By Ashley Dunkak

CBS DETROIT – Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew called re-signing All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh “priority number one” for the team this offseason.

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The organization has expressed confidence in the ability to make it happen financially, and there are several ways the team could go about arranging for the necessary cap room.

The most obvious method would be to restructure the contracts of wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Johnson’s salary alone jumps from $5 million in 2014 to $12.5 million in 2015, and Stafford’s salary bounces from $2 million last season to $9.5 million this season.

The Lions have shown a willingness in the past to push large payouts further into the future, and as committed as the team is to re-signing Suh, it seems likely the Lions could take a similar tack this offseason.

Detroit could also discuss restructures with safety Glover Quin, whose salary increases from $730,000 to $4 million this season, and wide receiver Golden Tate, whose salary goes from $1.5 million in 2014 to $3.75 million in 2015.

Another way to free up funds, of course, is to simply release veteran players. Running back Reggie Bush and linebacker Stephen Tulloch could both find themselves “cap casualties” because the Lions got along all right without them in 2014, when both suffered injuries. Bush, whom ankle injuries limited to 297 yards over 11 games, will make a salary of $3.25 million in 2015, up from $855,000 in 2014. Tulloch, who played only three games last season, has a salary of $4.5 million in 2015. Of course, the Lions could also see about restructures with Bush and Tulloch, rather than just cutting them loose.

Bush might be more likely to stay than Tulloch because, though the Lions won 11 games, the running game struggled. The defense was fantastic, however, and Tahir Whitehead did a remarkable job filling in for Tulloch for the vast majority of the season. Whitehead makes $660,000 in salary in 2015.

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All these moves to save money in the short term take on extra urgency if the Lions decide to use the franchise tag on Suh. Mayhew still has not ruled out that option.

“It’s not a no-brainer at all,” Mayhew said Wednesday at the NFL combine. “We would have done it the first day we could do it [if that was the case], so it’s something that we’re talking about right now. We’ll make a determination on that sometime in the next couple of weeks … The deadline is March 2, so we’ve got some time to work on that.”

The conundrum about keeping Suh by tagging him has always centered on the question of whether his value outweighs the value of other players who will not be feasible options if the Lions spend the big bucks to keep Suh in Detroit against his preference.

“You make that kind of financial commitment, it kind of determines what else you can do during the offseason,” Mayhew said, “so that’s something for the equation – the value of having him versus if we don’t get something done long-term and losing him, what we’re able to get accomplished during the offseason.”




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