I will go ahead and sum up the thoughts of the majority of Colts fans in one sentence: the team should sign Ndamukong Suh this offseason. Indianapolis Star columnist Greg Doyel wrote that it's simply a question of how badly the Colts want to be great, because Suh is the perfect player for the Colts to sign. And on the second part, he's absolutely right.
There's no better player who is due to be a free agent this offseason than Suh, the dominant defensive lineman from Detroit. Drafted second overall by the Lions in 2010 out of Nebraska, Suh has absolutely lived up to expectations and is among the best defensive linemen in the league. Yeah, he's a dirty player and some Colts fans would have an issue with that, but there is absolutely no doubt that he would be a huge impact player at an area of great need for the Colts this season.
But I don't see the Colts signing him this offseason. And it has nothing to do with his talent but rather everything to do with money.
According to Over the Cap, the Colts are projected to have around $34 million in cap space this offseason, and that number could go up if the Colts go the LaRon Landry route with other players as well. Even when factoring in the money needed to sign draft picks and re-sign their own free agents, the Colts would theoretically have enough cap room to sign Suh this season. If they hold off on extending Andrew Luck for another year and bring in Ndamukong Suh, the Colts could make it work this season. But, while many Colts fans might tell you that part, the second part of the statement is often missed: that's only this year. And here's the thing: the Colts have a number of needs this offseason, not just defensive line. While that is certainly an area of need, they have several others they have to address as well, and signing one big-name guy to a contract to address one position might not be the best use of the money.
But it's more than just the other needs. It's about the future. It is expected that Ndamukong Suh will get a deal around six-years for $100 million. Using an equal average over every season, the Colts would be paying Suh around $16.7 million every year for the next six seasons. While the Colts would almost certainly heavily front-load the deal for Suh, they would still be committed to paying the defensive lineman eight figures each year.
Furthermore, before long the Colts will reach a deal with quarterback Andrew Luck, and it is expected by many to make the team's franchise player the highest paid player in the NFL by paying him around $25 million per year. In addition to that, the Colts will have to pay T.Y. Hilton soon as well, and with a rising salary cap, a young player, and one who has been very productive in his first three seasons and shown great upside, it's fair to think Hilton will get around $10 million a year (which would put him right around the top 10-15 receivers, using 2015 cap hit numbers). If the Colts then keep both tight ends, they will likely be paying Coby Fleener around $6-7 million a year and Dwayne Allen around $4-5 million a year. And left tackle Anthony Castonzo could be given a contract that pays around $10 million a year. I realize that these are very rough estimates and that we're not getting into specific language on a year-by-year basis, but I think the point is the same: the Colts will have a number of significant players that they will have to extend in the near future.
Over the past three seasons, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and cap specialist Mike Bluem have been working all free agent deals with the future contracts of Luck and others in mind. They have done a good job of structuring deals to allow them to get out of them, and we've already seen that this season with the Colts parting ways with LaRon Landry. But now that the extension for Luck is closer than ever, the Colts can't forget about it.
Without any doubt, if the Colts were to sign Ndamukong Suh this offseason it would be a huge move that would improve the team greatly. But there's a difference between a dream and a reality, and while it would be awesome to see Suh anchoring the Colts' defensive line, it's not too practical. With the contracts of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Anthony Castonzo, and others needing to be extended in the near future, the discussion about whether the Colts can afford Suh isn't really about this year but rather about future years. For the Colts to sign Suh, it would mean reworking the direction of the franchise moving forward in terms of their future plans and who to keep around, and I don't see the Colts doing that. Plus, it seems likely that Suh might be playing for the Lions once again next year, not even leaving Detroit in the first place. So yes, while the picture of Ndamukong Suh playing in Colts blue instead of Lions blue might be an awesome one for Colts fans to imagine, it's not something that we're going to see on the field next season or anytime soon.