in the place he relacement just played. Spending the money Fairley is probably asking is a much better investment.
At running back the Lions are looking for a speedster who has break away speed; that hasn’t been seen since the brief career of Jahvid Best. There are only a selct few in this years class of free agents:
RB C.J. Spiller (Former Buffalo Bill)
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to Spiller, slowed by a horrible injury his senior year at Clemson he is still trying to capture that excitement on a consistent basis. C.J. at Clemson in case you forgot 2012 was his breakout season with a career high 1,200 yards and 6 TDs. Holding a 5.0 yards per carry average makes bringing him in intriguing along with the fact he won’t have to be the feature back given the system Joe Lombardi runs. The one thing that makes one pause to this signing is he’s coming off a season ending injury. The injury aspect may lead to the team getting him at a discounted price for a shorter term.
RB Chris Johnson (Former New York Jet)
Just last night Chris Johnson and a friend fell victim to a drive by shooting in Orlando. Unfortunately the driver of the vehicle was killed and Johnson, who was shot in the upper arm region, was in stable condition as is expected to make a full recovery. On the field, the New York experiment failed miserably. There probably numerous reasons why it did, but Johnson being cut made him one of the scapegoats. His stats have dropped, but this was his first year not rushing for 1,000 yards and may be the first of a few. With a career low 155 carries he still hit the “productive” magic number of averaging at least 4.0 yards per carry (4.3). Being a veteran back he has a lot to bring and possibly a lot to prove. Only reaching the playoffs in his rookie year likely will play a big part in where Johnson signs, especially how the league has demonstrated how they treat RBs over 28. A 2-3 year contract laced with incentives could be just the exact situation Johnson is looking for.
The last immediate need is in the secondary where the wily vet Rasheen Mathis had a career year, but most experts don’t expect that to occur again. Most like he will resign, but will have to fight for his starting spot. Bill Bentley is coming off injury and one of the following DBs will improve the talent level
DB Cortland Finnegan (Former Miami Dolphin)
The controversial cornerback has been an above average opposing team villain for 10 years. He is physical and pesky and his goal is to take his opponent off their game. Finnegan vs. Johnson He’s the player you love to hate and the teammate you love to go to battle with. His aggressive nature seems to match with Teryl Austin’s game planning strategies, but his hot-headed moments lean more towards the Lions teams who lacked discipline. Definitely worth signing if he is on the same page as the direction of the team.
DB Patrick Robinson (Former New Orleans Saint)
Known infamously in the Big Easy as arguably their biggest 1st round bust, its time for Robinson to get a new environment and see how much of his pre-draft potential can actually be realized. Its unknown if it was the scheme, the coaching, injuries or the climate that lead to the Saints defense to become as porous as it was in 2014, but Robinson was a causality. Another low risk, high reward situation given his past history. A 2-3 year contract with a small guaranteed amount with team options with performance bonuses could be the way to see if he can be productive to the defensive backfield.
Let Fairley walk, the window to win is shrinking and healthy players are needed and he’s not worth what he wants. Sign Wolfork only after signing Odrick teams will have to gameplan for these two. Sign Chris Johnson based on his track record and the promise to win. (Yeah I know its a stretch in Detroit, but hey 11-5 is 11-5) Lions should more willing to add Robinson than Finnegan, but that aggressive nature will get Teryl Austin to vouch for him.