If the Detroit Lions front office woke up this morning a little bit queasy, it would be somewhat understandable, and it has nothing to do with their present and everything to do with their future.
The Lions took a gamble when they were unable to get a deal done with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh before the start of the season. They are aware, too, that tabling negotiations with him at the start of training camp meant they’ll have a much smaller window to work with to sign Suh after the season.
On Tuesday morning, they also started to realize exactly how much it might cost to retain Suh’s services well into the future.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt -- who, like Suh, is considered the best at his position in the NFL -- earned a six-year, $100 million contract extension with a reported $51.8 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed cash ever for a defensive player.
He and the Texans got the deal done with two seasons left on his rookie deal so the two sides never came close to the potential sweat-it-out deadline the Lions and Suh appear barreling toward.
The Watt deal, if divided equally -- and we don’t know specifics yet -- would equate to $16.6 million per season. While Suh and Watt play different positions, that’s probably around the range Suh would be trying to earn.
Like Watt, Suh has been healthy throughout his career and has been dominant as his position. Like Watt, teams have to game plan around Suh when they face him, which opens up holes for everyone else on the defense.
There’s another thing in play, too, when it comes to this particular Watt deal. Watt is represented by Tom Condon, which is part of CAA. Suh is represented by Jimmy Sexton.
His firm? CAA.
This, right here, is why it never made sense for Suh to strike a deal with Detroit earlier than he needed to. Yes, he could have set the market with his contract, but there would have also been the possibility he might have seen Watt or Gerald McCoy earn more money than him. And while money isn’t everything, it is still a very big thing for players who have a limited window to maximize their earning potential.
After Watt’s deal and with the Lions calling off talks with Suh for a while, this also gives McCoy a chance to set a defensive tackle number. Oh, and by the way, McCoy is represented by Ben Dogra.
His firm? Yep, you guessed it ... CAA.
While Suh has never explained why he ditched Relativity Sports for CAA, you might be seeing exactly why he did play out throughout all of these contract extensions. CAA is being able to work to set the numbers for Watt, McCoy and Suh and happen to represent all of them, so they theoretically know what they are getting into with each deal.
When contract negotiations do resume between Sexton, Suh and the Lions after the season, this is the new baseline the player and his agent are going to work with. Since Suh has a clock ticking until he can test his true worth on the free agent market in March, he continues to hold increasing leverage over the Lions, who will have to decide whether or not to let the game-changing tackle go.
Both team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew appeared optimistic they would still sign Suh when they halted contract talks in July. That was before Watt. Potentially before McCoy.
So good morning, Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew. You’re not negotiating with Suh until at least January. When the new year hits, this is what you’ll be looking at.