Ndamukong Suh is arguably the top free agent to hit the market this year, which means every team with cap space is going to be linked to him. And that includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Which is exactly what Pewter Report does in their latest Fab 5 column. Pewter Report has been pushing the Suh angle for almost a year now -- even at one point going as far as to say that losing Gerald McCoy wouldn't be so bad, if only they went after Suh.
But signing Suh would present the Bucs with some pretty big problems. They already have the best three-technique in the NFL in Gerald McCoy, which means they'd probably have to play Suh at nose tackle. Which is something he does frequently for the Lions, but it certainly diminishes his value. Being double-teamed every play, which is what happens at nose tackle, is not going to allow you to make a lot of impact plays.
Moreover, the Bucs already have a good and much cheaper defensive tackle to pair with McCoy in Clinton McDonald, who was pretty good in his first year in Tampa. Clinton McDonald had five sacks last year, and that's with him missing three games.
There's this myth surrounding Suh that he's a dominant sack artist, a myth created in his rookie year when he racked up 10 sacks. But since then, Suh has managed just 26 sacks in four years -- 6.5 sacks per season. That's good, but it's not dominant by any means. And while sacks are an imperfect indicator of quality of play, they don't lie in this case. Stephen White laid this out in a great column yesterday. Suh is better than McDonald, but the difference doesn't warrant paying Suh at least $10 million per year more than McDonald earns.
Yes, Suh will get a monster contract. McCoy got a $13.5 million per year contract, and Suh will almost certainly top that. Compare that to the $3 million per year the Bucs are paying McDonald right now. Signing Suh would mean the Bucs would be committing close to $30 million per year -- 20% of their entire salary cap -- to just one position on their football team. That's not smart cap management. They could use that money on a whole lot of quality players at different positions -- like, say, a few offensive linemen, a pass-rushing defensive end, a free safety, a nickel cornerback -- the kind of positions where they actually have a need.
Pewter Report compares this to the New York Giants stockpiling defensive ends, but they miss a very important point: the Giants didn't sign expensive free agent defensive ends. They kept drafting them, which meant cheap contracts and money they could spend elsewhere. The Giants didn't go out and sign Julius Peppers, after all. They just added young talent to replenish and sustain as the other defensive ends aged.
That is not to say that Suh isn't a good player. He is. He just wouldn't add value commensurate with his compensation to this defense. What the Bucs lack is not effective defensive tackles. What they lack on the defensive line is a quality defensive end. And drafting Suh would do nothing to change that.
Ultimately this is likely to be a moot point. Most indications are that Suh will simply re-sign with the Detroit Lions, which is probably best for everyone.