Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ravens shouldn't drive 55, may be better off shopping Suggs in '09

Terrell Suggs ended his protest on Monday and returned to open arms in the Ravens’ locker room. He said his protest was just business and now it’s time to play. He also expressed hope about his future in Baltimore.

"I'm highly optimistic they'll eventually get something done," Suggs said. "I can't worry about it now. I haven't lost faith in them. I still think they want me here. That's all I've got to go on."

Well, not exactly.

You see Suggs has someone else to go on -- his agent Gary Wichard who is more than likely the driving force behind Suggs’ 23 day protest of his franchise tag. Word is that Wichard is seeking “highest paid defender” status for his client. And if that's true Ozzie Newsome should do nothing to stoke Suggs’ optimism. Absolutely nothing!

Now there are some who believe that Suggs’ best days are ahead of him. He won’t turn 26 until October 11 and he’s the author of 45 sacks in his 5 seasons. He has also become a more complete linebacker (even if he thinks he’s a defensive end) – one who supports the run and defends the pass more efficiently than he did earlier in his career. There is no denying that Terrell Suggs is a very good football player.

He’s just not a great football player.

He’s not the best defender in the NFL.

He’s not even the best defender in Baltimore.

Count me among those who don’t see Suggs as a difference maker. He’s not a player that opposing offensive coordinators have to alter their game plan for. Trevor Pryce might be. Ed Reed when he isn’t freelancing and abandoning his defensive backfield mates is a player that coordinators maneuver around. Haloti Ngata is a big nuisance to opponents and has to be accounted for.

Should the highest paid defender require a wingman to be effective?

Suggs needed Trevor Pryce in a big way in ’07. He had him for only 3+ games and in the 12+ games when Pryce was in street clothes, Suggs managed 4 sacks and forced one fumble. What happens when Pryce who is in the twilight of his career, decides to retire? Will the Ravens then need to find another Trevor Pryce to justify a $32 million bonus to Suggs? What might that cost and what might that do to the team’s cap structure? Will the Ravens just continue to plow money into a defense when the evolution of the league screams more investment on offense?

Are the Ravens to assume that Suggs’ best days are ahead of him? And if so why? Last year Suggs had five sacks and the year before he had 9 ½. His best season getting to the quarterback was in 2003 as a rookie when he had 12 sacks and forced 6 fumbles. Sure he makes more tackles now but does he impact the game the same way?

Trevor Pryce appears to be in excellent shape and Antwan Barnes should be more disruptive in ’08 than his rookie season. That might help Suggs and his sack totals should climb. But then again, so might Wichard’s demands for his client. Suppose Suggs reaches double digit sacks in ’08. If he wanted $32 million in guarantees on the heels of 5 sacks, what will he want on the heels of 10 sacks, $40 million -- $40 million to a player who has never been on the winning side in a playoff game?

Of course the Ravens could tag Suggs again in ’09 and that will probably cost the Ravens $10 million. They could also tag and trade Suggs.

The Kansas City Chiefs went that route with Jared Allen last year. They traded Allen to the Vikings and in return received the Vikings first round pick and two third round picks. Might that be a better way to go for the Ravens?

Let’s face it the Ravens are almost certainly not going to the playoffs in ’08. Chances are the playoffs in ’09 might also be a reach. The team’s defense is aging. In 2010 Pryce will likely be gone. Chris McAlister won’t have the speed to keep up with top end receivers by then. Samari Rolle will be a fading memory. Fabian Washington could seek riches elsewhere.

Even Ray Lewis could be gone.

The team will need to replenish their defense and what organization in the league can do that through the draft better than the Ravens?

No matter what Suggs does this year, if the Ravens can find a suitor for Suggs the way the Chiefs did for Jared Allen, those draft picks look far more appealing than a $10 million franchise tag or a $40 million signing bonus.

And from this corner, it’s not even close.

Photo by Sabina Moran


ravcolt said...

You were in the right place, but it must have been the wrong year...2008 was the Year of the Trade.