Of all the Ravens’ free agents scheduled to officially hit the market on Tuesday, linebacker Pernell McPhee was always considered the least likely to return.
It appears McPhee has found a new home with the Chicago Bears by agreeing to a five-year, $40 million contract that includes roughly $16 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. The deal won’t become official until after the start of the new league year on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite playing in less than half of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in 2014 while backing up outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, McPhee emerged as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL by finishing with 7.5 sacks in 540 snaps. The 26-year-old earned the highest grade of any Baltimore defensive player in 2014 from Pro Football Focus and received the website’s second-highest grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL behind Kansas City’s Justin Houston.
With the Ravens dealing with salary cap woes and having a number of other positions to address, McPhee was considered a luxury the organization would not be able to afford. The 2011 fifth-round pick is just the latest in a long list of young defensive players in Baltimore to find significant paydays elsewhere as others to depart in recent offseasons include linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Arthur Jones.
“If we were to go after the market on Pernell, how many other players would we not have on the Baltimore Ravens? That’s kind of the way we look at this thing,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “We have to look at how we can’t pay everybody market value, because it would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys and then go out in the market and get other guys.”
Though listed as an outside linebacker, McPhee displays unique versatility as he was able to consistently pressure quarterbacks while lining up inside or outside along the defensive line. According to PFF, he led the Ravens with 35 quarterback hurries and 21 quarterback hits during the 2014 season.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears handle McPhee’s workload as the Mississippi State product has battled knee issues at various times during his career, which led the Ravens to be mindful about managing his reps in both practices and games. Chicago head coach John Fox likely has an expanded role in mind for McPhee with the organization making such a steep financial commitment.
In 60 career games with the Ravens, McPhee accumulated 92 tackles, 17 sacks, seven pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.