Both the initial free agency wave and the NFL draft have come and gone. We're technically deep into the 2019 NFL offseason now, but there's an important date coming up: May 7, the day after which players can be signed and no longer count against the league's compensatory pick formula. That means some veterans who are still languishing out there on the market are about to become much more sought-after.
One such player is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Long considered one of the small handful of best defenders in football, Suh is no longer at his peak, but he is still a very valuable player. He has 14 sacks over the past three seasons, as well as 48 quarterback hits and 24 tackles for loss. He is entering his age-32 campaign but is coming off an incredibly productive playoff run with the Rams, during which he produced 1.5 sacks, five QB hits, and two tackles for loss. And he did it while largely playing out of position in a 3-4 scheme.
Suh, though, has the potential to really change a team's fortunes if he lands in the right spot. Anytime somebody who can penetrate through the offensive line like Suh can at his best becomes available, it's a potentially seismic event. But where will he land?
Let's take a look at a few potential fits, ranked by the amount of cap space they currently have available, per Spotrac.
1. Indianapolis Colts ($57.8 million)
The Colts signing Suh almost makes too much sense. The team brought in Denico Autry last offseason and paired him with Margus Hunt in the middle of the defense, and incredibly, those two fared extremely well. The Colts had the No. 4 ranked run defense by DVOA, and while a lot of that was due to the play of rookie Darius Leonard, Autry and Hunt held up their end of the bargain as well. The Colts, though, did not get very much pressure on opposing quarterbacks; and that was not just because they lacked speed and athleticism on the edge. The likelihood of Hunt and Autry converting their quarterback hits into sacks at as high a rate as they did a year ago is low, and anyway, neither player has the upside of Suh. Putting the players into a rotation on the inside would keep them all fresh, and Suh's presence would force teams to change their plan of attack against the Indianapolis defensive front, as they would no longer be able to devote extra resources to blocking Jabaal Sheard, the recently-acquired Justin Houston, or second-round draft pick Ben Banogu.
2. Tennessee Titans ($27.7 million)
The Titans operate out of a 3-4 defense and so are not necessarily as natural a fit for Suh as some other teams, but we saw last year how he can operate in that defensive system. Playing next to Jurrell Casey is not quite the same as playing next to Aaron Donald, but it's not as far off as it would be playing next to someone else. Suh could work at the defensive tackle spot currently set to be manned by Brent Urban and/or Matt Dickerson, and help shore up a Tennessee run defense that last year ranked 28th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards and 23rd in the percentage of opponent runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
3. Seattle Seahawks ($26.4 million)
The Seahawks have spent the past couple offseasons remaking their defense, letting go of longtime contributors like Michael Bennett, trading Frank Clark, and seeing Cliff Avril retire due to injury issues. It's left them somewhat thinner than they usually are up front. Jarran Reed is a strong presence in the middle and is coming off a breakout season with 10.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits, but there is an opening next to him on the line. Perhaps the Seahawks trust Nazair Jones and/or Poona Ford to fill it. Perhaps they could use a more experienced and electric player in that spot.
4. Dallas Cowboys ($15.1 million)
Dallas doesn't have as much cap space as the teams ahead of it on this list, but if Amari Cooper is extended soon they should clear some more. Given Steven Jones' post-draft comments about how the under tackle is the most important player in Rod Marinelli's defensive system, taking a long look at Suh makes sense. Yes, they did just draft Trysten Hill in the second round, but a) their second-rounders have traditionally been brought along somewhat slowly; b) Hill reportedly had some attitude and effort issues at UCF that could need some ironing out; and c) Suh is simply likely to be better this year, and his presence could also help Hill, matchup-wise.
5. New England Patriots ($12.0 million)
Anytime there is a good player who can potentially be had for a discount and not cost a compensatory selection, these guys have to be on the list. With Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton likely to be playing elsewhere next season, they also have a need up the middle on defense.
6. New York Giants ($10.4 million)
Sure, the Giants just drafted Dexter Lawrence at No. 17 overall and recently drafted Dalvin Tomlinson and would be somewhat foolish to devote even more resources to the defensive tackle position when they are nowhere near contention and have so many other holes on their roster. But Dave Gettleman has a plan! And as usual, that plan is HOG MOLLIES. So, don't put this one past him.
7. Atlanta Falcons ($5.1 million)
Grady Jarrett has already signed his franchise tag, but the Falcons can still negotiate a long-term deal with him that could lower his cap hit for this year. If they do, they could presumably free up enough space to land Suh to play alongside him. The Falcons have strong depth next to Jarrett up the middle, but no one player who brings Suh's dynamism. That's even increasingly true of their edge players, and perhaps they could pivot in the direction of a team like the Rams, prioritizing the interior in order to generate their pass rush.