Feared defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is in the midst of a whirlwind free agency tour, with stops to New Orleans (gags), Tennessee, Los Angeles (Rams, shutters) and Oakland all on his travel log so far.
Some folks keep waiting to see if Atlanta’s going to be a potential visit stop, and envision Suh in a Falcons uniform.
Not to play the stuffy miser or anything, but we probably need to let that idea go.
No, Ndamukong Suh’s probably not going to be an Atlanta Falcon. It’s a fun thought, but in order not to set the fan base up for disappointment when he doesn’t catch a flight to Atlanta to visit with Dan Quinn and company, it’s best we get this out of the way now.
In the words of Dana Carvey’s SNL take on George H.W. Bush, “naht ganna happan.”
One could throw out money as a hindering factor, with the Falcons tight against the cap, and Suh no bargain (nor should he be — even into his thirties, he’s still as disruptive and nasty as ever, if perhaps not quite as prolific as he was in his Lions days). He’s probably going to at least make $10 million a season wherever he goes, and will want a multi-year deal for financial stability. Suh’s friends with Warren Buffett, if that gives you any look into his financial acumen. The guy’s going to get paid, and he’s going to know how to get paid.
The second, and perhaps largest, factor comes with Quinn’s desire to field a young, fast defense. Suh’s not really slow, but he’s 31, and the Falcons have been very leery to add veteran talent to the defense unless it’s absolutely a necessity (Dwight Freeney, Ahtyba Rubin) or for depth (Sean Weatherspoon, Philip Wheeler). Their starters are primarily drafted talent, with a handful of savvy free agents signed in their late-twenties. The oldest player on the defense right now is Brooks Reed (also 31), who has two years left on his deal, and just recently agreed to a pay cut. Suh’s not a Freeney or a Rubin; he’s a multi-year commitment that will be about 35 by the time a four-deal is done. For as quality of a player as Suh is, he’s expensive and getting older. Quinn’s not the kind of guy to choose that door, when a first round defensive tackle is sitting right there for him to groom.
Suh reportedly wants to win, and yes, Atlanta would be a great place for him to do that, but he’s also going to want fair compensation for what he can do, and this isn’t the team that can give him that right now. It might also not have the coach who’s plan involves sinking large chunks of cap money into a 30+ defensive tackle. He’s got a lot of his guys to see through to new deals in the days ahead, and he’s seen what happens to Seattle when contracts get tough. Atlanta can learn from Seattle’s mistakes in that regard, but taking on contracts like Suh’s would hinder that grand plan, even if the immediate on-field returns can be tantalizing to think about.
If Suh goes to Los Angeles or, ew, New Orleans, that’d be a problem for Atlanta in the short-term, but it’s not like the season is over because Aaron Donald and Suh are together, or because Suh is sporting the black and gold. Suh is one of the surer bets in free agency, but he can’t win you a Super Bowl. Donald and Suh would be one of the great defensive tackle pairings in recent memory, but that doesn’t somehow make the Rams invincible. It’d be preferable for him to end up with the Titans, Raiders or another random AFC team, but, y’know, he’s just one player...a great player, but just one player.
Wherever Suh lands, it probably won’t be here. Don’t get all huffy puffy about us not being contenders for him, either, or, really, any of the big ticket names out there this cycle. The Falcons are plotting for their future as well as their present, and I’d rather have boring Marches and exciting falls. You do that by being prudent in the spring.
Just cross your fingers that it’s not the Saints or Rams who land the prized defensive tackle, because while that wouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for either team, it’d still create a bunch of headaches. Suh’s still got it.