The Achilles injury suffered by 2011 NFL defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs has sent the Baltimore Ravens scrambling to cobble together a contingency plan for life without the star defensive end/outside linebacker. But if a recent report is to be believed, then that contingency plan will not include the addition of the top free-agent pass-rusher available.
Almost as soon as news of Suggs' injury broke speculation began to swirl that the team might take a look at free agent defensive end Andre Carter, who played for the New England Patriots a year ago. Scribes such as ESPN's Mike Reiss posited that the 12th-year veteran could be a good fit in Baltimore:
When I first heard of Terrell Suggs’ Achilles injury, the thought was that Andre Carter could be a nice addition for the Ravens when/if healthy. Losing Suggs for any stretch of time is a major blow, but I think it would be a mistake to count the Ravens out.
However, that notion was shot down fairly quickly by Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who stated in his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column that sources told him the Ravens don't have much interest in bringing the soon-to-be 33-year-old Carter on board:
There is one compelling free agent available who some observers might think would interest the Ravens: Andre Carter, who had a 10-sack season in a reborn years for the Patriots last fall. He turns 33 Saturday. The Patriots could have interest in him again, but would the Ravens kick his tires too? From what I hear, it's unlikely, even though he'll be ready to practice full-speed in training camp after a late-season quad injury landed him on injured reserve in New England.
Carter had a very successful season for the Patriots as their "elephant" pass rusher in 2011, notching 52 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. Still, the Ravens may well be reluctant to bring aboard a player who is well the wrong side of 30 and who has yet to resume full-speed workouts after getting hurt late last season.
Also, the Ravens have a number of in-house options that they may use in an attempt to replace Suggs. They include Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger, who, according to statistics that King gathered from Pro Football Focus, had the same number of quarterback hits and pressures (49) as Suggs in far fewer snaps. This isn't to say that either player is of Suggs' caliber, but it does demonstrate that the pair showed some ability to get after the quarterback.
The Ravens also selected All-American linebacker Courtney Upshaw of Alabama, who had 9.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide in 2011, in the second round of April's NFL draft. You can bet your last dollar that the amount of playing time Upshaw will see as a rookie increased exponentially the instant that Suggs went down. If the youngster can acclimate to the NFL quickly, his presence will go a long way towards softening the blow of Suggs' absence.
Finally, while the Patriots and Ravens both employ a "hybrid" defense that features both three- and four-man fronts, most of Carter's NFL success, including last season, came as a 4-3 defensive end. The Ravens don't feature as many 4-3 looks defensively as the Patriots, and the last time Carter lined up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front (with the Washington Redskins in 2010), it was an abysmal failure, with Carter managing a paltry 2.5 sacks for the season.
The loss of a key defensive player such as Terrell Suggs was a devastating blow to a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The Ravens will be hard-pressed to come close to filling the hole he'll leave in the Baltimore defense. However, for now at least, it doesn't appear that head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have any intention of trying to fill that hole with Andre Carter.
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