All of the focus of the Detroit Lions and free agency is focused on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- and rightfully so at this point -- but the list of issues facing the franchise goes beyond trying to bring back the All-Pro.
And in part becaue of that, at least one NFL insider believes Suh won’t return to Detroit.
"They have some issues to work through," said ESPN Insider Louis Riddick, the former Director of Pro Personnel for Philadelphia. "I don’t see Suh going back there. Nick Fairley is the guy in focus.
"Get a corner, address that offensive line, and that’s really how I see them going there."
Riddick said he believes Suh will sign a "record contract" that will be in the teens per year for whatever club signs him -- somewhat approaching high-level quarterback money. He also said Suh should command "well north of $50 million guaranteed money." That could end up being too expensive for even the Lions, who have made Suh their top priority this offseason.
Should the Lions fail to acquire Suh, Riddick sees Detroit focusing on three areas: Defensive tackle, cornerback, and the offensive line.
At defensive tackle, he said the Lions should focus on re-signing Nick Fairley to a deal that protects the Lions because of his inconsistent play (and probably his inconsistent health as well). He mentioned how the Lions built their team over the past five seasons with the strength being on the defensive line, and they can’t lose the entirety of the middle of their defense.
At cornerback, he offered no suggestions about who they could look at to partner with starter Darius Slay, but that they need to add at least one starting-caliber cornerback to go with him.
"Darius Slay is nice and he’s starting to come along, but they need to build their complementary pieces there on the corner," Riddick said. "Especially coming out of that division where teams are going to be able to throw the football around. If they want to dethrone the Packers, they better have another corner besides Darius Slay."
The last place he would look is at offensive tackle, particularly left tackle. As we’ve reported here before and as general manager Martin Mayhew said last month, it isn’t a lock Riley Reiff remains at left tackle for the Lions in the future. He could flip to the right side (or, less likely, inside to guard), necessitating a player in free agency or the draft to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford’s blind side.
There is one thought that the Lions could try Cornelius Lucas or LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle, but Detroit would also probably bring someone in through free agency or the draft to give more depth and added protection.
"There’s a reason they didn’t run the ball very effectively last year," Riddick said. "It’s not just because the running backs are not dynamic or Reggie Bush was injured or any other reasons that people come up with, because the offensive line isn’t very good.
"They need some help. The left tackle position, to me, is not one that would make me very confident with Riley Reiff there."