His tenure in South Florida began with fanfare, as Miami backed up the armored truck to lure him from Detroit in free agency in 2015, but the expected success never followed. Leading a franchise turnaround is a tall order for any defensive tackle, and while the Dolphins came closest in the 10-6 campaign of 2016, they never quite got what they wanted out of the Suh era.
Now, Suh will enter the open market likely still commanding a per-year salary in the mid-teens ($12 million-$17 million range). He offers a career resume of 420 tackles, 51.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed and four forced fumbles over eight NFL seasons, as well as a reputation for being a disruptive force who almost always commands a double-team.
That sounds enticing for plenty of teams, even if Suh just turned 31 in January and plays a position that becomes increasingly harder on the body as time goes on. If that’s a concern, durability shouldn’t be: Suh has played in all 16 games of each season but one (he played in 14 games in 2011).
So where might the defensive tackle who was scheduled to carry a $26.1 million cap hit in 2018 land in the coming days? Let’s take a
1) Indianapolis Colts: General manager Chris Ballard could build himself quite a defensive line rather quickly by signing Suh and drafting defensive end Bradley Chubb third overall next month, though let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse here. What’s more important at this point is Indianapolis’ cap room — a cool $71.96 million, per Over The Cap — and the Colts‘ lack of promising talent at the position. Suh could come in and immediately anchor a defensive front that finished 26th against the run in 2017.
2) Cleveland Browns: The Browns should be considered because they recently agreed to trade starting defensive tackle Danny Shelton to New England, still have tons of cap space and are relatively young along their defensive front. A line that includes Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and an interior rotation of Suh, Trevon Coley, Caleb Brantley and Larry Ogunjobi looks pretty fearsome, at least on paper.
3) Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are losing both Dontari Poe and Ahtyba Rubin to free agency and would welcome an upgrade in Suh to a defense that ranked ninth in the NFL against the run in 2017. The issue here is cap space: Atlanta doesn’t have much to work with, and Suh shouldn’t be expected to play for anything less than $12 million per season after making $20 million annually in Miami.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers finished dead last in total defense in 2017 and weren’t much better against the run, ranking 23rd (117.5 yards allowed per game). Gerald McCoy remains a destructive force in the interior (when he can stay on the field), but he needs some legitimate
5) Seattle Seahawks: Where are the Seahawks heading as a franchise? They shipped out Michael Bennett, cut Richard Sherman and probably aren’t getting Cliff Avril back, removing three important veterans from what was an experienced group. Sheldon Richardson is also likely to leave in free agency, creating a few huge voids on the defensive line. As Seattle clears space, perhaps GM John Schneider is open to using some of the new cap room to sign Suh as the defensive front’s new anchor.
6) Carolina Panthers: The Panthers just watched Star Lotulelei agree to a five-year deal with Buffalo, creating a hole in the center of their defensive line. Unlike Tampa Bay, Carolina isn’t armed with a ton of cap space ($21 million, per Over The Cap), meaning the Panthers‘ pitch to Suh would have to be more about winning than cashing checks.
7) Detroit Lions: A reunion seems too good to be true, but there’s a new group in charge in Detroit from when Suh last played there, the Lions are in need at the position and the team has $27 million to spend, by Over The Cap’s count. Let’s leave his old Motor City transgressions in the past and run this thing back!
8) Baltimore Ravens: We’re entering what could prove to be a pivotal year for the future of the Ravens as a franchise. GM Ozzie Newsome is officially on his victory lap, murmurs of John Harbaugh’s job being in jeopardy surfaced after Baltimore’s disappointing finish and, talent-wise, this looks like a middling team. While the Ravens wait for Chris Wormley to grow into an impact player behind Michael Pierce, the current staff could realize it doesn’t have that kind of time and instead look for a major upgrade in Suh. Limited cap space makes this highly unlikely, though.
9) Philadelphia Eagles: There’s no actual expectation here, but Robert Klemko’s report of Suh being willing to play for free for the Eagles (since denied by Suh) obliges us to include them in here, despite serious cap constraints and no real need at the position.
Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook.