By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions announced Monday that the team has tabled contract negotiations with heralded and polarizing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew spoke with reporters before the start of training camp and said they remain optimistic that the Lions will get an extension done with Suh. Head coach Jim Caldwell had expressed a similar sentiment Sunday.
As reason for the optimism, Lewand pointed to the team’s success in re-signing other current stars.
“We’ve had a lot of success over the years in getting contracts done in February and March, just like we have in getting contracts extended before they expire, whether that’s Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson before they expired or whether it’s Brandon Pettigrew, DeAndre Levy and guys like that, after they’ve hit the last season of their contracts,” Lewand said. “We’ve got a good track record, and it’s been our experience that when you have two willing parties that are focused on a common goal that you can get that done regardless of time, and I still feel that way, very strongly, and am very optimistic about the eventual outcome here.”
Mayhew portrayed the delays in re-signing Suh as typical, comparing Suh’s situation to those of Stafford and Johnson.
“Those deals were very complicated as well,” Mayhew said. “Those deals were tough to get done. As you guys recall, Calvin’s went down to the last minute in trying to get that done at the end of the league year. Both of those deals were very complicated. Sometimes they get done quicker, sometimes they don’t. This is one that’s taking a long time to get done. I don’t have a lot of detail to give you on that, but we still remain optimistic.”
Mayhew conceded that the negotiations have taken longer than he expected, even as he has adjusted his expectations throughout the process.
“At the combine I probably thought around the start of free agency, possibly,” Mayhew said. “After the draft, I thought probably by now, and now I think probably next year.”
Mayhew and Lewand both indicated that the distracting nature of ongoing negotiations – both for Suh and for his teammates, who often get asked about Suh’s situation when Suh himself is not made available – played a role in the decision to end discussion about the contract.
“Having contract issues during the season is not a good formula,” Mayhew said. “I don’t think that it’s conducive to guys being focused and playing their best. I know a lot of players think they can handle that situation, but sometimes they can’t. They don’t know until they get into it. I also think it’s not really fair to the rest of our team. We’re focused on playing football here. I don’t want people asking other players about players’ contracts. We have other guys whose contracts are expiring as well. I just did not think it was a good situation for us to move forward in.”
Lewand said the negotiations ceased amicably.
“There’s no adversarial nature to this decision,” Lewand said. “I think this is what’s right for everybody.”
Mayhew did not rule out the possibility of using a franchise tag on Suh but said there are no thoughts of trading him.