Podcast Episode 42: Recapping a crazy week of Ravens & NFL free agency

Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

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Five thoughts on where the Ravens stand before free agency officially begins

The start of NFL free agency doesn’t officially begin until the first minute of the 2019 league calendar, which is tomorrow (Wednesday, March 13) at 4:00 pm. Teams will not officially announce signings for unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) until that time, but several agreements are reportedly in-place with a handful of big names linked to the Baltimore Ravens.

First-year General Manager Eric Decosta, in preparation for this week, made several moves to help free up some salary cap space. Releasing Michael Crabtree and Eric Weddle saved the Ravens $15.2 million against the cap, and $10.5 million more will be opened up once Joe Flacco is officially dealt to the Denver Broncos tomorrow.

Knowing that a handful of players would likely find new homes for 2019 and beyond, DeCosta followed up on his goal of retaining young talent by re-signing Nick Boyle to a team-friendly deal and awarding Tavon Young a contract extension. Based on what’s transpired so far this week, DeCosta had the right idea.

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Three things to consider regarding Terrell Suggs’ free agency

The Baltimore Ravens are well into the off-season at this point and with the Super Bowl approaching Sunday, I started thinking a good deal about Terrell Suggs and the likelihood of him returning to Baltimore for another season in the purple and black.

Suggs has made his intentions clear on whether or not he would consider retirement or not this off-season by saying, “I don’t feel the itch. Ain’t no hair standing up on the back of my neck right there.”

Suggs doubled down after the AFC Wild Card season ending loss to the Chargers saying, “I’m healthy, and I still feel like I have some juice in the tank. I would love to be a Raven for life. We’ll have to see what happens. It’s a long time between here and March. So, we’re just going to enjoy it and hope we can work it out. If not, I’ll be lining up for somebody next year.”

The thought of T-Sizzle lining up for someone else gives me nausea. Then I stumbled across this nightmare scenario on twitter:

Curse You Adam. You should be suspended from Twitter for even planting the seed that Suggs could be lining up for Lord Belichick.

There are a ton of things that go into the decision on whether or not to bring Suggs back as he hits free agency. Here are three things that I am considering.

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Suggs was selected with the 10th overall pick out of Arizona State in 2003. Image Credit: Morris Trophy

1) Tradition/Our Guy Factor

Suggs’ accolades in Baltimore are endless. It started for Suggs in 2003 when he took home AP Defensive Rookie of the year honors in his first year out of Arizona State by notching 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. He is a seven time Pro Bowler. He was the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the year award winner.  He was also named first team All-Pro in that historic 2011 season where he piled up 14 sacks, two interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He is the Ravens all time sack leader and ranks tied for 13th in NFL history with 132.5 career sacks.  That mark puts him second among active players trailing only Julius Peppers who has 159.5 career sacks. He has played all 247 of his career games as a Raven and has always been considered one of the more popular players in Baltimore.

Trying to picture a Ravens defense that doesn’t feature Suggs, Ray Lewis, or Ed Reed doesn’t feel right. Those three players were the cornerstones for a dominant era of defensive football in Baltimore that yielded incredible success including the 2012 Super Bowl season and several other deep playoff runs. After that Super Bowl run, Lewis retired and Reed should’ve before he opted to play a meaningless year in 2013.

That left Sizzle as the last man standing from the old guard. Suggs picked up a Pro-Bowl season in 2013 by registering 10 sacks. He waited until 2017 before earning another Pro-Bowl nod after picking up 11 sacks. He has also worn a Bane Mask and a Gladiator helmet as he has become the star of Ravens pre-game intros.

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Terrell Suggs has worn the Bane mask several times in an effort to get the crowd going. Image Credit: Sportswire

USP NFL: PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS S FBN USA MD

Image Credit: USA Today

Despite all of Suggs’ career accomplishments and cherished antics, the Ravens will have a tough decision on their hands in deciding what their future with Suggs will look like.

On one hand he is one of the leaders of the defense and a staple of Baltimore football for the last 16 years. On the other hand Suggs is turning 37-years-old in October and is coming off a season in which he tallied just seven sacks. That was his lowest total in a season where made 13+ starts since 2009 when he finished with 4.5 sacks. Suggs also picked up just 1.5 sacks from week seven onward, a possible sign of fatigue from an aging player.

The Ravens need to be careful this off-season because any deal they look to strike with Suggs is indicative of the player that he is right now and not the player who has earned a Ring of Honor spot throughout his career.

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It will be Eric DeCosta deciding the fate of Terrell Suggs as he takes over for Ozzie Newsome. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

2) What is the market value of a 36-year-old pass-rushing linebacker?

The Ravens have often lived by the mantra “right player right price” throughout Ozzie Newsome’s tenure as the GM. This has been pivotal throughout the history of the Ravens as they have consistently let talented defensive players leave in free agency only to be proven right when they flop in their new homes. Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jamie Sharper are just a few that come to mind that were out of Baltimore because of this line of thought.

But as we all know Newsome isn’t the GM in Baltimore anymore. Eric DeCosta, long rumored to be the GM in waiting for the Ravens, officially took over the GM role on January 11. Whether or not DeCosta will follow suit on the “right player right price” mantra remains to be seen. Tune in to his press conference Wednesday to learn more on that.

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Julius Peppers contracts in recent years with the Panthers should be a good starting place for the Ravens in talks with Suggs. Image Credit: AP

With that being said, what is the value of Suggs at this point? In 2017, the aforementioned Peppers (37 at the time) earned a one year $3.5 million contract with the Panthers that included $1.65 million guaranteed coming off of a 7.5 sack season with the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He performed well in 2017 picking up 11 sacks and was rewarded with a another one year deal worth $5 million and $2.5 million guaranteed. Peppers had five sacks during the 2018 season.

You’d have to imagine that any deal for Suggs would need to be similar to either of the most recent Peppers deals. Especially when you consider the “our guy factor” that likely played a part in the Peppers negotiations as well.

Suggs earned $4 million last season so the Ravens would be right in the ballpark to offer him a similar contract this off-season. The issue would come if Suggs wanted another multiyear deal and he felt he could fetch that additional year or more money elsewhere (please not New England). He could also be trying to find a situation that best positions him for another Super Bowl run.

He’s ending up in New England isn’t he…….

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With other defensive talents potentially on the way out, the Ravens may want to keep Suggs. Image Credit: Getty Images

3) Other Free Agency Question Marks

Suggs isn’t the only leader or pass rusher on the Ravens top ranked defense that is in danger of not returning for the 2019 season.

C.J. Mosley and the Ravens are already locked in contract talks. The 26-year-old four time Pro-Bowler will be looking for a new deal this off-season that will rank him among one of the top paid players at his position. If that deal isn’t offered in Baltimore, it is likely that Mosley would be able to find it rather quickly on the open market.

Mosley, while a liability in pass coverage, is pivotal to what the Ravens do in the running game and has a knack for making big plays in big moments. Mosley also wears the green dot at times for the defense, meaning that he is in communication with the defensive coordinator to relay plays as well pre-snap adjustments and other things. If I had to guess, Mosley will be back in the purple and black next season.

Fellow green dot leader Eric Weddle is also currently in limbo regarding his return to the Ravens. The 34-year-old safety has one season left on his current contract and is due to make $6.5 million. He also accounts for $8.25 million against the cap overall. Weddle appeared to lose quite a few steps this season.

He had said after the end of this season that his plan would be to play out the final year of his contract in Baltimore or he would ride off into the sunset but switched course this a week ago saying “We’ll see” in regards to whether or not he would play next season if the Ravens choose to move from Weddle. I’d guess the Ravens will look to cut Weddle this off-season for the salary cap relief.

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Za’Darius Smith’s situation could play a role in whether or not Suggs is back in Baltimore as well. Image Credit: Baltimore Beatdown

As far as the pass rush is concerned, Za’Darius Smith hits free agency for the first time in his young career as well.  Smith is coming off of a career year where he notched 8.5 sacks and figures to rewarded handsomely in free agency.

If Mosley and Weddle go, it could make Suggs a higher priority to sign this off-season. Moving on from your three defensive leaders one year removed from boasting the best unit in football wouldn’t be ideal. That situation could open the door for other players to step up into that leadership role like Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Williams among others.

If Smith walks as well, the pass rush would consist of Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams. Bowser and Williams have been relatively non-existent in their first two seasons in Baltimore tallying a total of 5.5 sacks in a combined 46 games.

The last link to the great Ravens defenses of old could be out the door this off-season. And while his on-field production has decreased, Suggs could prove to be a difficult piece to replace.

Image Credit: USA Today