Although this happened on Wednesday or Thursday of last week, I still cannot get over the 6 year almost $63 million signed by Terrell Suggs. This contract made him the highest paid linebacker of all time. That is fine. Suggs has been a very productive player for 6 years and the outside linebacker/rush-end position is the most important position on a defense. As time goes on, contracts seem to increase as players and agents compare their worth to the players who signed a new contract before them. James Harrison signed a 6 year $51 million dollar contract this off-season after earning Defensive Player of the Year honors. It is only natural that contract discussions for a player of a similar caliber would start around that figure.
There are a few things I do not understand. First off is that the contract is so heavily front-loaded that it would have been cheaper to franchise Suggs next year. That is to say that he is slated to make $40 million of the total $63 million over his first 2 years, and this does is more expensive than if they franchised him next year which would likely have cost them less than the $20 million they will pay him next year. Not to mention his current contract would have been significantly less than the $20 million he will be owed this coming year. I understand locking Suggs up and freeing up cap room for future years by paying the majority of the contract early, I just think they spent far too much.
Terrell Suggs is supposed to make $63 million, $31 million of which is guaranteed. This is the second highest guaranteed total of all time. The only player to ever receive more guaranteed money is Peyton Manning, which is understandable. I love defense more than I like offense and as I said earlier, I believe the OLB/DE hybrid position to be the most important on defense, especially if this guy can play the run, which Suggs can. But the second highest guaranteed total ever? That means he has more guaranteed money that a long list of players who are more valuable to their team.
We will skip all of the offensive players who should make more guaranteed money than Suggs, like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, and just compare the value of other defensive players. Julius Peppers was unable to work out a long-term deal with the Panthers this off-season. Peppers is a defensive end and is paid to do the same things as Suggs, except that Peppers is the anchor of that defense. Yes Jon Beason is very good, but any quarterback and any offensive coordinator will tell you that the game plan is around Peppers. They know where the pressure is coming from and they still cannot stop it.
This is not the case with Terrell Suggs. Despite his talent at the most important position, Suggs is often thought of as the third best player on that vaunted Ravens defense. Ed Reed is on his way to becoming the best free safety of all-time. He is a ball-hawk who constantly makes quarterbacks pay for throwing the ball down field. Then there is Ray Lewis. Although Ray is aging, he is still proving to be a top 5 middle linebacker in the league every year. He remains in great shape, has a fantastic football IQ, and is the emotional leader of that defense. Although he is younger than the two aforementioned stars, Suggs does not seem to warrant more guaranteed money than either of them.
Although Suggs may not be the best defensive player on the Ravens, is he the most important? Importance is a difficult thing to rate and an often misjudged quality. However this is what teams are paying for, or at least what the pecking order should be under the salary cap. So how do we measure importance to determine if Suggs’ total is justified? Peppers’ importance was mentioned earlier and a more quantitative example of importance would be that of Troy Polamalu. When Polamalu does not play, the Steelers lose one third of their defensive playbook. Suggs has never been injured and thus this cannot be spoken for, however is Suggs that important to the Ravens?
The Ravens had 12 different players register a sack last season. Suggs led the way with 8 and Bart Scott has left for New York. So that means 10 other players accounted for the other 24 sacks. Normally I would say that this is an indication of Suggs’ presence on the field helping his teammates get to the quarterback. This could no doubt be true despite what I am saying. However the Ravens defense is known for being extremely aggressive. They usually blitz an additional two guys and their pressure usually results in a sack or Ed Reed running the other way with the football. The fact that 12 different guys register a sack and who knows how many QB pressures, is a testament to the fact that the Ravens could put many people into that defense and see good production. One third of their defensive play calling is not dependent on whether or not Terrell Suggs is playing. Opposing teams know six guys are coming and they are not sure where they are coming from.
Suggs, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of the most talented players in the league and the Ravens were right to lock him up with a long term deal. Did they overspend? Yes. They did not need to shell out $31 million guaranteed nor $40 million over the next two years. Most athletic linebackers could do a pretty good job in Suggs’ spot on that defense for a fraction of the cost.