TAMPA — Ndamukong Suh had nearly as many touchdowns (two) as he had sacks (2.5) last season, but the Bucs fulfilled their mission of keeping the defense together by bringing the Pro Bowl defensive tackle back on a one-year, $8 million contract.
Suh, 33, is entering his 11th season and pairs nicely inside with Vita Vea, giving the Bucs two unmovable defenders in the middle of the line. He had received interest from the San Francisco 49ers, but that seemed to wane earlier in the week.
The Bucs used the franchise tag on linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks with 19.5. Then they signed linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $25 million deal. Pierre-Paul had 8.5 sacks in 10 games after missing the first part of the season with a cervical fracture in his neck.
"We wanted the entire defense if we could to stay together, they played so well together,'' Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. "That was a piece of the puzzle, they knew each other. Suh was a big, big part of it, obviously. Not as much in the sack game as much as his interior pressure and the great job he did last year against the run. I mean, we were No. 1 against the run in the league last year and a lot of it was because of him and Vita.''
Suh isn’t the pass rusher he once was, but he has helped anchor the run defense and has had a great influence on the development of Vea.
Last season, Suh played in 16 games with 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks. He returned two fumbles for touchdowns: one for 37 yards to ice a win against the Rams in Los Angeles and a 6-yard fumble recovery for a score at Atlanta.
Linebacker Devin White took to Twitter to express his excitement when news of Suh’s signing was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Suh earned $9.25 million last season and took a bit of a pay cut to remain with the team after playing 77 percent of the defensive snaps last season.
Arians succeeded in his goal was to keep the defense together, especially the front seven playing ahead of a young secondary. They were able to retain Suh, Vea and William Gholston as the front three with Barrett, Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David and White at linebacker.