PHOENIX – NFL teams may be strapped for cash while operating under a snug salary cap, but the Detroit Lions can boast that the single biggest number they have on their ledge for one player following the first week of free agency is what they shaved off the cap ... not what they spent.
It is a sign of the negotiating times.
Suh wasn't the only Lion who restructured his contract, but his deal gave the Lions the most room.
Salary-cap considerations are a big part of free agency, and the Lions worked deals on many fronts to clear cap space and to shore up their roster in key areas while losing as few players as possible.
On one hand, it meant not re-signing defensive end
On the other, the Lions filled some big holes in free agency by getting cap relief from Suh,
General Manger Martin Mayhew isn't worried about the status of Stafford's contract, which has two years to run.
"No, not at all," Mayhew said Monday at the NFL meetings. "I talked to (writers) before about that being a process. As I said before, the contracts with the good players are more difficult to do. For the players that aren't good, you just tell them what you plan on paying them. That's the way it goes.
"I'm not at all disappointed. It's going to be a process to get that done. We're working on getting that done now. We've been very deliberated in the process. We haven't been pressuring him. He by no means is putting the brakes on. It's just the negotiating process, and this negotiating process is back and forth."
Avril's contract seems to shrink by the day as reports come out on the two-year contract he signed. It initially was reported as being worth $15 million, but the full value is $13 million, as reported Tuesday by ESPN's Mike Sando.
Avril got a signing bonus of $4.5 million and base salaries of $1.5 million in 2013 and $7 million in 2014. The cap charge for 2013 is only $3.75 million – about a third of the $10.6 million he made last year as the Lions' franchise player.
The Lions never seemed to make a big play to meet Avril's asking price.
"There are a lot of moving pieces in free agency," Mayhew said. "We started down the road with some guys. We were in those talks. You start bringing a guy back, bring Cliff back. It probably would have cost us two players to bring him back.
"We just thought we were better served to sign the guys we were talking to."
Ultimately, money talks, and the Lions' power of persuasion with free agents came from restructuring some contracts, reducing others, and releasing some players. Ultimately, the Lions netted an estimated $27 million savings under the cap.
The total: $8.43 million, or only about $750,000 more than cap savings from Suh's restructuring.
Also this week, it was reported that wide receiver Calvin Johnson tweaked his contract by converting his $5 million base salary to signing bonus, thus dropping his base salary to $715,000, the minimum for a player with six seasons of service.
Johnson still gets his $5 million, but by spreading out the remaining $4.285 million in a signing bonus, the Lions had a cap savings of $3.57 million.
Those weren't the only deals that carved out cap space. The Lions also released guard Stephen Peterman, wide receiver Titus Young and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, and offensive tackle
Total savings from cuts and restructurings: more than $27 million.