Set to be an unrestricted free agent for the third consecutive offseason, Ndamukong Suh has grown used to changing zip codes as he approaches the twilight of his NFL career.
After being rumored as a potential target for the team each of the past two offseasons, could the Portland, Oregon native finally make a return to the Pacific Northwest as a member of the Seahawks?
Two years ago, the Dolphins cut the five-time Pro Bowler to create additional cap space after three seasons with the franchise. At the time, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll "had a great conversation" with Suh, but after biding his time deciding on his next team, he joined the Rams on a one-year, $14 million deal, eventually playing in his first Super Bowl.
“To be able to watch film with the coaches was key,” Suh said of joining the Rams. “That’s something that was important for me, each place I visited, to watch film and talk to the coaches to see how they saw me fitting into 'their organization.' Coach Phillips, I’ve seen him in Dallas and other places, he was successful with a multitude of different athletes. I think he will create a package that is best for every single player in this organization.”
Suh also explained that he and Rams coach Sean McVay connected, making it an easy choice for him to continue his career in Los Angeles rather than Seattle.
“I think a reputation is something you create on your own, but also gets skewed in different ways by other people,” Suh said. “I would say to anybody, to fans, come up to me as a normal human being and find out who I am and have a conversation with me. That’s what Coach McVay did, and that’s why we hit it off.”
But after Los Angeles extended quarterback Jared Goff and several other players, the organization didn't have room in the budget to keep Suh. Rumors once again circulated linking Seattle to the star defensive tackle, but he opted to take a one-year deal with the Buccaneers.
Playing in all 16 games, Suh finished his 10th season with 41 tackles, a career-low 2.5 sacks, and four fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns, according to Pro Football-Reference.com.
Over the past few seasons prior to joining the Buccaneers in 2019, Suh, a first-generation America, expressed a desire to play closer to home and family. His father is from Cameroon, while Jamaica is the birthplace of his mother.
In a 2017 interview with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Suh detailed how the cultural mix positively affected him.
“It’s heavily affected me in all positive ways. Seeing them growing up and understanding and having been to both those countries gives you great pride and, at the same time, understanding how hard you need to work. I understand how hard it was for them to get here, how hard they worked to get here."
“I saw the work ethic. It’s a pride thing, but the biggest thing for me is culture - seeing their culture, how they carry themselves and approach things from a different perspective. People have the notion of American kids taking the easy way because everything’s kind of given to them. I look at myself as an American, without question, being born here and reaping the benefits of being an American. But at the same time, I look at myself as a Cameroonian, as a Jamaican and so that combination of all three of those is what I embody - the drive, focus, determination - it’s all of them.”
While Suh would clearly love the opportunity to play near his family again, as an aging player with diminishing production, why would the Seahawks have interest in him now?
Last season with the Buccaneers, Suh and former Washington Husky standout Vita Vea helped the team's rush defense improve from 31st overall in 2018 to first in 2019. As for the Seahawks, they ranked 22nd defending the run last season.
Though he isn't the pass rusher he once was, Suh’s ability to play on all three downs, defend the field laterally, and hold up at the point of attack as a stout run defender remains appealing, particularly in a rugged NFC West featuring several talented, physical football teams. With Jarran Reed heading to free agency himself, the veteran could be a solid short-term replacement.
For now, it looks like Suh would like to stay in South Florida. Back on February 25, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that general manager Jason Licht indicated the veteran hoped to re-sign with the Buccaneers.
Stability matters, and at this stage of his career, staying with the same team may matter more than money or playing for a contender. Suh will have to weigh all of these factors as he decides where to play in 2020 and it remains unknown if the Seahawks will even pursue him this time around.
But after dodging the opportunity to come home the past couple of years for other options, if Seattle expresses interest in an effort to shore up its defensive line and Suh is willing to play for less than he has the past two years, this may be the perfect time for the two sides to strike a deal.