On Wednesday, former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a contract with the Dolphins that centers around the parameters of a six-year, $114 million deal with $60 million guaranteed. The deal makes Suh the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, vaulting him beyond the contract extension given to Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt last September. That deal locked Watt up for six more years, with $100 million in total money and $51.8 million in guaranteed money.
Watt won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2014, and justifiably so, but there's every reason to believe that Suh will live up to the terms of such a large contract. Since he was selected second overall out of Nebraska in the 2010 NFL draft, Suh has been the most dominant defensive tackle overall, and at a fairly historic level. He's totaled 36 sacks and 180 solo tackles in his career while frequently being the target of every opposing offense line's double teams. His 8.5-sack total for the 2014 season was the highest he's amassed since his 10-sack rookie campaign. According to Pro Football Focus' metrics, Suh led all defensive tackles with 57 total pressures in 2014, and he's led, tied for the lead or finished second in total pressures among defensive tackles in four of his five seasons.
Suh has been the picture of health throughout his career—in fact, the only two games he's missed in his career have been due to suspension, as he was docked two games in 2011 after he stomped on Green Bay Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith in a Thanksgiving Day game. Suh was originally suspended for another game after he stepped on the ankle of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a 2014 contest, but the ban was overturned, and Suh was ordered instead to pay a $70,000 fine. Throughout his career, Suh has lost $420,669 due to fines and suspensions.
The Lions had been talking about keeping Suh, but that was an unrealistic goal given the team's salary cap situation. Detroit goes into free agency with $17,011,192 in cap space, and according to Mortensen, Suh will receive $60 million in the first three years of his new deal. Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that Detroit offered Suh a new contract that would ave averaged $17 million per year with $58 million in guarantees. Now, the Lions can re-sign free agent tackles Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley to address that position, as well as pick up some talent in the draft, but replacing a player of Suh's caliber is never easy.
For the Dolphins, Suh immediately becomes a standout for a defensive line in need of one. In its 2014 4-3 base defense, Miami had Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell and Jared Odrick as its primary defensive tackles, ranking 16th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards metric and 24th in rushing yards allowed with 121.1 yards per game. The 2014 Lions ranked first overall in ALY and first in rushing yards allowed, with just 69.3 yards allowed per game.
It's a lot of money for any player, and we'll have to see how the specifics of the guaranteed money work out, but Suh is a rare and transformative defender with the ability to wreck an opposing offense single-handedly at times. The Dolphins are getting Suh while he's still on the high side of the age curve (he turned 28 in January), and as long as they can back out of the deal without too much hassle in its last couple of years, this is a major win.