Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs’ best chance of returning to the Ravens might have ended when Ozzie Newsome stepped down as general manager this offseason and was replaced by Eric DeCosta.
That’s not to say that DeCosta doesn’t have the same respect for Suggs as Newsome, but Newsome had a special fondness for great veteran players. Maybe that’s because he was once in their position.
It was reported Monday that Suggs, a 16-year veteran, is expected to sign with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal, ending what was possibly a Hall of Fame career here in Baltimore. It wasn’t totally unexpected because Suggs hasn’t played at a Pro Bowl-level in years, even though he has long been one of the game’s best pass rushers.
Somehow, I still believe that if Newsome was still the general manager, he would have allowed Suggs to eventually retire as a Raven, just as he did with middle linebacker Ray Lewis and left tackle Jonathan Ogden. The only other iconic player that left the Ravens and signed with another team was safety Ed Reed, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
Newsome, though, always had a soft spot for players the Ravens drafted that went on to become stars.
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I don’t know if the Ravens made Suggs an offer, either one that was lucrative or one that he might have considered insulting. But I do know that he hasn’t played a full season in recent years that has met the high standard he set throughout most of his career, which made him one of the best outside linebackers to ever play the game. In the past couple of seasons, Suggs started off strong but tired shortly after the midway point. That happens to a lot of great players who stay around too long.
But Suggs, selected No. 10 overall in the 2003 draft, became the best pass rusher in Ravens history with 132 ½ sacks. He played more games than any other Raven with 229. Former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware (70 career sacks) had more speed, which allowed him to get around pass blockers. Defensive end Michael McCrary (51 career sacks in Baltimore) was as relentless as any Raven, but Suggs was the total package.
Suggs was big, physical, had speed to blow by most offensive tackles, but also the athleticism to change direction and the strength to toss or overpower most opponents.
When Suggs finishes playing in the NFL, he will long be remembered for the fun he had with the game. He could be loud and obnoxious at times, but also very energetic and funny. He treated pro football like it was just a game, and he was just a big kid lucky to be playing it. It is still amusing to this day all the verbal shots he used to take at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for being a pretty boy and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger for being such a drama queen.
And of course Suggs, nicknamed “Sizzle”, was correct.
It will be interesting to see if Suggs gets into the Hall of Fame. He might not make it on the first ballot, but he’ll eventually get in because his resume includes being named Rookie of the Year in 2003, Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and a Pro Bowl selection seven times. When a player has more than 100 sacks, that’s quite an accomplishment.
If he truly is gone, Suggs will have a good time in his home state of Arizona, but it won’t be the same as Baltimore. He’ll always be a Raven.