The Baltimore Ravens have a decision to make with linebacker Terrell Suggs. General manager Ozzie Newsome was noncommittal about the status of Suggs' contract, which expires after the 2014 season. He's due to make $7.8 million and will be a $12.4 million cap hit, making him a candidate for a restructure or release. Newsome is leaning against restructuring Suggs, but is open to offering him a contract extension. From the Baltimore Sun:
"I think we'll continue with our theme of not restructuring contracts, but there's a different between restructuring and offering guys extensions," Newsome said. "We have guys that are in the last year of their contract or heading into the last year of their contract, and we've had a history of being able to get good deals done with guys heading into that last year. I don't think we will embark on doing any more restructuring, but we will probably end up doing some extensions."
The big concern is Suggs' performance down the stretch of the season. He started 2013 on a tear, recording nine sacks in his first eight games and looking like a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Suggs' production fell off a cliff in the second half, getting just one sack and 20 tackles over the final eight games as the Ravens faded and missed the playoffs. Of particular concern is that he didn't seem to have any injury problems despite coming off an Achilles tear in 2012.
Bringing Suggs back at his current salary would be pricey for the Ravens--they're projected to be only $9 million below the 2014 salary cap number, according to Over The Cap. They also have to make a decision on Haloti Ngata, who's due $8.5 million and struggled in 2013. Baltimore also has key free agents they want to re-sign, such as Dennis Pitta, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher and Daryl Smith. Newsome has not been afraid to let fan favorite veterans walk for money reasons, letting Ed Reed hit free agency and trading Anquan Boldin shortly after winning the Super Bowl last season.
If the Ravens let Suggs go, they'll be thin at the linebacker spot, with only Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee having experience at the position. Suggs turns 32 next October, but he's only two years removed from a Defensive Player of the Year award and would be one of the top pass-rushing linebackers on the market if the Ravens cut ties.
Newsome smartly got out in front of the issue early in the offseason, going public with his desires and gaining leverage in the process. It's looking unlikely that Suggs will see all of his $7.8 million salary in 2014, and his Ravens future could depend on whether he's willing to work out an extension for lower pay or find another team willing to pay him that much. If he wants to see another big paycheck, though, he'll have to prove his poor second half play was only an aberration and not a sign of things to come.