Tagging Suggs is a Bad Start To Ravens’ Off-Season

February 18, 2009 | Thyrl Nelson

By Failing To Sign Terrell Suggs To A Long Term Deal, The Ravens Missed Out On a Big Chance To Save Money Going Into Free Agency.


Questioning Ozzie Newsome’s decisions can be a risky proposition. If Ozzie has proven one thing over the course of his career, it’s that he’s right far more often than he’s wrong. And as a result the Ravens have been what you could call a model of consistency.


With that said, if there’s one criticism to be leveraged against Newsome’s tenure in Baltimore, it’s been an inability to build on the team’s success. In 2001, he followed up the Superbowl win by swapping quarterbacks and spending a ton of money on an aging right tackle who was never quite right. And still, somewhat miraculously, that was the only Ravens team to make the playoffs in back to back years. Whether directly attributable to Ozzie or not, the odds certainly aren’t in the Ravens favor for making the playoffs this season, based on history alone.


And already it seems, the Ravens off-season is off to a rough start. The departures of Chris McAlister and possibly Ray Lewis may be more of a blow to the nostalgia of the franchise, although there doesn’t seem to be much love lost for C-Mac. But in this, the most critical Ravens off season since at least 2001, possibly ever, failing to get Terrell Suggs signed to a long term deal is a critical early misstep.


Given the number of their own free agents to deal with, it would seem that every dollar is critical for the Ravens this off-season. And although franchising Suggs and retaining his services is ultimately a good thing, in missing that boat for now, the team may have missed out on their best opportunity to save some money going into free agency.


Jason Brown and Jim Leonhard will both certainly be due a raise if the Ravens are going to keep them around, and deservedly so. Bart Scott too, would likely come back with a bigger cap number than his $5.56 million from ’08, although probably not much bigger. And at $9.4 million in ’08, Lewis had a cap number that seemed to make him untaggable, but it remains to be seen what the market will yield for Lewis in free agency, and what kind of cap number he represents next season, for the Ravens or someone else.


Suggs though, was right in Lewis’ ballpark with $8.4 million under the tag last season. Because Suggs and his agent settled with the Ravens on a number between the defensive end and linebacker tag values for last season, T-Sizzle was already the second highest paid linebacker in the league behind Lewis. Under the early years of a long-term contract, it was presumable that Suggs’ cap number would have come down from last season. Instead it will balloon to $10.17 million in 2009.


I have little doubt that the Ravens’ long-term commitment to Suggs is genuine, and that eventually things will get done. But by not getting it taken care of it long before things got to this point, the Ravens have cost themselves a lot more cap room than they’d have like to have lost.


They’ve also basically guaranteed that in a season in which they’ll be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, with only one year in the system under his belt, and in which the other 2/3 of the linebacking corps may be turned over too, that Suggs will not be in training camp. And all of this after Suggs, more so than any of the team’s other free agents seemed to be the one saying all of the right things in the media. Suggs was the one who suggested a hometown discount for the bunch, yet he’ll certainly be the highest paid linebacker in the league next season.


If history serves as any indicator, it could be a bumpy ride for the Ravens for the next year at least. And with free agency approaching, they look to be stumbling out of the gates. Signing Suggs long term could have given them a lot more to work with under the cap, instead it probably sealed at least one other player’s fate with the club. We’ll have to wait and see who that might be.