Ndamukong Suh won't say if he wants to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, but the three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle will find out soon enough how much he's worth.
Suh said Thursday he was happy to see Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt sign a six-year, $100-million extension this week, but he wouldn't say whether he'll be out to top that deal, the richest ever given to a defensive player, when he hits free agency in March.
"I have no clue," Suh said. "It's not up to me. Talk to my agent."
The Lions tabled contract talks with Suh before the start of training camp in July, but they could come to regret that decision if defensive player salaries continue to escalate.
Watt's new deal averages $16.6 million per season and includes more than $30 million guaranteed, and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy could land a similar-sized extension this fall.
Previously, defensive end Mario Williams and cornerback Darrelle Revis shared the richest deal for a defensive player at $16 million per year.
Suh already has made the most money ever over the first four years of his career ($51.8 million), and while his stats don't stack up with Watt's, he's just as important to his team and will have more negotiating leverage.
Watt had two years left on his rookie contract, including a low-cost fifth-year option, when he signed his extension.
Suh makes $12.5 million this year, but has a $22.4 million cap number that makes using the franchise tag on him next year nearly impossible. If the Lions want to tag Suh to keep him off free agency, they'd have to pay him $26.9 million for one season and incur a cap cost of more than $36 million.
Asked about Watt's deal Thursday, Suh, who shares an agent with Watt and McCoy, insisted, "I haven't really looked at it."
"I think at the end of the day, a great player like him, obviously very dominant in his position, great leader for his team, deserves all the money he deserves and that he gets," Suh said.
Watt has had a bigger impact on the game than any defensive player in football the last two years. He led the NFL 20.5 sacks and 16 pass deflections in 2012, and had 101/2 sacks and 36 quarterback hits last year.
Suh, who has 27.5 sacks and 12 pass deflections for his career, called Watt "an exceptional player."
But Suh was non-committal when asked if he thought he was the best defensive player in football.
"I think I play hard, I go out there and help my team win games," Suh said. "That's my goal every single day, go out there and compete, play as hard as I can, find ways to help my team win. At the end of the day, that's all I want to do is win."
Last year, Suh had one of the best seasons of his career, though he posted just 5 1/2 sacks and forced only one fumble.
This year, the Lions will use Suh in a slightly different manner, moving him around the line more and flanking him with different blitz packages.
Suh, perhaps deliberately, made a case to potential free-agent suitors when asked how the new scheme suits his skills.
"I mean, there's multiple different types of defense," he said. "I feel like I'm a player that can fit into any particular defense. Put me in position, tell me what you need me to do and I can get it done for you. I can adjust and adapt."
Still, he said he won't judge his season on how many sacks he accumulates even if those who sign his checks might.
"Don't care about numbers at the end of the day," Suh said. "Like I said, if the guys around me are 20-plus sacks and I only have five, eight, 10, so be it. Winning, that's all that matters."
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