Terrell Suggs Reportedly Leaving for Cardinals a Surprise
A reminder that pro football is first and foremost a business was driven home yesterday when reports surfaced that Terrell Suggs is heading home to play for the Arizona Cardinals after 16 seasons in Baltimore.
Suggs – who grew up in Arizona, played at Arizona State and still has a home in Scottsdale – had previously expressed a desire to finish his career with the Ravens, so the news came as a surprise to many fans and perhaps to the Ravens as well.
Earlier this month in Late for Work when discussing Suggs' future, I took a page from Captain and Tennille's songbook and asked if the love between Suggs and the Ravens organization would be enough to keep them together. Today, I believe a Neil Sedaka classic is appropriate: Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do.
Russell Street Report's staff chimed in with their "knee-jerk" reactions to the reports. The consensus was that losing Suggs, who turns 37 in October, feels like a punch in the gut, but it's understandable.
"From the sentimental standpoint, this is a sad day for Ravens fans, Chad Racine wrote. "Terrell Suggs personifies what it means to be a Raven in every way. From his Hall of Fame career on the field to his big and bold personality off the field, he will be missed dearly. After spending 16 years in a Ravens uniform it will be hard to watch him play in another one. ...
"From the business side of things, [Ravens General Manager] Eric DeCosta is probably making the right move."
Carey Stevenson wrote: "Hard to keep any player his whole career. Money, opportunity, roster makeup, etc., has to all line up several different times and that's just near impossible. Suggs will always be a Raven and I wish him nothing but the best in the desert."
John Darcey likened Suggs leaving the Ravens to when Ed Reed finished his career elsewhere in 2013.
"Fans were upset, but just like Reed, [Suggs] will be welcomed back with open arms once he goes into the Ring of Honor," he wrote. "DeCosta, in my opinion, is remaking this team to his own design and not holding onto the past. It should be fun the next six weeks or so with free agency and the draft."
ESPN's Jamison Hensley best summed up Suggs' departure: "Even though Suggs isn't the same consistent menace to quarterbacks these days, his exit signals the end of an era. Only two defensive players in NFL history [Redskins cornerback Darrell Green and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis] have been with one team longer, according to ESPN Stats & Information."
Before the reports came out, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec had described the Ravens' chances of re-signing Suggs as "good."
"The Ravens seem willing to allow Suggs to test the open market, but it still makes too much sense for him to be back with the organization and play his entire career as a Raven," Zrebiec wrote. " ... Suggs has been very open about his desire to finish his career in Baltimore, and it stands to reason that he'd sign back if all things were close to equal."
However, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora – who was the first to report that Suggs had informed the team that he was signing elsewhere – wrote last week that the Cardinals could sign both Suggs and C.J. Mosley.
It's not how Ravens fans envisioned it, but they would have an opportunity to see "T-Sizzle" play at M&T Bank Stadium at least one more time, as the Ravens will host the Cardinals in 2019.
One final thought on Suggs: When I interviewed him before the start of last season for a story in PressBox, he gave the following answer when asked how he'd like to be remembered.
"A Raven," he said without hesitation. "I would love to be considered on the Mount Rushmore of Ravens. Just knowing I gave everything I have to this organization, to this city, to my fans, and that I was one of their own."
Regardless of which jersey Suggs is wearing when he plays the final game of his career, I'd say his wish almost assuredly will be fulfilled.
Market for C.J. Mosley Became Too High for Ravens
It was an ominous sign for the Ravens' hopes of resigning Mosley when it was reported yesterday that inside linebacker Kwon Alexander had agreed to a four-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers worth $13.5 million annually, including $27 million guaranteed.
In four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alexander made the Pro Bowl once and played a full 16-game season once.
"If the San Francisco 49ers are willing to make Kwon Alexander the highest-paid inside linebacker in league history," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shafer wrote, "what might, say, a young, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker who has missed only three games in five years get?"
We found out the answer this morning, as Mosley reportedly agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Jets. That's an average of $17 million per year with $51 million guaranteed. That puts Mosley ahead of Carolina Panthers inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, whose deal that he signed in 2015 translates to nearly $16.2 million if factoring in 2019 market inflation.
Mosley had said that he wanted to remain with the Ravens, and the team reportedly made him a strong offer and even sweetened it, but, ultimately, it wasn't sweet enough.
The news that Mosley is leaving the Ravens probably left a sour taste in Ravens' fans mouths as they were eating breakfast this morning, but – just like with Suggs – it's another cruel reminder that business often trumps sentimentality.
If Mosley does indeed sign with the Jets, the question becomes how the Ravens will fill the sizable void left by his departure. Last season's No. 1-ranked defense has lost Eric Weddle and reportedly Mosley, Suggs and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith within a matter of days. Defensive end Brent Urban could be next.
Like Suggs, Mosley would return to M&T Bank Stadium next season, as the Jets are on the Ravens' home schedule.
Should Ravens Target Justin Houston?
With Suggs seemingly Arizona bound, Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler thinks the Ravens should pursue former Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.
"Houston would be the best possible replacement for Suggs," Schisler wrote. "While it could never be the same as No. 55, Houston would provide leadership and would be the main force off the edge for the Ravens. With Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams still unproven, and Smith on the way out, the Ravens have to add to the outside linebacker position.
"Without a proven star like Houston, the Ravens will have to hope Bowser or Williams can take a step up. The Ravens can address their pass rushing situation in the NFL Draft but they have a ton of needs, and free agency isn't going all that well for them thus far."
Houston, who turned 30 in January and has been to four Pro Bowls, was released by the Chiefs Sunday in a cost-cutting move. He had 18½ sacks in 27 games over the past two seasons; Suggs had 18 in 32 games.
"With their production being about even as of late, and Houston being six years younger, this would possibly end up being an upgrade for the Ravens," Schisler wrote.
Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt spoke glowingly of Houston as a leader and person after his release.
"Over the last eight seasons, we've had the ability to watch Justin grow into a leader on and off the playing field," Hunt said in a statement issued by the team. "His passion helped him become one the most successful pass rushers in franchise history. "
'American Ninja Warrior' Host Predicts Le'Veon Bell Will Be a Raven
Akbar Gbajabiamila, a former NFL player and the current host of NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" and NFL Network's "NFL Fantasy Live," correctly predicted that Antonio Brown would be traded to the Oakland Raiders, and now he says former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell will be a Raven.
On the evening of March 7, Gbajabiamila tweeted that Brown would be going to the Raiders:
In the early hours of March 8, it was reported that the Buffalo Bills were "close" to completing a trade with the Steelers. Shortly thereafter, subsequent reports said no such deal was happening. That morning, Gbajabiamila doubled down on his belief that Brown would be wearing silver and black in 2019:
After the news broke that Brown had been traded to the Raiders, Gbajabiamila took a victory lap on Twitter.
On Sunday, Gbajabiamila suggested that he knew where Bell was headed. Unlike with Brown and the Raiders, he did not actually name the Ravens, but he made it clear that's who he meant.
Does Gbajabiamila have some very reliable inside sources? Was his assertion that Brown would be a Raider just a lucky guess? Stay tuned.
One thing is certain: The Bell to Baltimore rumors just won't go away.