Tom Brady wants to "keep the band together." We've spent the last five weeks looking at the members of that band who could conceivably move on from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead, and now we're at the doorstep of either outcome becoming possible.
The 2010 league year begins on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., ushering in free agency with it. Brady helped the cause of keeping as much of the Buccaneers' Super Bowl-winning core intact last week with a contract extension that freed up some cap space. And the Bucs have already hung on to a couple of those band members with a new contract for inside linebacker Lavonte David and a franchise tag for wide receiver Chris Godwin.
David and Godwin were the first two potential free agents we explored in this 10-part series, but that means eight are still headed for free agency without a new deal done. Of course, it is quite common for a player to hit the open market only to return to his original team at a later date, as Ndamukong Suh did about a week into free agency last year. And Suh, who had 6.0 sacks and was a key part of the Buccaneers' top-ranked run defense, is the final subject of our Free Agent Focus series, which has studied these 10 players:
February 23: RB Leonard Fournette
February 26: K Ryan Succop
March 2: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches
March 5: QB Blaine Gabbert
March 9: WR Antonio Brown
March 12: TE Rob Gronkowski
March 15: OLB Shaquil Barrett
March 16: DL Ndamukong Suh
Player: Ndamukong Suh
Position: Defensive Lineman
Experience: Entering 11th NFL Season
How Acquired: Originally signed by the Buccaneers to a one-year contract on May 23, 2019. Re-signed to another one-year contract on March 26, 2020.
Previous Contract(s): The second-overall pick in the 2010 draft by Detroit, Suh's rookie deal covered five years, through the 2014 campaign. Upon completing that contract and hitting unrestricted free agency, Suh signed a six-year contract with the Miami Dolphins that extended through the 2020 campaign. After three seasons with the Dolphins, he was released in the spring of 2018 with a post-June 1 designation and then signed to a one-year contract for the upcoming season by the Los Angeles Rams.
Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 200 NFL Free Agents for 2021: 104th. PFF Comment: "The 788 snaps he played this season was the lowest total of his career, yet it was still the 11th-most among all interior defenders. Suh racked up 50 total pressures and 25 defensive stops and can still be a very solid member of a defensive line."
2020 Performance: Suh had another strong season in his second year as a Buccaneer in 2020, as evidenced by the fact that the team maintained its number-one ranking in rush defense even after running mate Vita Vea was lost to an ankle fracture in Week Five. He also contributed 6.0 sacks, his highest season total since 2015, and was second on the team with 19 quarterback hits. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Suh has 79 quarterback pressures over his two seasons as a Buccaneer, which is the fifth-highest total by an interior linemen in that span. That included a dominant performance in a Week 14 win over Minnesota in which he pressured Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins nine times.
As usual, Suh also shouldered a heavy workload. Counting the playoffs, he was on the field for 992 of the team's 1,346 defensive plays, or 74%. No other Buccaneer down lineman played more than 55% of the available snaps in 2020. In the postseason, he contributed 10 tackles, a tackle for loss, 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits.
Career Accomplishments: Suh has made good on his lofty draft status over the course of 11 very productive seasons. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and has also been named a first-team Associated Press All-Pro after three of those seasons, with two other second-team selections. He has also helped two teams make it to the Super Bowl in the last three years, as he was a starter for the 2018 Los Angeles Rams team that lost to Brady's New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Unsurprisingly, he was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s.
Over those 11 seasons, Suh has missed only two of a possible 176 games played and has never sat out due to an injury. He has also started all 174 of those contests in which he has appeared. Along the way he has racked up 563 tackles and 64.5 sacks, and his next quarterback hit will be the 200th of his career. He also has five forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 123 tackles for loss, one interception and 38 passes defensed. He has returned three fumbles for touchdowns, including two for the Buccaneers in 2019.
Other Potential Free Agent Interior Defensive Linemen: Dalvin Tomlinson (N.Y. Giants), Shelby Harris (Denver), Jurrell Casey (Denver), Sheldon Rankins (New Orleans), Tyson Alualu (Pittsburgh), Kawann Short (Carolina – released), DaQuan Jones (Tennessee), Lawrence Guy (New England), Derek Wolfe (Baltimore)
Top Interior Defensive Line Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft: Christian Barmore (Alabama), Levi Onwuzurike (Washington), Daviyon Nixon (Iowa), Marvin Wilson (Florida State), Alim McNeil (North Carolina State), Tyler Shelvin (LSU), Osa Odighizuwa (UCLA), Tommy Togiai (Ohio State), Bobby Brown (Texas A&M), Jay Tufele (USC), Dayo Odeyingbo (Vanderbilt)