There is no question that Ndamukong Suh is one of the most intense, disruptive, and dominating forces on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL today. He and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans stand alone as near forces of nature in their ability to wreak havoc on every single play from scrimmage. Both have the ability – which they show off often – to blow up plays before they begin, and can nearly single-handedly turn the tide of a game.
Suh has the combination of size, speed, toughness – along with a healthy dose of mean and nasty – that makes defensive coordinators drool and opposing quarterbacks wet themselves. And unlike Watt, he also happens to be an unrestricted free agent, which gives him the ability to sell his services to anybody he so desires.
In what seems like a breath of fresh air for his candor and honesty, Suh has made it clear that he's going to go to the team that ponies up the most cash. He's on record as saying that his agent will be picking the next team he plays for – which is essentially saying, he's going to wear the colors of the team that gives him the fattest payday.
Of course, signing Suh comes with its liabilities. He has a penchant for drawing penalties, fines, as well as suspensions, for his habit of stomping on players on the ground. So it's up to the teams to decide whether or not the risks are worth the reward.
Spoiler alert, they are.
So with money being the biggest determining factor in Suh's next address, we turn our attention to the teams who have the most to spend. Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy recently signed a $95 million dollar contract, and based just on the body of work of both players, Suh's price tag is likely going to be north of $100 million.
That's big money, and not every team has it. Though some teams will have to get creative with the numbers and the restructuring of existing contracts for a shot at the big man, there truly are only a handful that have a legitimate shot to land him.
So who is likeliest to land this force of nature on their defensive line in 2015? Let's take a look based on cash available and need...
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10 Detroit Lions (Cap Space: $15,127,133)
It's a very outside chance that Suh returns to the Lions, but given his emotional press conference after their playoff loss to the Cowboys, it's not completely outside the realm of possibility. Though he postures as not being a very sentimental man, that presser seemed to show a softer side of Suh, and showed that maybe, just maybe, Detroit actually does hold a special place in his heart. Big enough that he might be willing to give the team a hometown discount? We can't know that just yet. But given the piles of money Detroit already owes to Matthew Stafford and Megatron – aka Calvin Johnson – signing Suh would likely commit a little more than 40% of their total salary cap space to just 3 players.
It's not likely, but it's not impossible either.
9 San Diego Chargers (Cap Space: $25,382,099)
The Chargers are an interesting team. They've been on the cusp of moving from good team to elite team for some time now. But their window is rapidly closing as their star players have begun aging. Knowing that their championship window is getting narrower and narrower – if it hasn't slammed shut already – San Diego could conceivably go all in on 2015 and decide that if they're going to win it all, they have to pull out all of the stops. Adding Suh to a young-ish defense would be a fantastic addition, and one that could vault the Chargers from good to great. It would take some financial finagling, but it can be done.
8 Dallas Cowboys (Cap Space: $7,488,384)
With big decisions to make on Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray looming – as well as very little financial flexibility – the Cowboys don't seem like a very likely destination for Suh. But you can never quite count out Jerry Jones. From the early signs we've gotten, Jones is likely to keep Bryant and let Murray walk. It will take some real finagling and the restructuring of existing deals, but it's not impossible. After seeing their playoff hopes end in Green Bay – in large part because the Cowboys could not get to Aaron Rogers – Jones, and his obsessive quest for a championship trophy, may decide it's a gamble worth taking and pull out all the stops to land Suh.
7 Seattle Seahawks (Cap Space: $25,017,629)
Though QB Russell Wilson is going to get paid this offseason, the Seahawks have locked up some of their core players already – and still have some room and flexibility under the cap. On paper, Suh fits the mold of the Seattle defense – big, aggressive, and mean. He would fit perfectly into Pete Carroll's defensive schemes. Pursuing Suh seems like a logical choice for Carroll and the Seahawks as they most definitely love to add a little more nasty to their defensive front.
6 New York Giants (Cap Space: $15,726,246)
As the Giants look to rebound from a very disappointing 2014 season, head coach Tom Coughlin knows that this is likely going to be his last ride in the Big Apple. Unless he can produce some magic this season. In 2014, the Giants' defense was pushed around and mauled by opposing offenses. Coughlin, a tough, offensive minded guy who happens to love tough, nasty defenses, would likely give anything to land Suh to add a little spice to his defensive front. And given the way New York's defense was manhandled last season, that spice is something Coughlin will want. It will take a little financial juggling, but don't count the Giants out completely.
5 Indianapolis Colts (Cap Space: $36,388,059.00)
Though not entirely flush with cash, the Colts are in pretty good shape heading into free agency this offseason. And there is no doubt that as they enter free agency, they will be looking to get some tough and nasty guys on the defensive side of the ball. After being utterly manhandled and abused against the New England Patriots in the playoffs, the Colts will want some attitude and toughness on defense. And Suh would fit that bill nicely. Expect Indianapolis to make a strong run at landing him.
4 Chicago Bears (Cap Space: $27,644,395.00)
2014 was an entirely forgettable season for the Chicago Bears. Of course, most would use even more colorful words to describe the season, but this is a family site. Given the fact that Chicago's defense will be losing a couple of aging stars who aren't likely to be re-signed this offseason, the Bears need to add some quality players on the defensive side of the ball. Especially given the fact that opposing offenses routinely ran the ball down their throats, and opposing QB's were able to sit back and pick apart the Chicago defense. Tough defense has always been Chicago's calling card, so look for them try getting back to it by pursuing the toughest player on the open market.
3 Pittsburgh Steelers (Cap Space: -$1,485,766.00)
The Steelers have a problem. They are actually over the cap at present and their defense is getting very old, and very creaky. Pittsburgh is likely going to shed some contracts and restructure others this offseason to free up some cap space. Though it's not likely that they'll be able to free up enough to make a serious run at Suh – especially with Big Ben's contract coming up – it's not inconceivable that the Steelers could work some magic. With Rothliesberger aging, it's possible – not saying it will happen – but possible, that they may let him walk rather than re-sign him, go with a cheaper option under center, and go all in on defense. After all, the Steelers are another team who has built their reputation – and championship resume – on solid, stout, brutal defenses.
2 Cleveland Browns (Cap Space: $49,369,654.00)
The Browns have a heck of a lot of money to spend this offseason, and based on their history, a really screwed up set of priorities. Their defense wasn't horrible in 2014, and shouldn't require major retooling. It's the offense that sunk Cleveland's playoff hopes last season – led by the play of both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. What Cleveland needs desperately – and more than anything – is a legitimate QB running the offense. Manziel proved that he's not the answer – especially with unnamed teammates talking to reporters and saying he's a joke. And Hoyer isn't the answer – he started off strong but flamed out spectacularly. If the Browns ever hope to get back to the playoffs, they need better QB and running back play. Their defense was fine, it was the offense that sucked. But many expect the Browns to throw a pile of cash at Suh just because they have it to spend. And these are the Browns, that factory of sadness where logic and good sense don't always apply.
1 Oakland Raiders (Cap Space: $56,117,366.00)
The Raiders have the second most room under the cap this offseason, and a very pressing need on the defensive line. Oakland desperately needs a legitimate pass rusher and run stuffer. Suh is both. He is a freak of an athlete and will bring some much needed nasty to Oakland's defensive front. The Raiders offense is on the rise with Derek Carr under center, and a star in the making in Latavius Murray toting the rock. Their receiving corps needs to be bulked up for sure, but this draft is deep with receivers so expect them to address that issue there. With a defensive minded coach in Jack Del Rio, Suh makes perfect sense in the Black Hole. He has the requisite attitude, mean streak, and most importantly, he can play. Adding Suh to an Oakland defensive that features Jelly Ellis, Justin Tuck, Sio Moore, and Khalil Mack could yield big results for the Raiders. Spending that much cash on one player isn't something that GM Reggie McKenzie likes to do, but in this case, he really should make a legitimate run at Suh. He's a game changer and could help a team devoid of them.
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