- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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The first part -- and possibly major conclusion -- to the year-long Ndamukong Suh free-agency drama will come to an end by 4 p.m. ET Monday, when the franchise has to make a decision whether or not to use the franchise or transition tag on the defensive tackle.
There are three types of tags that can be used: An exclusive franchise tag, which gives the team exclusive negotiating rights with Suh and assures he'll be a Detroit Lion next season for around $26.9 million unless he is able to work out a long-term deal with the club. A nonexclusive franchise tag does something similar, but allows him to negotiate with other teams. If a team makes him an offer and the Lions decline to match, Detroit receives two future first-round picks for Suh's services. The transition tag is similar to the nonexclusive tag, but with no compensation for losing Suh. If a long-term deal is not done by July 15 with the tag, $26.9 million is his figure for 2015.
So here's a quick look at the reasons for and against tagging Suh. In the past, I've said the Lions need to use the tag on Suh if they believe it is the only way to keep him around, but my belief now is the only way the franchise should use the tag is if it believes there is only a one-year window to win with this group of players.
Reasons to tag Suh:
1. The one-year window: If the Lions want to go all-in for 2015 with the understanding they might not be able to get Suh back in 2016 anyway, then it would make sense to tag him. This would likely mean the franchise believes this is the last year the team can potentially make it to a Super Bowl with the current nucleus that includes Suh, Calvin Johnson, Stephen Tulloch, Joique Bell and others (Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate, for instance, aren't going anywhere either way). If that's the case and the Lions don't believe they will get a long-term deal done with Suh, then that's a reason for the team to use the tag.
2. Suh is a transcendent player: There is no question Suh is the best interior lineman in the NFL and one of the best defensive players in the league. Losing a player like this -- on a defense that has been built around him and the rest of the defensive line as the crux of a 4-3 scheme -- would no doubt damage the unit in 2015. Players like him don't come around very often and if the franchise believes he is that critical to a defense that was one of the best in the NFL last season, ensuring he is around might be the way to go.
An issue either way:
1. The public relations hit: The fan base appears to be truly divided on this issue. Some want to see the team keep him at all costs. Some want to see the team let him go if he doesn't want to sign a long-term deal to stay with Detroit. The Lions have done a good job keeping things positive with their fans, saying for over a year now they believed a deal would be done with Suh. If Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew can't deliver on that, it might be a bad look considering they were so confident about it. The flip on that, of course, is the Lions can say they tried everything they could (whether they really do or not) if Suh ends up leaving in free agency and isn't tagged.
The reasons against tagging Suh:
1. The money: Giving $26.9 million to Suh plus the $9.7 million in dead money that the Lions are going to have on the books no matter what in 2015 is crippling when it comes to free agency and building depth. It all but means the Lions won't be big players in free agency (although they wouldn't be huge there if Suh signs a long-term deal, either) but Detroit has holes that need to be filled on the defensive line, offensive line, cornerback, running back and receiver. Some will come in the draft, but a good veteran or two wouldn't hurt.
2. You believe Suh isn't worth it: As mentioned above, Suh is a special player. There is no question about that. But if the Lions believe they can replace him somewhat adequately between free agency and the draft and possibly upgrade at other positions (Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell, San Francisco guard Mike Iupati, Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb and Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton are some of the possible targets out there) then the sum of what could be brought in instead of Suh might make Detroit better off in the long run. That's a risk, because there's no guarantee Detroit could sign one or all of those players.
3. You believe Suh and the Lions will come to terms no matter what: If this is the case, you take your chances, although the question would also be raised as to why the deal has not been done already if the franchise truly believes this.
These are some of the reasons either way for tagging Suh by 4 p.m. or declining to. At least for Detroit, it'll have a better idea of what's next by the end of business today.
The Lions have to make a decision today whether or not to use the franchise or transition tag on Ndamukong Suh.