With the 2009 NFL season still two months away, a key decision that will impact the Ravens’ fate in 2010 and beyond lies in waiting this week. Whether the Ravens are able to sign outside linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs to a long-term extension is a key question that must be answered.
Suggs was designated the franchise tag for the second consecutive season this February, and as a result was not present for the team’s minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
The deadline for the team to sign their franchised player to long-term deals is July 15 at 4 p.m.
If a new deal isn’t reached, Suggs would have no other option but to sign his franchise tender, and the Ravens would have to wait until the season is over to sign Suggs to a new deal, once he becomes a free agent once again.
Failing to re-sign Suggs could spell trouble down the line. Though it would not necessarily mean Suggs would leave the Ravens, Suggs would be become a free agent for the third straight year. This would put pressure on the team to either franchise him again or get a deal done quickly.
Suggs is confident a deal will be done on time.
“I feel like we’re getting close,” Suggs told the team’s official Web site last month. “Negotiations are going on. Fans can be optimistic that I’ll be [at Training Camp]. He emphasized there are minor things to work out.
The Ravens are in a unique situation in that Suggs is still a very young player. When he was drafted 10th overall in 2003, he was the youngest player to ever play in the NFL.
While the Ravens have felt comfortable letting older players move on, like Adalius Thomas after the 2006 season, Suggs is entering his prime, and an elite pass rusher is hard to find in this league.
Signing Suggs could also free up salary cap room, allowing the Ravens to pursue other players leading into the preseason.
Suggs held out of Training Camp all last season and still earned his third Pro Bowl trip, finishing with 102 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions, both of which he turned into touchdowns.
The Ravens have a history of retaining high impact players like Suggs. They designated former No. 1 cornerback Chris McAlister the franchise player two years in a row before signing him to a long-term deal. They also signed long-time defensive leader Ray Lewis to a new contract this offseason.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made re-signing Suggs a priority, and according to Suggs, he and the pass rusher have been in conversation.
It has believed that Suggs wants a contract resembling the one Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney signed in 2007, but Suggs said that he just wants something that’s fair. Freeney signed a six-year, $72 million contract two years ago, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history at the time.
With a new defensive coordinator in Greg Mattison, the Ravens would like to see Suggs in camp on time to adjust.
Suggs has stayed focused this offseason with a strict training program in Los Angeles.
With mere days to go before the Ravens end the Suggs saga or see it extended another year, Baltimore fans and media alike will keep a keen ear on all news coming out of 1 Winning Drive.