The Dolphins just handed Ndamukong Suh the key to their safe-deposit box: a 6-year, $114 million deal ($60 million guaranteed) that dwarfs his original 5-year, $60 million contract ($40 million guaranteed) with the Lions. (And let’s not forget: His rookie contract, under the old CBA, enabled him to earn a lot more than the second pick in the draft can now.)
In situations like this, the Albert Haynesworth Effect — a player getting buried in free-agent dollars and suddenly losing his enthusiasm for his job — is always a concern. There probably isn’t a team in the NFL that doesn’t have a horror story like that.
But an equally pertinent question is: What’s the likelihood Suh’s next five years will be as good as his first five? Because by paying Suh franchise-quarterback money, the Dolphins are saying, unequivocally: We think this player is still ascending. We think he’ll be worth more — substantially more — from 2015 to 2019 (and even 2020, if it comes to that) than he was from 2010 to 2014.
Here’s the thing, though: If you look at the top defensive tackles in recent years, you’ll see that’s rarely the case — in terms of sacks, at least. Granted, there are many ways to evaluate a player at Suh’s position, but certainly pass pressure is a big part of it. In today’s game, especially, a DT had darn well better get to the quarterback (if he wants to have much value of the free-agent market, that is).
Anyway, check out these well-known defensive tackles — and the sack totals they posted in their First 5 Years vs. their Second 5:
SACKS IN THEIR FIRST 5 YEARS VS. THEIR SECOND 5 YEARS (DT DIVISION)
|Years||Defensive tackle||Teams(s)||1st 5||2nd 5||Diff.|
|1985-93||Keith Millard||Vikings/3 others||51.0||7.0||-44.0|
|1996-05||La’Roi Glover||Saints/2 others||42.0||29.5||-12.5|
|1988-97||Michael Dean Perry||Browns/Broncos||41.5||19.5||-22.0|
|1992-01||Chester McGlockton||Raiders/2 others||35.0||12.5||-22.5|
|1994-03||Dan Wilkinson||49ers/2 others||32.5||17.5||-15.0|
Suh has 36 sacks through his fifth season, so I limited the list to guys who were in that neighborhood at that point in their career. I also didn’t include erstwhile Eagle Andy Harmon (38.5 sacks) — because he didn’t last much more than 5 years. At any rate, we’ve got two gainers (Randle, Thomas) and 12 decliners (ranging from -4.5 to -44) — not the most encouraging odds for the Dolphins.
Of course, every player is different, particularly in the Internal Wiring Department. Maybe Suh will prove to be one of the exceptions. But chances are better Miami will be glad that “only” $60 million is guaranteed.