Among the many interesting topics expected to be covered when the Ravens’ brass gathers for Thursday’s season-ending press conference will be the status of Terrell Suggs.
Lost for the year after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the Sept. 13 opener, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker spent very little time at the team’s Owings Mills training facility this season and was still wearing a walking boot as he watched the Week 16 upset victory over Pittsburgh from the sideline. In contrast, Suggs was out of a boot a little over two months after tearing his right Achilles tendon in the spring of 2012 — he amazingly returned to action in less than six months to play that season — and 36-year-old wide receiver Steve Smith shed his walking boot on Monday and suffered his Achilles injury seven weeks after the 33-year-old linebacker did.
Asked on Monday if he sought advice from his teammate who has been through a similar rehabilitation process twice, Smith made a cryptic remark that could be taken any number of ways.
“Suggs is a little vulnerable right now, so I’m not going to talk to Suggs about it,” said Smith, who announced last week that he would return for another season after previously planning to retire. “He’s not a ray of sunshine like he usually is.”
It’s worth noting that Smith’s comments were made as he smiled, but the veteran receiver can occasionally be sly with the media, making one wonder if there was more to it than Suggs simply having a bad day.
Suggs hasn’t spoken with reporters since suffering the injury in Denver.
Head coach John Harbaugh said in early November that the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year told him at the time of the injury that he intended to return in 2016, but Suggs was more reflective than usual about his career this past spring and struggled to cope with the departure of his longtime teammate and friend Haloti Ngata, who was traded to the Detroit Lions last March. Suggs wore a hat with No. 92 on it — Ngata’s jersey number for nine years in Baltimore that isn’t currently worn by a Ravens player — as he cheered on his teammates during the Steelers game on Dec. 27.
General manager Ozzie Newsome holds a unique relationship with the 2003 first-round pick, so it will be interesting to hear where the veteran stands in terms of his health and status for next season.
Suggs is under contract through 2018 and is scheduled to carry a $7.45 million salary cap figure for next season.
Hindsight with Osemele
With much discussion centering around the left tackle position, it’s fair to wonder why the Ravens didn’t try Kelechi Osemele at left tackle before the acquisition of Eugene Monroe a few years ago.
Following the win in Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore considered the possibility of moving Osemele to left tackle as Bryant McKinnie hit the free-agent market, but Newsome ultimately re-signed the veteran later that spring. Of course, McKinnie did not perform well and the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe in early October of 2013.
Had Osemele not been dealing with a chronic back issue at the time that eventually required season-ending surgery, he could have been a real option to move outside, but it’s difficult to fault the Ravens for not wanting to try it when he was already struggling just to perform at his regular left guard position. Instead, Monroe arrived and played so well over the remainder of the season that the Ravens rewarded him with a five-year, $37.5 million contract.
If the 2012 second-round pick had been healthy, perhaps he would have gotten his chance then and become Baltimore’s long-term left tackle a few years ago.
Following the season-ending loss to Cincinnati, veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb told reporters he viewed himself as a safety moving forward, but how the Ravens elect to handle that remains to be seen.
Webb and the Ravens already reworked his contract last offseason, but he is still scheduled to carry a $9.5 million salary cap number for 2016, which would put him among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Of course, that would come with a very limited sample of Webb playing the position.
The 30-year-old may very well be an upgrade from recent options such as Kendrick Lewis and Darian Stewart, but the Ravens would need Pro Bowl-quality play to justify that price tag. There’s just no way of knowing he can do that, making it likely that Webb will be cut if he isn’t willing to further adjust his contract that expires after the 2017 season.
Need for speed
Asked whether the passing game needs more speed next season, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t answer with a definitive yes, but he was quick to point out how much it helps an AFC North rival.
“It does a lot for football teams,” said Flacco, who discussed the need to be able to push the ball down the field more at different times this past season. “You see what the Steelers are doing with the speed that they’ve added over the last couple years. It definitely makes a difference out there. I’m not saying that it’s something that we need, but when we’ve had it here, it’s definitely made a little bit of a difference.”
Should the Ravens re-sign restricted free-agent receiver Kamar Aiken, they would have the trio of Aiken, Smith, and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but the latter two have questions about their health and only Perriman brings impact speed. The roster would benefit greatly from another speed option with upside.