Five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh remains a free agent, but has been contacted by three to five teams according to Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo. The 35-year-old last played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he earned his first Super Bowl ring. He’s open to a return to the league, but only if he views it as a good opportunity to pursue a second ring, according to Lombardo’s reporting.
While they’re not the best fit, the Eagles crack the list of teams that would make sense for Suh, with the others being the Buccaneers, Rams, and Chiefs. The Eagles make the list by virtue of catapulting themselves to contender status, but the move would probably only make sense if the Eagles suffer an injury to one of their key interior defensive lineman.
Ndamukong Suh Remained Productive Last Season
It’s easy to write off a defensive lineman at the age of 35, but Suh still had plenty of productivity in him last season with the Bucs. Suh racked up six sacks, matching his total from a year prior and posting a tally that’s plenty impressive for an interior lineman.
His total tackles were down from 44 to 27, but he did recover a fumble, and register 13 quarterback hits. Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Suh at 49 overall defensively, with a run defense grade of 50 and a pass rush grade of 54. Those are drop offs from his prime, but good enough to make him valuable as a depth defensive tackle on a contender.
To put those grades into perspective, so far this season all of the Eagles interior linemen grade out at 58 or higher on defense, 53 or higher against the run, and 52 or higher as pass rushers.
So Suh can still play, but he doesn’t add a ton to the Eagles unless they suffer an injury on the interior line, see a starter’s play drop off markedly from the first two weeks, or decide to kick a defensive tackle out to defensive end and shake up their defensive alignment.
Jonathan Gannon’s Versatile Scheme Could Create Space for Suh
In the wake of the season-ending injury to defensive end Derek Barnett in the season opener, there is one conceivable shake-up that could lead to the Eagles looking for an interior lineman instead of pursuing a defensive end.
If newly acquired defensive end Janarius Robinson doesn’t pan out in the rotation, the Eagles could decide the best way to utilize their available roster is by calling more plays with three down lineman instead of four in Gannon’s amoeba-like scheme.
After all, any ranking of the Eagles best edge rushers has to be topped by Haason Reddick, who’s listed as a linebacker and does his best work as a stand-up rusher. You’d then go to Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat, then it would be interior rushers like Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, both of whom have the skillset to theoretically play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Graham is stout against the run and could hold his own as an end in that alignment, as well.
In a 4-3 scheme, Suh would likely be fourth or fifth on the depth chart at defensive tackle, only getting onto the field occasionally – and generally in situational spots like goal line or short yardage downs.
But in a 3-4, the only other true nose tackle on the roster is Jordan Davis, so Suh would be second on the depth chart. So essentially, the Eagles defensive front could be thought of as having two depth charts. One for a 4-3, and another for a 3-4.
The 4-3 has no need for Suh, and has a logjam at defensive tackle. But the 3-4 shifts that logjam to defensive end, and could use him at nose tackle.
It’s also worth noting that if the price is right on Suh, the Eagles might be interested in bringing him in just to create the flexibility even if they don’t want to change their primary defensive scheme.
With a system like Gannon’s, being able to use a three-man front against opponents it would work best against, then shift back to the 4-3 other weeks would be the type of flexibility he’d love. Of course, that level of creativity may be less appealing to Gannon if he feels like he’s on the hot seat.
If the Eagles do have interest in a scenario like that, it may ultimately come down to what Suh is looking for. If he truly wants the best chance at a Super Bowl, he’ll likely wait at least a few more weeks to see how things are shaking out league-wide, then go to the best team that’s interested regardless of his role.
However, if he wants a more active role than serving as a depth and situational player, then he’ll probably land on a contender other than Philadelphia, barring an injury.