Ndamukong Suh

Former Raiders free-agent target signs in NFC West

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USATSI

Former Raiders free-agent target signs in NFC West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Decades ago, the Los Angeles Rams’ defense was fronted by the Fearsome Foursome.

With Ndamukong Suh playing alongside Aaron Donald for the Rams this fall, NFL offenses are about to experience a terrifying twosome.

Suh agreed to a one-year contract with Los Angeles on Monday, joining three-time All-Pro Donald in a remarkable defensive line pairing.

Suh was released by the Dolphins this month after three seasons in Miami. He examined several free-agent opportunities before choosing the defending NFC West champion Rams, who have revamped their already solid defense with several impressive offseason additions.

Suh’s deal in Los Angeles is worth $14 million, according to the NFL Network and ESPN.

Suh was a five-time Pro Bowl selection during his eight-year career with Detroit and Miami. Despite a history of physical play on the edge of legality and sportsmanship, he is considered one of the NFL’s most impressive defensive linemen, with 51 1/2 career sacks and excellent run-stopping ability. He also has never missed a game due to injury.

With Suh and Donald playing side by side, the Rams will have a superb foundation for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Suh, who likely will play nose tackle, and steady veteran Michael Brockers are expected to start up front alongside Donald, the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

The 31-year-old Suh has never played in a 3-4 alignment during his NFL career, but Phillips specializes in finding ways for outstanding players to shine. He is also much less likely to face double teams as a pass rusher while lining up with Donald in a partnership that will stretch most opponents’ blocking abilities to the limit.

Suh visited New Orleans and Tennessee during his free agency tour, and he was scheduled to visit Oakland before canceling last week. He attracted serious interest from the New York Jets, but they publicly rescinded their contract offer Sunday.

Instead, the Rams won over Suh last week after a visit to their training complex and a dinner in Malibu with a front-office group including coach Sean McVay and owner Stan Kroenke.

Suh likely could have made more money with the Titans or Jets, but the Rams are widely considered a team on the rise — and Suh has never won a playoff game despite strong individual performances in each of his three postseason appearances.

With Suh’s arrival on a lucrative one-year deal, the Rams have signaled their determination to compete for the Super Bowl immediately.

Los Angeles has revamped its defense with proven talent in an effort to raise its performance to the level of McVay’s offense, which led the NFL with 478 points last season in a stunning worst-to-first transformation.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles added cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, who have been selected for a combined seven Pro Bowls, while retaining promising safety Lamarcus Joyner and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Suh is an Oregon native who starred at Nebraska before joining the Lions as the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. He became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history at the time of his six-year, $114 million free-agent deal with the Dolphins.

Suh has repeatedly drawn the ire of opponents and officials with overaggressive play and dirty hits. He has paid numerous fines, yet his only NFL suspension was a two-game ban in 2011 during his second season for stomping on Packers lineman Evan Smith.

Talib and Peters also have been involved in their own scuffles with opponents or their own teammates and coaches. McVay’s first Rams team had no significant issues in the locker room, with the young head coach and his veteran defensive coordinator presiding over a roster with solid chemistry.

Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders

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Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders

Ndamukong Suh won’t meet with the Raiders, after all. The star defensive tackle cut Alameda out of his free-agent tour, according to NFL Network, choosing instead to head home after stops in New Orleans, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams.

NFLN reports that Suh had dinner with Rams coach Sean McVay on Tuesday night, and was due in Oakland the following day. The Rams made a solid impression

Suh is reportedly mulling options from all three aforementioned playoff teams, all of which have more working salary-cap space and other stalwarts along the defensive line.

That’s surely a disappointment for the Raiders, who have had interest in Suh dating back to his last free-agent experience in 2015. The Silver and Black couldn’t afford him then. It seems unlikely they can afford him now, with precious little salary-cap space remaining after being active in free agency’s second wave.

The Raiders also hope to lock Khalil Mack up long-term with a massive extension this offseason.

It’s uncertain at this stage whether player or team cancelled the meeting, or exactly why it was called off. The Raiders could still sign a veteran defensive tackle, and/or acquire one early in the NFL Draft.

Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black

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Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black

UPDATE (March 21, 12:02 p.m.): Free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will no longer make a scheduled Wednesday trip to visit the Raiders, according to NFL Network. He is at home, considering the Rams, Titans and Saints. 

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Ndamukong Suh’s coming to Alameda. Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther and Reggie McKenzie will have a chance to make a pitch, explaining exactly why the superstar defensive tackle belongs in the Silver and Black.

McKenzie (and owner Mark Davis) would’ve relished this opportunity last time Suh was a free agent. The Raiders had plenty of cap space in 2015 but oh, so many needs coming off a 3-13 campaign, and weren’t prepared for his market value to go nuclear. McKenzie steered clear of the mushroom cloud, and Suh’s deal set a new market for defensive players.

He made $60 million over three years in Miami, but didn’t see his contract’s second half after lackluster team results and hints of inconsistent effort. The Dolphins are reportedly angling for a culture change, and didn’t think Suh would help the transition.

That put him back on the open market, with more guaranteed dollars dancing in his head. Suh’s on a free-agent tour rare in the modern NFL, where dollars are committed quick once free agency opens. Suh’s slow playing this one, thus far hopping from New Orleans to Tennessee to L.A. to see the Rams on a private jet. His charter will land in Oakland Wednesday, according to a Tuesday report from ESPN, to see what the Raiders have to offer.

There’s little doubt what Suh can bring. He might be the best interior defensive lineman east of L.A.’s Aaron Donald -- yes, there are a few other top talents -- and would be a perfect fit for Guenther’s scheme. That system needs a Geno Atkins type. He made the Guenther’s Bengals go in recent seasons, and Suh’s certainly as good or better when going strong.

The real question’s what the Raiders can offer that others can’t. The Titans and Rams have more salary-cap space, as it stands right now. The Raiders are the only non-playoff team in his bunch, with the other three seemingly on the rise.

The Raiders could champion playing with Khalil Mack. The Rams have Donald, the Titans have Jurell Casey and the Saints have Cam Jordan. Suh has made reference to the final three in interviews with Yahoo! Sports.

Gruden, however, is certainly a selling point. Several signed free agents cited the A-list head coach as an attraction to joining the Raiders. A healthy, impactful Derek Carr and Suh’s addition to the defense could make the Raiders a real contender right away, something that will obviously get brought up in Wednesday’s visit.

Suh’s an Oregon kid, and the Raiders are the closest team to home. That might help.

He could make a pros and cons list about market, state tax issues, chances of winning, coach and locker room culture, but the almighty dollar can’t be ignored.

Can the Raiders put together an attractive financial package, one that would make them truly appealing? That’s the (multi-)million dollar question?

The Raiders don’t have tons of salary-cap space. In fact they're up against the threshold, though cutting veterans without guaranteed money easily creates space. The Raiders could keep Suh’s 2018 cap number lower through a signing bonus and fat roster bonuses in future years.

Make no mistake: the cap is not an impenetrable road block. The Raiders might have to get away from contract structuring practices that McKenzie’s people used to reach excellent salary-cap standing. That’s especially true considering the monster deal given to Carr last year and the mega-extension Mack will get soon.

We say all that with one caveat. Suh’s exact team-selection criteria aren’t clear. There’s no telling if this Alameda trip could help create a robust market, or if he’s taking the Raiders seriously. Making the trip means something, however, and will at least give Gruden and Co. a chance to woo Suh, lock him down and radically change expectations for the 2018 season.