NFL Draft Rumors: Lions Discussing Trading Ndamukong Suh to Draft Jadeveon Clowney

Leon Halip

Wait, what?

There's crazy news floating around the internet at this time of year, and with another two weeks until the 2014 NFL Draft (instead of it starting tomorrow like usual), there's got to be something to fill the airwaves. Today, we've got a doozy involving one of the Green Bay Packers' NFC North rivals.

According to writer/scout Scott Bischoff (who, for the record, is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America), the Detroit Lions might be willing to move defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to move up in the draft:

Wow. At first glance, this seems absurd - a team trading its best defensive player and a bona fide superstar (who may be a little crazy when he puts the helmet on, but that's a different story) in order to move up to draft a rookie who may or may not pan out in the NFL. Granted, Clowney's hype projects him as anything from a high-level starter to a Hall of Famer, but as we have seen with too many draft prospects over the years, hype doesn't make a successful career. So at first glance, this seems absurd.

However, if you look at this move from a financial perspective, it starts to make a little more sense. According to Overthecap.com, Suh's current contract has a few critical factors that might make the Lions interested in moving him and replacing him with another playmaking defensive lineman. First, Suh's contract officially has him in Detroit through 2015, but there is a provision which will automatically void that contract after next year's Super Bowl. In other words, he's really only signed through 2014.

Then there's the Salary Cap factor. Suh's contract for 2014 will pay him $12.55 million, but he also has a prorated signing bonus charge of nearly $10 million ($9,737,500 to be exact), making his 2014 cap hit about $22.4 million. That's for one player - and a defensive lineman at that. Now, with his 2015 contract voiding, the Lions will be on the hook for another $9.7 million in 2015 - that's the same prorated amount of his signing bonus that's on the 2014 hit.

Now if the Lions were to trade Suh now, both years' bonus charges would hit their salary cap in 2014 as dead money. That's a total of $19.475 million if they trade him. However, that would still save around $2.9 million on the cap in 2014, and they would be off the hook for the extra $10 million in 2015. If you prefer this in table form, take a look below:

Option 2014 Base Salary 2014 Prorated Bonus 2014 Cap Hit 2015 Base Salary 2015 Prorated Bonus 2015 Cap Hit
Keep Suh $12,550,000 $9,737,500 $22,412,500 $0 $9,737,500 $9,737,500
Trade Suh $0 $19,745,000 $19,475,000 $0 $0 $0
Trade Savings $12,500,000 - ($9,737,500) $2,937,500 0 $9,737,500 $9,737,500

As you can see, the Lions would save almost $3 million in 2014 and almost $10 million in 2015. If they were to trade Suh to Houston for the top pick, that pick is slated to receive a contract with a 2014 salary cap hit of about $4.4 million, meaning the Lions would lose about $1.5 million in total cap space in 2014, but they would save over $4 million in 2015, even with the top pick's cap hit taken into account.

The one way that the Lions could get out of that voided year in 2015 (and the extra $9.7 million) is if they extend his contract this season.

All in all, the idea of trading a star player for a draft pick still seems a little nuts. Still, Suh is costing the Lions a lot of money both this year and next year, and there's no guarantee that he will even play in Detroit in 2015. If they feel that they can replace his production with a younger option and have better cap flexibility (and longer team control of a player like Clowney) for several years into the future, the motivation for at least discussing a move like this starts to take better shape. Don't bet on it happening though.

As a Packers fan, I'd love to deal with a Detroit defense that doesn't feature either of these two players. Still, I'd probably rather face an unproven rookie (even one as highly-touted as Clowney) over a player like Suh who has had some good success against the Packers in the past.

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