Terrell Suggs Still Has It, But Edge Rusher Class Is Awesome
Seeing those mockups of Joe Flacco in an orange Denver Broncos jersey was weird, right?
Now imagine seeing Terrell Suggs in something other than purple and black. Yikes.
Immediately after the Ravens' season ended, the 36-year-old Suggs made it clear that he intends to play football again in 2019. He would prefer that to be in Baltimore, but the pending free agent said he's willing to go elsewhere if he must.
General Manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens still have a lot of big decisions to make this offseason following the reported Flacco trade. Determining how much Suggs has left in the tank, and what (if anything) Baltimore is willing to offer him is one of the most important.
"Terrell Suggs may have lacked his trademark 'sizzle' this season, but he still was a productive pass-rusher and made an impact for the Ravens' defensive unit," wrote the Pro Football Focus team.
Suggs had seven sacks (PFF credited him with eight) and 54 total pressures in 2018. His 70.0 overall grade from PFF was 40th among edge defenders and was nearly 10 points lower than the 81.0 that he posted last season.
"Suggs has slowed down a bit as his age increases, and this is especially true of his ability to defend the run," PFF wrote.
Suggs' 66.0 run-defense grade this season was the lowest mark of his 13-year career, and his run-stop percentage of only 5.8 was 53rd among edge defenders. The Ravens were still one of the NFL's premier run-stopping teams, and Suggs still made his impact felt often in that regard.
Where Suggs is still producing the most, according to PFF, is as a pass rusher. His pass-rushing grade of 73.6 was the second-highest mark of his career and 21st in the NFL.
"While Suggs isn't one of the most explosive edge players in the league anymore, he is a polished veteran who can offer a threat off the edge for a team in desperate need of pass-rushing help," PFF wrote.
So, with all that in mind, is it best to keep Suggs for another year (or more)? Or is this the year to try to find somebody to help Matthew Judon step into Suggs' massive shoes?
In short, the pass-rusher class, both in free agency and the draft, is loaded, and that will almost certainly impact Suggs' status either with the Ravens or anywhere else.
In free agency, pass rushers make up 10 of the top 25 free agents on NFL.com’s list. That includes the Cowboys' DeMarcus Lawrence, Texans' Jadeveon Clowney, Chiefs' Dee Ford, Patriots' Trey Flowers, Seahawks' Frank Clark, Vikings' Anthony Barr and even Suggs' teammate, Za'Darius Smith.
All of those players competing for contracts could push Suggs, who was not listed on the top 25, down the list of teams looking for pass-rush help.
Then there's the draft class. On Mel Kiper's top 25 big board, the ESPN draft expert has seven defensive end or outside linebacker pass rushers, and there are some more all-around linebackers that could elevate that number.
"In last year's NFL Draft, quarterbacks (football's most important position) dominated the top half of the first round," wrote The Athletic's Dane Brugler. "In this year's draft, edge rushers (football's second-most important position) will dominate the top half of the first round."
Players that could potentially be there for the Ravens at No. 22 would be Florida's Jachai Polite, Florida State's Brian Burns, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson (who broke Suggs’ college career sacks record).
Is this the year the Ravens turn the page on Suggs' illustrious Ravens career? Only time will tell, but it could be the end of another chapter in Baltimore.
Michael Pierce Was Ravens' Top Defender; What's His Future?
Lost in the shuffle of the Ravens' lack of defensive stars on PFF's top 101 players of 2018 list was defensive tackle Michael Pierce (not a guy usually lost in any pack).
On the league's No. 1 defense, Pierce was the highest-ranked guy, per PFF.
Pierce was also the highest-graded interior offensive lineman in the AFC North, beating out Pro Bowlers Cameron Heyward of the Steelers, Geno Atkins of the Bengals and even teammate Brandon Williams.
So what are these bigger dreams for Pierce? What's next for him?
Pierce came to the Ravens as an undrafted rookie out of Samford in 2016, and is now preparing to become a restricted free agent in March. Baltimore will undoubtedly place a high-round tender on Pierce and be aggressive in fending off other teams from stealing him.
Beyond that, Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz believes Pierce could be somebody to consider signing to a long-term extension, but that Baltimore must be careful.
Pierce only played 38 percent of the Ravens' defensive snaps in 2018, Kasinitz pointed out. And with Williams already in the middle of a reported five-year, $52.5 million contract, how many run-stuffing defensive linemen can the Ravens really afford.
On the other hand, Pierce has emerged as a big-time talent.
"The team can't overlook this 26-year-old out of Samford as it ponders revamping an aging defense," Kasinitz wrote. "Pierce wasn't one of the most visible faces of Baltimore's D in 2018. Even so, he might've played well enough to carve a path toward that distinction in the future."
More Le'Veon Bell to the Ravens Talk, But With a Twist
Ho, hum, just another day with more people saying they believe Le'Veon Bell will end up in Baltimore.
Last week, it was NFL Network's Ian Rapoport telling the 'Good Morning Football' crew that such a move "makes sense." This week, it's NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, again on GMFB.
"I believe the Baltimore Ravens are going to do everything they can to really make this a serviceable offense around Lamar Jackson," Garafolo said. "What better way to do it than a guy that used to run it up against eight in the box and do it well – and, by the way, can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
"I think it's a great fit in Baltimore. I think they really need to make strong moves this offseason on offense."
Former GM Gil Brandt, however, believes Bell’s best fit is with the New York Jets.
"The Jets are currently projected to have plenty of cap space, according to Over The Cap, and they have a glaring lack of proven offensive weapons to put around promising quarterback Sam Darnold," Brandt wrote.
The other, new, twist in this whole thing is the Steelers are reportedly indicating that they will place the transition tag on Bell instead of just letting him walk. The first day Pittsburgh can do so is Tuesday.
The transition tag would give the Steelers a chance to match any offer Bell receives on the open market.
"While the Steelers do not plan to match any offer and retain Bell, the idea of trading him is not as simple or risk-free as it might appear," wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.
- The Ravens' 2018 rookie class was ranked as the sixth-best in the league, falling just outside the A's with a B+ from NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman and Nick Shook. The Browns got the second-best overall grade, the Bengals came in at No. 26 and Steelers at No. 28.
- Not surprisingly, MMQB's Conor Orr does not believe the Ravens will use their franchise tag on inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.