Ndamukong Suh will consume significant of internet space in the coming days. The star defensive tackle is the valedictorian of this free-agent class, with absurd riches being promised by teams across the NFL.
Two questions will dominate discussion: Where will Suh go? How much will he get?
Franchises can officially make a pitch starting Saturday, and several of them will try to woo Suh. Diehard fans with a horse in the race will keep fingers crossed that they lock him down.
Raider Nation will pay close attention, hoping the three-time All-Pro cashes owner Mark Davis’ checks. League sources have indicated that the Raiders have interest in him and will be competitive in his pursuit.
The cover charge is outrageous. The six-year, $100 million contract given to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt – which included $31 million guaranteed, $20 million more if he’s on the roster to start the 2016 league year – is seen as the baseline for competitive bids
If that's true, Suh should sign the biggest NFL contract issued to a non-quarterback. Bidding between several teams could raise the roof.
It begs a tough question: How much is Suh worth to the Silver and Black?
The Raiders have $66.47 million in salary cap space, plenty of room to offer a big-time contract with front-loaded funds. And, of course, Suh is awesome.
Should they offer a deal that’s been bandied about, one worth $102 million, with $60 million in the first three years? Will that be enough? Should the Raiders, who have several needs to fill, make such a focused investment?
That isn’t open-and-shut. Let’s weigh such the Raiders predicament by making a pros and cons list.
PRO: Suh is, like, really, really good
-- The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman is a monster on the interior, a ferocious pass-rushing threat who has improved as a run stuffer. He has 36 sacks in five seasons. Last season, 21 of his 56 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. He has more quarterback pressures that any defensive tackle during his five-year career and can destroy offensive game plans.
He’s a three-time All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler for a good reason. He’s a one-man wrecking crew who also makes others around him better. He draws attention inside and allows outside rushers and linebackers to make plays.
Many believe Suh is the best defensive lineman to become a free agent since Reggie White hit the market in 1993. That comparison is lofty, yet fair. Suh is rare talent out there for the taking. The Raiders could go get him.
CON: Suh is, like, really, really expensive
-- While there’s no doubting Suh’s talent, it’s fair to question if he’s worth what he’ll get on the open market. Competition between so many teams could create a bidding war that raises beyond fiscal sense. The Raiders, Chargers, Jaguars, Dolphins, Lions and New York Giants, among a few others, are linked to Suh.
There is an internal fear in Oakland that Suh favors other locales, which will test the Raiders' resolve to stay fiscally smart. General manager Reggie McKenzie is cool in that regard, which might help during stressful times.
Suh is believed to be fine going to the highest bidder, and a few too-hungry teams could send his contract structure out of whack. Even a Watt-like number is a lot to spend on one guy.
The Raiders need to add several strong starters during this free agent period, and could get a few high-quality players for one Suh. The Raiders’ money might be better spent on a few different spots. While the Raiders are going after big-name talents, Suh’s contract is worth a few of them put together.
Tying up tremendous salary cap space in one player doesn’t always work well, often depleting other areas of need. The Raiders are at least a few top players away from contention, and they could spread the wealth and address more needs.
PRO: Suh could start a Raiders renaissance
-- ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik considers Suh a “franchise-changing free agent,” which is an asset the Raiders desperately need.
Signing Suh would instantly upgrade the Raiders defense, and knowing he’s signed long-term could attract other top free agents who want to play with him.
Current Raiders want him in Oakland. Fans certainly do. And, Suh’s ability to improve others’ play could help this defense earn great respect. Signing Suh early on, with a few more big players like receiver Randall Cobb, could make the Raiders competitive for the first time in years.
Suh has an aggressive on-field persona that would meld with the element of toughness new head coach Jack Del Rio wants to instill. Davis said he wants players to help form a new identity, and Suh would certainly help that cause.
CON: The Raiders in particular will have to overpay
-- The Raiders aren’t just competing with other competing against other team’s seeking Suh’s services. They’re also working against the state of California. As CSN Bay Area has reported, and something expertly highlighted by CBS’ Joel Corry, high state income taxes – 13 percent for those earning $1 million plus -- could work against the Raiders in free agency.
Corry recently made an example income tax impact on Suh, and showed that taxes make the Raiders offer the lowest overall value among contenders, even with an equal contract. That could force the Raiders to raise their offer just to compete with teams with lower state income tax or, in the case of Florida, Texas and Washington, none at all.
OVERALL: Competition for Suh will be fierce, and the Raiders have to be both aggressive in pursuit, yet smart enough to know when to tap out. The defensive tackle would make an excellent addition, but at what price?