OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens’ serious intentions about locking up Terrell Suggs for the future went beyond the traditional contract realm Wednesday, hammering out a six-year, $63 million blockbuster deal that elevated the outside linebacker into the Peyton Manning stratosphere with one of the richest deals in league history.
Suggs’ $33.1 million in bonuses, including a $10.1 million signing bonus and $23 million in an option bonus next year, is the second-highest bonus total ever behind Manning, the Indianapolis Colts’ star quarterback.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection is now the highest-paid linebacker in NFL as he’s due $40 million in the first two years of the deal.
Plus, Suggs’ total of $38 million in guaranteed money tops Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen’s $31 million and Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney’s $30 million, the previous highs for defensive players.
The Ravens are banking on the landmark deal as being a worthy investment in the 26-year-old, and so is Suggs.
"I’m going to continue to be the dominant player that I’ve always been," Suggs said during a conference call. "My best years are ahead of me, so I’m just looking forward to showing them that they didn’t make a mistake and that you’ve got the right guy."
The Ravens are confident that Suggs won’t become complacent after receiving a deal that stacks up as superior to Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth during each of the first four years of their respective contracts.
That includes Suggs being paid $40 million through two seasons compared to Haynesworth’s $35.6 million over that span as well as Suggs’ 48.3 million total after four seasons against Haynesworth’s $48.1 million.
"Just because you sign one of those mega deals, I think he understands that it doesn’t mean that you’ve arrived as a player," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And a lot of what we’ve done in signing ‘Sizzle’ to this is we’re anticipating the player he’s going to be over the course of the next six years."
The Ravens struck an agreement in principle at around midnight during a three-way conversation conducted between Suggs, his agent, Gary Wichard, who had previously negotiated the Freeney deal, and general manager Ozzie Newsome.
They beat the NFL’s Wednesday deadline governing franchise players, which ensured that Suggs wouldn’t be playing under a one-year, $10.17 million franchise tag.
"Getting a deal done with Terrell is consistent with our history of retaining our best Pro Bowl players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Todd Heap and Jamal Lewis," Newsome said in a statement. "This is a good day for the Ravens’ franchise."
Instead of possibly becoming one of the most pursued free agents during a potentially uncapped 2010 free agent signing period, Suggs is expected to remain in a Ravens uniform until he’s at least 32 years old.
The amount of upfront money clinched the deal, according to Suggs’ agent.
"It’s somewhat anticlimactic at the end of the day, but it’s a happy day," Wichard said. "It’s the best place in the world for Terrell, and he’s the best guy for them."
Suggs emphasized that he wasn’t necessarily trying to be paid like a quarterback.
It just worked out that way.
"That was never a focal point," Suggs said. "That was never brought up once in the negotiation. I never wanted to be the highest-paid anything. I’m not that guy. I don’t care what the next man is getting.
"I just want it to be fair. I would never say I want more money than Peyton Manning or anything like that. I just wanted what was fair, what I felt that I’ve earned."
Suggs has never missed a game since being drafted in the first-round in 2003 out of Arizona State, an impressive streak of durability that’s been running for 101 games in a row.
During the AFC title game last season, he sacked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice despite a painful shoulder injury.
Last season, the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year registered a career-high 102 tackles and led the team with eight sacks. Plus, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
In six seasons, Suggs has notched 53 sacks to rank second in franchise history. He has also forced 19 fumbles.
Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty had been working on this deal since February of last year, which marked the first time the Ravens used the franchise tag on Suggs.
By getting the deal done now, the Ravens have avoided the expensive proposition of possibly designating him as their franchise player for a third consecutive year. That would have entailed paying him the average of the NFL’s top five salaries.
"I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have my doubts," Suggs said. "I was concerned. We were all on the phone all day. It was little minor things here and there, and I think we were like, ‘Would you really let something minor stop you from signing a long-term deal?’ That was it, so we just went in and got it done."
The new deal also means that Suggs will be attending training camp in Westminster this year after skipping last season’s camp as an unsigned franchise player.
Suggs has missed the Ravens’ entire offseason program and minicamps this year.
"He’s committed to me on a number of occasions that when this thing is done, he’ll be a leader in every part of our program, offseason, training camp, every part of it," Harbaugh said. "He said he’s moving to Baltimore as soon as he can. He’s the kind of guy that really wants to work on football. ..
"He’s a guy that perks up the whole practice field, so it will be fun to have him out there. I know the fans will enjoy seeing him out there early on, too, because he’s definitely a barrel of laughs at practice."
As Newsome referenced, the Ravens have a long tradition of holding onto their own whenever someone emerges as one of the top players at their position in the league. That could eventually mean a new deal in the future for massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Consequently, Suggs wasn’t surprised that he became the latest recipient of a big payday from team owner Steve Bisciotti.
"I mean some people just fit the Ravens’ identity, and I’m convinced, I’m pretty sure, that I’m one of them," Suggs said. "Some people when they retire like Dick Butkus and Walter Payton they’ll always be Bears.
“Tom Brady will always be a Patriot. Ray Lewis, he’ll always be a Raven. I think this has given me the opportunity to solidify that I’ll always be a Raven."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.