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The next six days could have a huge bearing on whether or not Terrell Suggs is a member of the Baltimore Ravens beyond the 2009 season. If Suggs is not signed by July 15 he will take the field in 2009 season as the team's franchise player and the two sides will not be able to discuss a long-term deal until the free agency period begins in February, 2010.
The danger in waiting that long is two-fold...
If the Ravens want exclusive negotiating rights with Suggs in 2010, they will have to apply the franchise tag to their Pro Bowl linebacker for what would then be the third consecutive season. The cost of that tag is the average of the league's top 5 salaries regardless of position and that could approach a staggering one year figure of $17-20 million.
Should the Ravens choose not to tag Suggs in 2010, they will be forced into a bidding war (assuming they want to keep the career-long Raven) with the other teams likely to compete for his services.
Of these two daunting options, the Ravens would probably tag Suggs again despite the heavy burden it would place on their salary cap (assuming 2010 is not an uncapped year) and buy the time to negotiate a long-term deal or trade him. It's unlikely that the Ravens would let Suggs go without some form of compensation.
But what exactly is the hold up with these negotiations? After the 2006 season the Ravens let Adalius Thomas walk in part because they preferred to keep Suggs long-term yet still there appears to be no imminent new deal.
Suggs however appears to be optimistic.
"I feel like we're getting close," Suggs told the team's web site. "Negotiations are going on with the Ravens. Fans can be optimistic that I'll be [at training camp]."
During other interviews this offseason, Suggs has suggested that fans will be pleasantly surprised by the numbers in his new deal and that they won't approach those of Dwight Freeney who signed a then record 6 year, $72 million contract with $30 million guaranteed.
Those words from Suggs just had to have had agent Gary Wichard, the orchestrator of the Freeney deal doubled over in a state of exasperation. You see Wichard also represents Suggs and he's looking to shape the Ravens franchise player into his next agent trophy - the next record contract for a defender.
Sources have indicated that the Ravens' current offer approaches that of Jared Allen's deal which edged Freeney's slightly, 6 years, $74 million with $31 million guaranteed. Wichard is looking to leap frog Allen's agent Ken Harris and re-claim the top paid defender title and Suggs is just the man to make that happen.
Wichard will probably haggle over details right up to the 11th hour. He'll try to get the Ravens to front load the money. Maybe he'll even get them to go to 7 years and $80 million plus with $32 million guaranteed just so he can win the big weenie contest amongst agents and then tell all prospective clients and the rest of the civilized world why he's the greatest agent on the face of the planet.
I can almost hear him imploring Ozzie Newsome to, "Just throw me a freakin' bone!"
At some point on July 15, 2009 he will and Suggs will then make whole on his promise to the fans.