OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens followed through on their intention of locking up Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, using the franchise tag Wednesday to retain him for next season and buy more time to negotiate a long-term deal.
One day before today’s NFL deadline for designating franchise players, the Ravens ensured that Suggs will not become a free agent by assigning him a one-year, $10.2 million tender. That figure represents 120 percent of last year’s compensation, roughly $8.5 million.
"It wasn’t a shock to me since they’ve already franchised him once," said Gary Wichard, Suggs’ agent, in a telephone interview. "He’s going to get paid one way or the other. Last year, he worked out on his own and had maybe his best season. I knew this would end up being part of the process.
"I’m sure there’s a purpose behind everything and I’m confident that the Ravens and I will be able to strike a deal over the next few months. You just keep talking and hopefully we can get a deal done that makes sense. It’s not a negative thing. It’s part of business."
A three-time Pro Bowl selection who led the Ravens with eight sacks last season while registering a career-high 102 tackles, Suggs has 53 career sacks in six seasons to rank second in franchise history behind Peter Boulware.
The Ravens hope to keep the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in Baltimore for a long time.
"Our plan is to sign ‘Sizzle’ to a long-term contract," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We believe our history of keeping our best players for a long time speaks for itself."
Taking this action means that linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott and center Jason Brown will become unrestricted free agents if they aren’t signed to long-term deals between now and the start of free agency Feb. 27.
The Ravens met with Lewis’ representatives today in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine and plan to meet with the agent for Scott and Brown this week, too.
By using the tag on Suggs, the Ravens are now an estimated $16.3 million under the salary cap prior to doling out restricted free agent tenders and retaining exclusive-rights free agents.
By using the franchise tag on Suggs again, he will be paid a total of $18.7 million over the past two years.
"I like the city, I like the team," Suggs told an Arizona radio station prior to receiving the tag. "If they don’t see me in their future long-term, do not draw me out when I’m 26. At least let me explore my options.
"If you want me on your team then prove it, do something about it. But if not, we need to part ways and you know it’s been a good run."
From a salary-cap standpoint, it would help the Ravens a lot to hammer out a long-term deal.
Franchising Suggs again would cost about $15 million next year as the Ravens would have to pay him the average of the top five salaries in the league regardless of position.
However, it’s an expensive proposition to secure a Pro Bowl pass rusher long-term as evidenced by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney’s six-year, $72 million contract.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how pending contract negotiations with Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison affect Suggs’ talks.
"It’s certainly a lot of money, but these things can be done," Wichard said. "I guess close can be applicable to contracts the same way as in horseshoes. You can be close, but it doesn’t matter.
"The idea is to finish and complete a deal. Terrell loves Baltimore and he’s a hell of a talent. I’m sure it will end up working out in the end."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.