There is no doubt that the Detroit Lions have one of the best, if not the best, defensive line in the NFL. The duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at the defensive tackle position is horrifying for opposing offensive lines. Their ability to not only clog up holes in the run game but also bring an effective pass-rush makes them the best defensive tackle combination in the league.
However, despite being the anchors of the Lions’ defense, there are many questions to whether or not both players will stay in Detroit after the 2014 season. The team has an option in 2015 on Fairley’s rookie contract, but general manager Martin Mayhew has not given any indication that they are going to pick it up. Suh can opt out of the final year to his rookie deal following the upcoming season.
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Fairley has recorded 11.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but his production and effort greatly diminishes towards the end of games. Ever since the Lions made him the 13th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, his weight has been questioned and viewed as problematic. Fairley has been viewed as a player who takes plays off towards the end of games due to his lack of conditioning, but did show an improvement on that this past season.
Mayhew has been the most publicly-critical of Fairley, saying that he needs to mature as a professional in an effort to become more consistent on the field. He also commented that Fairley needs to “re-position” some of his weight, although he does not believe that his overall weight (listed at 298 pounds), is an issue. If Fairley can continue to improve on his physical condition and impress the new coaching staff, the Lions should absolutely pick up the final year on his contract.
Regardless of making his third Pro Bowl this season, Suh has still been widely criticized outside of Detroit for reasons other than his “dirty” play on the field. Former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp has continued to question his work ethic, saying that he doesn’t believe Suh wants to learn and develop moves outside of just bullrushing.
That isn’t all. There have been countless allegations that Suh has displayed insubordinate behavior at team meetings and the Lions’ practice facility. The latest accuser is former NFL fullback Heath Evans, who is now a Fox analyst. Evans told 105.1 FM in Detroit that three unnamed Lions players said that Suh would directly challenge ex-coach Jim Schwartz’s authority by showing up to team meetings late and other antics to show his dominance over the head coach. Suh and Schwartz have now been joined by C.J. Mosley in an effort to hush these allegations.
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It is widely known that Suh may take things too far during games; whether it’s due to being caught up in the moment or the simple fact that he is just a dirty player is up for discussion, but now it seems like he also does these things on the practice field. Just in September, Jay Glazer said on air; “even in practice, Ndamukong gives guys the business…He’ll slam a guy’s head against the ground. He’ll stomp on a guy. He’ll take little shots at guys.” Of course, Suh and Schwartz denied these reports as well.
It is unknown how truthful these reports are but in terms of on the field, locking up Suh would be huge for the Lions. Outside of the fact that Suh is widely considered one of the best in the league at his position, re-signing him to a long-term deal makes financial sense for the Lions. Suh holds a $22.4 million cap hit for the 2014-15 season and a long-term deal enables Detroit to restructure his current contract.
One thing is for sure, new head coach Jim Caldwell absolutely cannot let Suh’s antics (if they hold to be true), persist under his watch.
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