LIONS INSIDER

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What should the Lions do with Suh?

Posted Feb 5, 2014

Tim Twentyman answers questions from his Twitter account (@ttwentyman) as the Lions get ready for the NFL Draft Combine, free agency and NFL Draft

From time to time this offseason I plan to answer 10 good questions I receive through my Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

Any thoughts on trading or letting SUH walk rather than sign him to a huge contract? Snarky Blue (@Snarky_Blue)

20man: There are a number of people in that school of thought. Why pay a defensive tackle a eight-figure salary? Can the Lions afford to pay so much for three players (Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukung Suh)?

I will tell you off the top a trade is very unlikely with his cap number.

I’ve always been in the school of thought that teams should try and keep dynamic players. Suh is one of the best players at his position, he impacts the game in so many ways that can’t be seen on a stat sheet, and he’s in his prime. We’re not talking about trying to squeeze a couple more good years out of a player.

Suh is only scratching the surface of his talent. He’s only worked with defensive line coach Jim Washburn for one season and I’d expect him to continue to benefit from that kind of experience.

That being said, I’m not breaking the bank on Suh, either. I think he’s a very comparable player to Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal. That seems like a reasonable amount to pay for an annual Pro Bowl and All Pro Player.

Now if Suh is trying to set contact records, then maybe the business side of football trumps his immense talent. If that ends up being the case the Lions should bite the bullet on his $22.4 cap hit in 2014 and move on in 2015 and beyond.

Any idea who will be calling the plays between Caldwell and Lombardi? Matt Brockway (@Mattbrockway)

20man: There’s been a lot of attention given to this, Matt, and I’d be kind of surprised if Lombardi isn’t calling the plays in 2014.

Caldwell said he wanted an "innovative" offensive coordinator on his staff. Why would he hire one and then not let him call the plays? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Lombardi has had some really good exposure in New Orleans with Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael and I think it’s his time to take the reigns of his own offense and run with it.

What do you think the chances of the lions letting Pettigrew go with the need to clear cap space? Rob (@robnoe97)

20man: Maybe I’m in the minority here, Rob, but I don’t think Brandon Pettigrew is going to command huge money on the open market. I think he’s a very talented all-around tight end, but we’re talking about Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski here.

Pettigrew does everything well and nothing really spectacular. That’s not an insult, either. It’s a compliment how well rounded he is. He’s a three-down tight end.

My guess is Pettigrew isn’t going to be as expensive as some people think and it could just fit into the Lions plans. If he wants to fit into those plans. Maybe that's the better question to ask. Does Pettigrew want to be here or explore the open market?

What needs most improvement and how do we get there? FA or draft? Colten Bowen (@Cbowen90)

20man: Let me grab my GM hat a second.

The two areas I think need the most improvement are the secondary and the receiving corps.

When it comes to the secondary, I rank the need at safety before corner. The Lions need a playmaking safety to pair with Glover Quin. Louis Delmas was that player before the knee. He’s not quite the same since.

The Lions have a bunch of developmental cornerbacks on the roster in Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green. At some point these players have to prove they can play. The only way they can do that is in games. Doing it in practice isn’t enough for me anymore.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: Gavin Smith)

I’m not sure the best strategy is to add another developmental cornerback to that mix via the draft. If it’s decided the cornerback position needs more help, that’s where I look for an experienced, young veteran, who’s proven himself in this league already. That gives you options with Chris Houston and the young players.

As far as the receiver position goes, this is a strong draft class that extends into the second round. It’s been proven, in most cases, rookie receivers can have more of an immediate impact in the NFL than rookie corners.

I’d draft receiver high and fill the need at cornerback in free agency.

Do you think we will see more of the younger players have bigger roles this year? Cornerbacks specifically. Justin (@justinmachiela)

20man: I certainly hope so.

Greenwood is a very interesting prospect to me. I didn’t think the moment was too big for him late last year when he got an opportunity to play. I liked the way he was physical at the line of scrimmage and used his length to his advantage. It’ll be an interesting offseason for him and I’m curious to see what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has planned for him.

The same thing can be said about Slay. He’s the fasted cornerback the Lions have and his physical skills are all there. He had a problem at times last year with scheme, so let’s hope he’s focused on that this offseason.

Those are two players I’ll be very interested in watching this offseason to see how their roles evolve with a fresh slate and a new scheme.

I'm curious, what happened with Leshoure? Did he fall out of favor? Will new regime give him a chance? Is there trade value? Cole (@ensuhingchaos)

20man: It all started with that torn Achilles tendon as a rookie, Cole.

I wrote at the time that I thought Leshoure was one of the best players on the field at training camp for that short window before the injury occurred.

When he got back, I didn’t see the same player. The explosiveness wasn’t there and I honestly haven’t seen it since. I truly believe that’s been the biggest factor.

Mikel LeshoureRB Mikel Leshoure (Photo: AP Images)

The problem Leshoure has is Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick aren’t going anywhere. He’s a nice insurance policy for Bell, but that’s not what he wants to be. And who can blame him? The guy wants to play. He did have 800 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2012.

There is probably some late-round value for Leshoure, and the Lions will have to weigh that with need. That’s a decision for general manager Martin Mayhew, Caldwell and the new coaching staff.

Do you think Burleson and Delmas are worth the pay next year? Any chance of not seeing them next season? Jon Bruss (@jbee32)

20man: As it sits right now, Burleson and Delmas are the fourth- and fifth-most expensive players on the roster in terms of the 2014 salary cap.

With the Lions cap situation being what it is, it’s hard to justify more than $11 million for those players.

Burleson sensed that right after the season and was already telling reporters he’d be willing to restructure. He understands the business side of football. I’m assuming Delmas does too.

Do we have a specific free agent(s) in mind of getting? Rather get DBs in FA over getting them in the draft? Devon Plecas (@Dragon_BallD)

20man: I agree with you about the defensive backs in free agency, Devon. I have to be totally honest with you, though, and say I haven’t thought much about it yet, or heard any rumblings about specific names. The coaching search, Senior Bowl and Super Bowl have taken precedent of late.

Here’s a look at some of the top safeties and cornerbacks who could be available though (not including potential long-term deals or the franchise tag):

Cornerback:

Alterraun Verner, Tennessee; Brent Grimes, Miami; Vontae Davis, Indianapolis; Aqib Talib, New England; Sam Shields, Green Bay

Safety:

Jarius Byrd, Buffalo; T.J. Ward, Cleveland; Donte Whitner, San Francisco; Bernard Pollard, Tennessee; James Ihedigbo, Baltimore

Tim still no qb coach? You think Lombardi or Caldwell will do it or looking for someone with a particular pedigree? T-Mic (@Suhrender90)

20man: I was told the organization would be fine either way with or without a quarterback coach. At this point, I’d be a little surprised if they hired one.

Both Caldwell and Lombardi are former quarterbacks coaches and I think they have it pretty locked down between them.

Do you think they will draft a center in some of the later rounds? Sonja Greenfield (@Mom23RN)

20man: That conversation certainly needs to be had, Sonja.

I thought the way Dominic Raiola played last year earned him another season. He is 35 years old, however.

I really don’t see the next franchise center on the roster. They need to find Raiola’s replacement and the middle of the draft is usually a good place to start looking.