THE MIAMI Dolphins have pulled ahead in the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes, and their lead might be insurmountable.

The Dolphins were privately optimistic yesterday that they would seal a deal with the All-Pro defensive tackle shortly after free agency begins tomorrow.

Suh's contract is expected to set a record for an NFL defensive player. ESPN, citing sources, said the deal would be for 6 years and about $114 million, with $60 million guaranteed.

It would exceed the record for a defensive player set last year by Houston's J.J. Watt (6 years, $100 million, with $51.8 million guaranteed).

Miami began negotiating with Suh's agent Saturday to hammer out the framework for a contract, but teams can't talk directly with players until tomorrow.

Suh, whose contract with the Detroit Lions is expiring, has been hailed by many as the best free-agent defensive player in a generation. He's a three-time first-team All-Pro pick, including the past two seasons.

The Lions and Oakland Raiders were among other teams bidding for Suh. But the Dolphins were eager to upgrade an aging defense, and they released five veterans in the past 10 days to create more salary-cap space.

Suh has 36 sacks in five seasons, including 8 1/2 in 2014, when the Lions made the playoffs with one of the NFL's top defenses.

He has been fined several times for aggressive on-field behavior, and was nearly suspended for a playoff game last season. But he has been a dominating tackle ever since the Lions made him the second overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Noteworthy

* New York Jets running back Chris Johnson and another passenger were shot in their shoulders while stopped at a traffic light in Orlando, Fla., early yesterday morning, and the driver of the vehicle they were in was killed.

The NFL player and the other passenger, Reggie Johnson, were in stable condition at a hospital yesterday.

Sheriff's deputies said another vehicle pulled up to the Jeep the men were in and opened fire. The Jeep's driver, Dreekius Oricko Johnson, was killed.

Deputies said no arrests had been made, and investigators were seeking witnesses to the shooting.

The shooting adds some uncertainty to Johnson's playing career. While he is expected to fully recover, Johnson, who will be 30 in September, is still officially on the Jets' roster but is due to become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow, when the NFL's new league year begins. The Jets cut ties with Johnson on Feb. 14, when they declined to exercise their contract option on him - meaning he will be free to sign with another team.

He was signed to a 2-year, $8 million deal by the Jets last April, after 6 years with Tennessee. But he had his worst statistical season while splitting time with Chris Ivory. He ran for 663 yards - his first season under 1,000 - and one touchdown, while catching a career-low 24 passes for 151 yards and a score.

Johnson also rarely resembled the dynamic player with game-changing speed who ran for 2,006 yards in 2009, earning him his "CJ2K" nickname.