Players expect Suh to be $100 million man

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Ndamukong Suh soon will become one of the most sought-after free agents, and some of his peers at the Super Bowl believe he deserves to be the first defensive tackle to strike a $100 million contract.

Steve Mariucci, the former Lions coach now an analyst for the NFL Network, said Suh will be the best free agent available since Reggie White (four years, $17 million) in 1993, although Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson could all stake a claim to that title.

But at 28 years old, with three All-Pro first-team honors in his first five seasons and one of the most marketable brands in the league, there's no debate about how much Suh would mean to any franchise.

"I think he deserves everything he's going to get, and that's 100-plus, I think," said Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, a teammate of Suh's for three years with the Lions. "He's definitely the top D-tackle in the league. ... He's a heck of a pass rusher. He's helped the team win at that position, which is very difficult."

Avril has been through free agency, rejecting a three-year, $30 million offer from the Lions in 2012.

Kevin Williams, in his first year with the Seahawks, was a first-team All-Pro five times with the Vikings, but his big payday came in 2006 when he got $50 million over seven years.

"It just means that I came through at the wrong time," Williams said of Suh possibly making $100 million.

"I should've waited five years later. I just think that's how the game's changing. And teams are going to pay for guys that can disrupt and dominate a game, and I think he's been able to display that at times that he can dominate a game, and he draws a lot of your attention."

The praise of Suh didn't end there.

"I think he's one of the best at doing what he does," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "He's well deserving of it."

One person who didn't want to discuss Suh much, though, was Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

In fact, when asked if Suh was the best player at the position right now, Sapp said no. He said "a couple guys" were better, but didn't name names.

Sapp has criticized Suh for being simply a "bullrusher" and not developing since entering the NFL. But this season, Suh established himself as an all-around defensive tackle, finishing with 81/2 sacks, a career-high 13 tackles for loss and being the centerpiece of the NFL's No. 1 run defense.

The Hall of Famer also said he didn't evaluate Suh much this season and wouldn't say whether he believes Suh is worth a record-setting contract.

"You never know what somebody's worth until somebody will pay it," Sapp said. "I'm not the one that's paying it nor offering it."

The Lions could use the franchise or transition tag to keep Suh next season, and though team officials haven't ruled it out, many people around the league believe $26.9 million is too much for one year. Suh also could sign a shorter-term contract that would give him a chance to have another big payday during his career.

The other possibility is teams will use Suh's on-field indiscretions against him. There are questions about his dependability because another safety violation could lead to a suspension.

That, however, shouldn't be an issue, Mariucci said.

"Every time I've been around him, he's been a gentleman," Mariucci said. "He's been articulate. He's been a presence that you say, gosh, this guy is one of the elite players in our league, and so you just want him to be dependable every week."

Super Bowl XLIX

New England vs. Seattle

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

TV/radio: NBC/97.1

Line: Patriots by 1