Less than one month ago, franchised outside linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs expressed his belief that he was near an agreement to a long-term contract with the Ravens.
Now, the clock is ticking on that opportunity – at least for the upcoming season.
NFL teams have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15 to lock players sporting the franchise tag into new deals. If not, Baltimore will lose the right to negotiate with the three-time Pro Bowler until the end of the 2009 campaign.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been consistent in his message that he would like to keep Suggs in purple and black. Discussions between Newsome, Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty, Suggs and agent Gary Wichard have been ongoing all offseason, but they remain unresolved to this point.
"We're making a last-minute push, but it takes two sides," said Baltimore director of player personnel Eric DeCosta. "Ozzie and Pat [Moriarty] have been working hard to get this thing done, working with 'Sizzle' and Gary Wichard.
"We want him here in the immediate and long-term future. Hopefully, we can get it done, but it could go right down to the end of the wire."
But at what cost?
In his second consecutive year as the franchise player, Suggs, 26, would be guaranteed $10.2 million after signing his tender. A third year under the franchise designation would merit an average of the top five salaries for any position in the league, which could reach $20 million.
Absent a new contract, Suggs would likely skip training camp. Still, the former first-round draft pick (10th overall in 2003) said he was looking forward to reporting to camp with the rest of the veterans on July 29.
"I feel like we're getting close," Suggs said in late June. "Negotiations are going on with the Ravens. Fans can be optimistic that I'll be there."
Suggs missed all of last year's training camp, but he was still able to turn in a stellar season. He placed third on the team with a career-high 102 tackles, notched eight sacks and even returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
The charismatic 6-foot-3, 260-pounder also played in every game, an annual occurrence since he originally entered the league.
"He's been durable and is very tough. He plays hard, and that is our kind of player. He grew up in our system," DeCosta noted. "The other guys in the locker room like him, which speaks to his leadership ability. You have to like a guy that can do the things he does, and he would help any team."
There is a high bar set for players of Suggs' caliber, considering Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney's six-year, $72 million ($30 million guaranteed) contract signed in 2007 that made him the highest paid defender in NFL history at the time.
Suggs isn't worried about the money, however.
"That's cool if people want to believe that," Suggs told the *Baltimore Sun. *"Being one of the highest-paid players has never been my motivation. I just wanted to be paid what is fair, what I think I've earned."