By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – When the Detroit Lions held an introductory press conference Wednesday for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, right around the same time the Miami Dolphins held an introductory press conference for Ndamukong Suh, neither Lions team president Tom Lewand nor Lions general manager Martin Mayhew took questions. They did not want to entertain inquiries about losing Suh.

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Because they have not yet spoken, nor scheduled a time to speak, no one knows what those two would pinpoint as the reasons Suh signed in Miami instead of Detroit.

Mayhew or Lewand will speak on the matter at some point, though perhaps not until the owners meetings later this month. In the meantime, former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes for CBS Sports, gave his take on where the Lions might have gone wrong in their quest to bring back Suh.

Granted, the team was in a tough position from the get-go. The price to use the franchise tag on Suh was sky-high because of the multiple restructures of his rookie contract. Many have lambasted the Lions for those moves, but because the Lions also wanted to extend wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, the restructures were nearly unavoidable.

“That’s where a lot of people are unfairly criticizing the Lions,” Corry said. “When you have three high picks in that short of time frame, and they all turn out to be good players, there’s not a whole lot you can do because the rookie system then was different than the one now. In the one now, they’d be able to keep all three because Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford wouldn’t have been able to leverage huge deals from the tail end of their rookie contract because those salaries would be much lower. Plus they never would have had to restructure any contracts because the cap hits and the numbers would have been much better.

“Where they maybe made a mistake was they probably had a choice to make: Do I do Matthew Stafford’s deal early or Suh’s deal early?” Corry continued. “And they chose the quarterback, which is the most important player on the team, but Stafford was coming off a terrible year when they did it, so maybe they could have taken a wait-and-see approach with him and gotten Suh much cheaper two years ago. That’s the only other thing they could have done.”

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Even after choosing to re-sign Johnson and Stafford before trying to extend Suh, the team might have been able to work something out, Corry said. In his opinion, however, an extension of Suh’s contract needed to happen before last season.

“Here’s where the Lions really dropped the ball – not so much in the whole restructure, it was when they tabled negotiations,” Corry said. “If you really wanted to sign the guy, you don’t table negotiations before the season. Once J.J. Watt’s deal was done, you needed to reopen them, or once Gerald McCoy’s deal was done, you needed to reopen them because I think maybe they were kind of hoping that Suh would kind of price himself out of the market and they would be the security blanket, or the soft landing spot, when he didn’t get the money that the agent was going to ask for.

“If that’s the case, that was a miscalculation on their part,” Corry added.

Once free agency drew near, signing Suh was going to be difficult for the Lions. They made him a six-year offer worth $102 million, including $58 million guaranteed, but could not convince him to stay.

“It was competitive,” Corry said. “The problem was it was too little too late because some players take the position that, ‘I’ve been under contract for you for x number of years, you’ve had all this time to try to work a deal out with me, if you couldn’t do it before then, then I’m going to look in other directions.’ Or if a team wants an informal right to match a contract, they may not get it.”

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When he signed with Miami, Suh shattered previous contract records for defensive players, inking a six-year deal reportedly worth $114 million with $60 million guaranteed.