The Lions have a need at defensive tackle and Ndamukong Suh is a free agent. A simple question -- is a reunion possible? -- comes with a complex answer.
For one, how does Suh view the Lions? As a legitimate contender in the NFC where he could chase another ring? Or as a pretender where perhaps his final season in the NFL would go to waste?
For another, how do the Lions view Suh? As a proven vet who could take their defensive front to another level? Or as a fading 36-year-old whose personality might disrupt their locker room?
Suh might be done with the game altogether. He told the Rich Eisen Show last month that "its gotta be the right situation" for him to play another year and that "all options are on the table." Since getting cut by the Dolphins in 2018 halfway through a six-year, $114 million contract, the three-time All-Pro has sought winning teams as a free agent. He's played in three of the last five Super Bowls, first with the Rams, then with the Bucs and last season with the Eagles.
He waited until mid-November last year to sign with Philly when it was clear they were a contender. The reward for his one-year $2.2 million deal, which only cost the Eagles $1.8 million against the cap, was very nearly his second Super Bowl ring. He got his first with Tampa.
The Lions look like one of the five best teams in the NFC. They're favored to win their division for the first time in 30 years and could well do damage in the playoffs. Their ceiling remains to be seen, but Suh could raise it. He helped the Eagles last season in a limited role, with 13 QB pressures and two sacks in 11 total games, per PFF, and solid work against the run. He remained a force the season before that as a starter with the Bucs.
Suh could have an even bigger impact in Detroit, where the Lions allowed the second most yards per pass and third most yards per carry last season in the NFL. They addressed their secondary in free agency, but have done little to upgrade their defensive line other than to re-sign a couple rotational players. They're clearly counting on improvement from within, but Suh would make them meaner in the trenches.
Suh has spoken highly of his time in Detroit, even if it was clear he was destined to leave as a free agent after the 2014 season. He still has ties to the area and was one of the first people to reach out to Jared Goff "just to let him know that he's going to a great city in Detroit" when his former teammate was traded here two years ago.
And the Lions have ties to Suh in GM Brad Holmes, an exec with the Rams when they signed Suh in 2018, and Dan Campbell, interim head coach of the Dolphins during Suh's first season in Miami. Shortly after Campbell arrived in Detroit, Suh said that he had an "amazing time" playing for him and that they stayed in touch even when Campbell moved on to New Orleans.
"He is, without question, a players' coach," Suh said. "Playing them twice these last two years, you can see that fire in him, as you saw in his press conference. I'm excited for Detroit to have a guy like that and I think he's going to have an opportunity to bring some success there. He just got a great quarterback in Jared Goff, who I was in the Super Bowl with. I'm excited to see what they're going to be able to do up there in Detroit."
Two years later, Suh could help the Lions take the next step. Holmes and Campbell would have to be comfortable adding an outspoken voice and a player who follows his own rules to a room full of impressionable defensive linemen. And Suh would have to be comfortable with his chances of winning big with an organization that hasn't won much of anything in the Super Bowl era. But these are the Brand New Lions, right? Maybe they could use the Same Old Suh, whatever he has left.
There's a good chance Suh doesn't sign anywhere until he assesses the first several weeks of this season. It worked for him last year. He said he's "trying to figure out if there’s going to be a perfect fit for me to sign somewhere, and I want to win as well." And the Lions would probably rather wait on adding a potentially controversial player until they know if they really need him. They might have no interest in Suh at all.
But if they do, and "if they’re as good as we think they could be, then maybe all of a sudden the Lions are on that list of teams that he would say, 'If you’re going to make a run in the playoffs, I want to go to,'" said 97.1 The Ticket's Jon Jansen.
"That’s where he is in his career," Jansen said. "He doesn’t need to sign a two- or three-year contract. He is simply looking for, 'I want to minimize the impact (on my body), I want to get a couple more years in the NFL, and to be able to do that, I don’t want to go to training camp, I don’t really want to play the first month of the season. When a team determines if they’re going to be good or not and they have a need at defensive tackle, OK, now I’m going to throw my name in the ring. If you want to give me a call, great.'"
The Lions called another veteran defensive lineman and future Hall of Fame candidate earlier this offseason in Calais Campbell, who wound up signing with the Falcons. The only addition they've made to their defensive front is third-round pick Brodrick Martin, a project at tackle. If they're in the market for depth on the interior, someone like Matthew Ioannidis or Chris Wormley might make more sense.
But if all options are truly on the table for Suh, and if the Lions are willing to wait, maybe he reopens the first door of his career.