Suggs: “I’m hopeful”

Street Talk Suggs: “I’m hopeful”

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OWINGS MILLS — Seated next to Rod Woodson in a Los Angeles television studio Wednesday night, Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs smiled as he listened to Woodson forecast what will happen to the team’s trio of free agent linebackers.

During an NFL Network appearance, Woodson predicted that Suggs will be designated as the Ravens’ franchise player for the second consecutive year, that the team will try to hammer out a new contract for All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis prior to free agency and that inside linebacker Bart Scott won’t be back.

"I think they’ll tag [Suggs] and try to get Ray done before free agency," said Woodson, a former Ravens safety recently voted into the Hall of Fame. "I think if Ray makes it to free agency, he will leave. I think Bart will be the odd guy out."

It would cost $10.2 million to use the franchise tag again on Suggs, a one-year tender that represents 120 percent of his 2008 compensation of nearly $8.5 million established in a new hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker tender. The deadline to apply the franchise tag is Feb. 19.

Nonetheless, Suggs isn’t giving up hope that the Raven will ultimately work out a long-term contract extension.

"I really have faith in the Ravens and in my agent that we’ll get something done," Suggs said. "I know we’ll get something done. I showed them last year that I love the city of Baltimore and I wanted to be a Raven. I’m hopeful."

The Ravens have been negotiating off and on with Suggs’ agent, Gary Wichard, for the past few years.

It’s believed that Suggs, who has talked about granting the Ravens a hometown discount so that the team can retain himself, Lewis and Scott, will be extremely expensive to sign to a long-term contract.

It was Wichard who negotiated Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney’s six-year, $72 million blockbuster deal, and those numbers could be used as a benchmark in contract discussions.

When asked about possibly playing for New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, Suggs reiterated that he prefers to stay in Baltimore.

"Yeah, but God forbid something doesn’t work out with Baltimore," Suggs said. "Baltimore has first dibs. I want to see if myself and Baltimore can come to an agreement. It would be an honor to play for Rex Ryan again, but to be totally honest, I’ll play for anybody that will have me. Baltimore is my first choice."

Meanwhile, it’s unlikely the Ravens will reverse their stance about not using the franchise tag to hold onto Lewis, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection.

There are $11.3 million reasons why they probably won’t use the franchise tag on the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Under NFL rules, the cost of franchising Lewis would require raising his $9.428 million 2008 salary-cap figure by 20 percent because that number is higher than the average of the top five linebacker salaries.

 

Plus, Lewis turns 34 in May and would likely be angered by the restrictive nature of the tag and the lack of a signing bonus.

At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that the team was willing to pay Lewis a lot of money to keep him and believes that Lewis wants to finish his career in Baltimore.

 

The Ravens are expected to launch serious negotiations with Lewis’ agent at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis between Feb. 18 and Feb. 24.

Will Lewis be back?

"I don’t know," Suggs said. "Either way it goes, I think everybody will be all right. Ray is a phenomenal leader, a phenomenal player. I love being his teammate. On the flip side, you can’t always have your big brother fight for you. You have to grow up sometimes."

The Ravens also have pending decisions to make on center Jason Brown kicker Matt Stover and strong safety Jim Leonhard.

The Ravens reportedly have $20 million in salary-cap space before retaining any of their restricted and exclusive-rights free agents. If they cut cornerback Chris McAlister, it would free up an additional $8 million in cap space.

Of the Ravens’ linebackers, Scott is considered the most likely to depart even though he hasn’t ruled out re-signing.

"It would definitely be weird if he was to go," Suggs said. "Any kind of change would look funny. Bart kind of took me under his wing when I first got to Baltimore. You don’t want to play without your brothers, but sometimes you have to grow up without them."

NOTE: Suggs commented on Ryan leaving and what kind of imprint he’ll make on the Jets in his first season as a head coach.

"It’s a bittersweet taste," Suggs said. "Not only the defense, but everybody in our building, we all love Rex. By the same token, he deserves it. He made the players get better, especially myself. We almost lost him last year. I’m just glad we got him for another year. ..

"[The Jets are] going to run the ball. On defense, they’re going to stop the run. They’ll play smash-mouth on both sides of the ball. Rex is a lovable guy. They’re going to enjoy Rex. He’s a guy you will always remember as your coach. I believe you’ll see improvements in Year One."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
 
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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