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Tag: Suggs is it

The Ravens kept Terrell Suggs off the free-agent market yesterday, but it came at a steep cost.

By placing the franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker, the Ravens will give Suggs a one-year contract worth $8.065 million (the average of the five highest-paid linebackers in the NFL), which eats up most of the team's available salary-cap room.

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While the Ravens plan to make some moves in free agency, none is expected to be as significant as holding on to Suggs.

"Regardless of whether we sign a free agent from another team -- if that occurs -- Suggs is still going to be our biggest acquisition this year," general manager Ozzie Newsome said from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "Our ability to retain him is going to be bigger than anything we do. Going forward in free agency, if the opportunity comes for us to get another player, we'll definitely do our best to try to get him."

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Since the Ravens ended their disappointing 5-11 season, their offseason priority has been Suggs.

The franchise tag likely keeps him with the Ravens for at least this season. If another team makes an offer to Suggs, the Ravens can either match it or receive two first-round picks as compensation.

The Ravens, though, are looking for a long-term solution.

"We will continue to negotiate with 'Sizzle' with the intention of signing him to a long-term contract," Newsome said. "He is one of our best players, and our success with re-signing our best players is very good. We've done this with players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed and Chris McAlister -- and that was after we franchised Chris."

Suggs, 25, would have become one of the youngest players in NFL history to reach free agency, but the Ravens weren't going to let him hit the open market. With Lewis and McAlister getting older, the Ravens see Suggs as one of their future cornerstones on defense.

A first-round pick by the Ravens in 2003, Suggs has become one of the NFL's top pass rushers.

He is third on the Ravens' all-time list with 45 sacks, trailing Peter Boulware (70) and Michael McCrary (51). And since 2003, Suggs has recorded the sixth-most sacks in the league.

Last season, Suggs finished with a career-low five sacks but had a career-high 95 tackles.

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"You look at Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed, those are the three pieces that the defense will be built around as we move forward," Newsome said.

This is the first time the Ravens have used the tag since 2004, when they franchised McAlister.

Suggs recently said he holds no animosity over receiving the tag -- some players dislike the tag because they think they can earn more in free agency.

But according to ESPN, Suggs might challenge the Ravens on giving him the tag as a linebacker because he contends he played more than half of his snaps at defensive end.

If the Ravens used the tag on Suggs as a defensive end, they would have to pay him $8.879 million -- or $814,000 more than Suggs stands to receive as a franchise linebacker.

Suggs was listed as a starting linebacker for all 16 games last season.

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Suggs' agent, Gary Wichard, did not return phone calls yesterday.

"We've had several discussions with Gary about the franchise tag," Newsome said. "Based on the CBA [collective bargaining agreement] and based on what we've been told by management council, we are within our rights to franchise him as an outside linebacker."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Sack happy

Since 2003, the Ravens' Terrell Suggs has recorded the sixth-most sacks in the NFL:

Player, Team Sacks

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Jason Taylor, Miami 59

Aaron Schobel, Buffalo 52

Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis 47

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Green Bay 47

Michael Strahan, N.Y. Giants 46

Terrell Suggs, Ravens 45


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