Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Monday, March 17, 2014
Lewand: Suh deal not critical to free agency

By Michael Rothstein

DETROIT – Ndamukong Suh doesn't have a contract extension from the Detroit Lions yet, but team president Tom Lewand doesn't appear bothered by this.

Instead, he said the Lions never planned on having a Suh extension as a pillar of what they needed to have done by the start of free agency.

"It's not been frustrating," Lewand said following an appearance at the MGM Grand in Detroit. "We said it months ago. We didn't have a deal with Matthew Stafford done until later in the summer. The timing of the Suh deal was never the factor when it came to planning for free agency.

"We were saying it months ago. We're saying it again now."

The Lions did not sign Stafford to an extension until July of 2013, well after the start of free agency. Lewand would not go into specifics of where the sides are in the negotiating process now or if negotiations have, in fact, begun between the Lions and Suh -- headlined by his agent, Jimmy Sexton.

Lewand also insisted that the Lions wouldn't have had that much more cap room this season had a deal been done to knock down Suh's $22.4 million cap number prior to free agency. His reasoning was that the way he views the cap is in multi-year terms as the team tries to make sure everyone fits in a certain year.

Suh is entering the final year of his original rookie deal -- one of the last top picks to have a deal under the previous collective bargaining agreement, which allowed for higher rookie salaries than the current CBA does.  Due to that, Lewand believes many of the teams that have taken advantage of rookie contracts under the new CBA -- Seattle and San Francisco among them -- will soon have cap situations similar to the Lions.

"If you only look at a guy's cap number and you say that all of a sudden that creates a lot more room to sign free agents, it really doesn't because then you're signing new players and you have to fit all those guys into 15 and 16 as well," Lewand said. "So you have maybe a lower cap number for a particular player in one year but it means, almost by definition that it's going to be a higher number in future years so you have to be able to fit all of those dollars in a certain time frame.

"That's why it's not that linear."

The Lions have between $2 million and $3 million in cap space after signing Golden Tate to a five-year deal and re-signing Brandon Pettigrew to a four-year deal last week.

The other issue with Suh and the lack of an extension was Suh's decision not to hire Sexton until March 7, less than a week before free agency began. Combine that with the death of William Clay Ford Sr. and there was little-to-no time to even begin substantive negotiations with the defensive tackle entering his fifth season in the league.

He reiterated what both he and general manager Martin Mayhew have said since the end of the season -- that they believe a deal will get done with Suh.

"Ndamukong has said he wants to stay and we want him to stay," Lewand said. "Generally when that happens, you can get a deal in place."