With the signing of a blockbuster six-year contract worth a reported $63 million on Wednesday, Terrell Suggs!(/team/roster/terrell-suggs/ad26be43-1380-45f1-b047-a91e850d9761/ "Terrell Suggs") instantly became the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.
But he thinks it was his play at defensive end that set him up for the big payday.
The lobby to keep Suggs began last year, when the Ravens created a "hybrid" position between linebacker and defensive end to designate how much Suggs would be paid under the franchise tag.
"Last year, the big debate was whether I was a linebacker or a defensive end," Suggs said. "I felt I was a defensive end. I even bulked up to show that I'm bigger than a linebacker. They thought that I was a linebacker because that's where I was listed in the scheme. They met us halfway, saying, 'Alright, let's call him a hybrid.'
Now, all parties can reap the benefits.
Hours before a 4 p.m. deadline for teams to sign their franchise players to a new deal or face losing them to free agency the next year, Suggs and the Ravens met in the middle, just like the way the three-time Pro Bowler splits his snaps at both positions.
ESPN reported that the contract contains $33.1 million in guaranteed money, second only to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
Suggs, however, said his new status among the league's richest was simply a fortuitous coincidence.
"[Being the highest paid] was never a focal point or brought up in the negotiations," Suggs said in a conference call. "I'm not that guy. I don't care what the next man is getting. I just wanted it to be fair. I think the reason the numbers were so high is because of the hybrid position, that I play defensive end and linebacker.
"I would never say, 'I want more money than Peyton Manning or anything.' I just wanted it to be fair."
Suggs is coming off a season that saw him finish with a career-high 102 tackles (third on the team), eight sacks and two interceptions he returned for touchdowns. What's more, Suggs owns 53 sacks since he was drafted 10th overall in 2003, which is second in franchise history.
The Ravens are banking on the fact that Suggs will continue his improvement and anchor their defense for years to come.
"Just because you've signed one of these mega-deals, I think he understands that doesn't mean you've arrived as a player," said head coach **John Harbaugh**. "We're anticipating the player he's going to be over the next six years. That's really what you're investing in."
Both Harbaugh and Suggs are eager to have the six-year veteran in Westminster, Md., for training camp this summer.
In 2008, the first year he bore the franchise tag, a disgruntled Suggs held out of training camp before rejoining the team and finally signing his tender at its conclusion.
"He told me on multiple occasions that when this thing gets done, he'll be a leader in every part of our program, from the offseason to training camp," Harbaugh admitted. "As a matter of fact, he told me he's moving to Baltimore as soon as he can. He's the type of guy that really wants to work on football."
Even though Suggs obviously had a stellar showing after missing that camp, he sees the benefits in attending, as well.
"Training camp brings you back to being closer to your teammates," Suggs noted. "You get closer as a team. Last year, I missed it and it didn't hurt me too bad, I don't think. It's going to be good to get back out there at training camp with more hot, summer days, out there with the fans watching."
Suggs noted that he wanted to finish his career with the Ravens, much like the way Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis") will after he signed a contract extension this offseason.
Suggs had hoped that he could do it along with former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, who went with former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to the New York Jets, but the reality of the salary cap made that difficult.
"It was going to be hard to bring all three guys back, and we all knew that," Suggs said. "None of us is getting any younger, so we need to think of the long term. With me being the youngest, that may have had something to do with it.
"This is where we all got the foundation of our game. Bart was fortunate enough to leave with Rex, so it was a win-win for Bart. I'm sure he wanted to stay, just like I wanted to stay."
"I'm just happy it got done," he continued. "I consider myself a player for the fans. I play for them, and I love the cheer I get when I come out of the tunnel. I'm just glad we can get back to football. Both sides compromised a lot, and we came to an agreement that we both felt was good."