(Updated: Monday 2:30 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the start of free agency less than a month away and the Ravens hoping to clear more salary cap space to address a number of needs, the future of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been resolved with the veteran having a reasonable chance to finish his career in Baltimore.
And that’s exactly the way he wanted it.
“That is definitely the message,” Suggs said. “That’s the plan I see unless Ozzie [Newsome] has a trick up his sleeve. That’s definitely it. Sizzle will be a Raven for life.”
According to multiple outlets, the general manager and Suggs’ agent, Joel Segal, reached a long-term contract extension that reduces his $12.4 million cap figure to $7.8 million for the 2014 season and gives the six-time Pro Bowl selection and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year the opportunity to complete his career with the team that drafted him in 2003. Suggs was entering the final season of a six-year, $62.5 million contract signed in 2009 and was owed a $7.8 million base salary this season before receiving a four-year, $28.5 million extension that includes $16 million in guaranteed money.
Suggs will reportedly now receive an $11 million signing bonus with a $1 million base salary in 2014 and a $4 million guaranteed salary for the 2015 season. The extension totals four years and $28.5 million, but the Ravens will have the necessary flexibility to escape the deal after 2015 should Suggs’ production drop significantly as he enters his mid-30s.
“We’ve tried to put together a deal that’s a win-win for the player and for the organization,” Newsome said. “Now, whether he plays two years or three years, we have a mechanism to be able to deal with the salary cap that would make it friendly for us and friendly for Terrell.”
Newsome made it clear at the start of the offseason that the Ravens would look to adjust Suggs’ contract status in hopes of not only providing cap relief but to keep him in Baltimore beyond 2014. Had the sides not reached an agreement, it was possible that the Ravens would part ways with the 31-year-old in a manner similar to how they traded veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin last winter.
Rebounding from an injury-plagued 2012 season, Suggs began last season looking like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate by recording nine sacks and 60 tackles in his first eight games but struggled in the second half of the season, collecting only one sack and 20 tackles in the final eight contests. That late-season decline and his advancing age likely made the possibility of hitting the open market less appealing to the 2003 first-round pick, who has 94 1/2 sacks in his 11-year career.
In looking back at the second half of the season, Suggs admitted there were times in which he was trying to do too much and not playing withing the structure of the defense.
“Don’t try to do so much of everybody else’s job,” Suggs said. “Let the coverage be itself, play the play, trust the play that’s being called and just be Sizzle. I think I was probably, down the stretch, trying to do too much. As one game went by, as two games went by, it was just like, ‘Alright, I need to get a sack. I need to get a sack,’ and I stopped letting the game come to me.”
The Ravens can now shift their focus to left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta, who are regarded as their top unrestricted free agents to re-sign before the start of free agency on March 11. Prior to the news of an extension for Suggs, the Ravens had just under $12 million in cap space, but that didn’t exclude addressing any of their exclusive-rights or restricted free agents.
Without offering names, Newsome acknowledged that the Ravens have entered discussions regarding additional contract extensions, but the completion of the Suggs contract provides consolation in not only knowing he’ll be a member of the Ravens defense in the foreseeable future but the flexibility to address significant needs on both sides of the ball.
“What it does is just allow us to have the opportunity to pursue some of our own guys, but also be prepared for when free agency opens on March 11,” Newsome said. “If there are some players that are attractive to us, then we can pursue them.”
(Updated: Monday 2:30 p.m.)