Ndamukong Suh's contract negotiations have dragged on longer than expected, but first-year Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he remains confident that Suh and the Lions will reach a long-term extension to keep the Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Detroit.
"Absolutely," Caldwell said Sunday at his season kickoff news conference. "I think I'm always optimistic. I think you know me by now, and I think without question they're working at it. And I think something will be done at the appropriate time."
Suh and the Lions have talked contract on and off for more than four months now, since Suh hired Jimmy Sexton as his agent in early March.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said in February that he expected negotiations to follow a similar path to the one the team took last year with quarterback Matthew Stafford, when they agreed to a three-year extension in mid-July.
A person familiar with the negotiations told the Free Press recently that it was "highly unlikely" a deal would get done by the first practice of training camp today, but both sides still hope a new pact could be in place by the start of the season.
Suh already is the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL, and he almost certainly will join an elite group of six defensive players who currently make more than $13 million a year.
Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams and New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis both average $16 million a year, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman makes $14 million per year on the extension he signed this spring, and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden ($13.5 million), Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews ($13.2 million) and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy ($13.116 million franchise tag) also make more than $13 million per year.
Suh, whose rookie contract voids in February, is scheduled to make $12.5 million this fall but has a $22.4-million cap number, the highest in the NFL.
Caldwell said contract talks won't be a distraction for the team or Suh, who Caldwell said reported "in the best shape he's ever been in."
"I'm not worried about it in that regard because Tom (Lewand) and obviously Martin (Mayhew) and ownership will get that taken care of, and I've been through it a few times," Caldwell said. "I've been through it with Peyton (Manning) on a year, been through it most recently with (Joe) Flacco. So there's a number of guys that are going through that throughout the league and our team's no different."
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch said even though he wants to finish his career with Suh -- "Obviously, he's dominant," Tulloch said -- he'll let negotiations run their course and won't try to sell Suh on staying in Detroit.
"Suh's a businessman, as we all know, and when things get done they get done," Tulloch said.
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