NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of four serious contenders for the services of three-time first-team All-Pro Ndamukong Suh, the Tennessee Titans lost out to the Los Angeles Rams in the Suh Sweepstakes on Monday.
Former Dolphins’ DT Ndamukong Suh reached agreement with Los Angeles Rams on a one-year, $14 million deal, per source. Suh took less to go to LA.
Suh and Aaron Donald now manning LA’s front.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 26, 2018
Suh, 31, signed a six-year, $114.375 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in March of 2015, but was released three years into the deal at the start of the 2018 league year. The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle selected Los Angeles as his new home after reportedly entertaining offers from Tennessee, the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets (before it was rescinded). The visit with the Rams was the last meeting that Suh took before making his free-agency decision.
So, how should you feel about Suh? Truth is, you didn’t really need him.
Woe is the lowly Titans fan, jilted yet again by another name-brand NFL free agent for a larger market and a club loading up with talent in an offseason arms race. The thought of the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle landing in Nashville tantalized the imaginations of all those who follow and cover the local professional football team. To the fans, it would have been received as an obvious battle cry by general manager Jon Robinson; a shot fired across the bows of teams competing at the highest level of the sport, forcing them to acknowledge that this is a franchise of note and one to be legitimately feared on Sundays.
To us, the reviled local media, Suh coming to Nashville would have provided an endless supply of expectation pieces, sports talk content and gas-baggery of little-to-no true value. Baseball season is best described as a night “dark and full of terrors” in the content business and the Suh-related Summer topics would surely have alleviated a good deal of this untenable burden.
But, I digress.
Suh signified the only true difference-making player available on this year’s open market. He played in all 16 regular season games the past six seasons, was on the field for 83.4 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps in 2017 and has started each in of his 126 career games played. Voted as the 2010 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, Suh has recorded one interception, 28 passes defended, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), 51.5 sacks, 289 tackles and one safety during his eight-year career. In Tennessee, Suh would have joined an already-formidable Tennessee defensive line that features Pro Bowl end Jurrell Casey and recently-extended defensive lineman DaQuan Jones. The group would have been hugely disruptive for opposing offensive lines and given quarterbacks fits with the amount of interior pressure they would be regularly subjected to.
Suh’s talent is transcendent but his particular skill set is one the Titans already possess. His acquisition would have been a luxury, not a need.
The 2017 iteration of Tennessee’s defense, though, ranked in the Top 10 against the run (7) and fifth in sacks (43) despite inconsistencies with their pass rush throughout the year. And, while they did finish 21st in Football Outsider’s defensive DVOA, the construction of the new secondary, bolstered by the addition of Malcolm Butler this offseason, will help to address those issues. That Robinson invested so much into the back end of his defense could be viewed as an admission that the pass rush was too up and down in 2017 and that Butler was the most appropriate patch based on the players available.
Football at the professional level differs from the other leagues insomuch as the sheer size of its rosters and workforce renders almost all of the on-field participants hugely replaceable cogs. Big-ticket free agency blinds the consumer with the notion that, maybe, paying the 25-year-old former first-round wide receiver, for example, somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million annually will be the catalyst required to maybe sneak your favorite team into the Wild Card game next postseason. To those who traffic in this kind of hope for the future, that receiver is worth the financial risk for no other reason than that he is young, has the allure of “potential” and killed it for you that one year in your fantasy league. Suh represents a similar kind of free-agent euphoria. He is famous for being stronger and more violent than a league full of the most violent, strong people.
He is certainly still valuable, just not really to the Titans.
Veteran edge rushers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have been effective but there is nothing in the way of quality depth currently behind them. The Titans sack totals increased exponentially in the latter half of their 2017 schedule, when the team feasted with two separate eight-sack performances on sub-par offensive lines. Tennessee defense needs help up front but it should come from an influx of youth and speed through this year’s draft not from a brief affair with a 31-year old defensive tackle.
Suh’s one-year deal with L.A. is indeed about making them better, while not really investing to build towards the club’s future. Jon Robinson, at this point, needs both.