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Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Decision looming on Terrell Suggs?

By Jamison Hensley

Terrell Suggs' second-half disappearance and high salary-cap number have prompted questions about his future with the Baltimore Ravens.

Releasing Suggs would make sense financially because the Ravens would create $7.8 million in cap space. Some would argue Suggs isn't worth his $7.8 million salary in 2014 -- second only to Haloti Ngata's $8.5 million salary -- after making 20 tackles and one sack in his final eight games.

In my opinion, Suggs remains with the Ravens. A six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, he's considered a leader in the locker room and looked like one of the league's best defensive players in the first half of the season. Suggs also showed his commitment to last year's Super Bowl team when he made a remarkable return from a torn Achilles. In the end, parting ways with Suggs would further deplete what was an underachieving pass rush.

Do I believe Suggs will be back under the same contract? That's the key question. Reworking his deal would lessen his cap hit and increase his chances of finishing his career with the Ravens.

The team has some leverage here considering Suggs is 31 and fewer teams are going to invest a lot of money in pass-rushers over the age of 30. Plus, there are legitimate concerns about Suggs' endurance (his snaps declined in the final month of the season) and lack of impact plays down the stretch. A new deal seems possible in this situation.

The Ravens are going to need to create cap room in order to sign their own free agents (like tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe) as well as a few other additions (perhaps a new center or wide receiver). Baltimore is $14.5 million under the projected $126.3 million salary cap with 37 players currently under contract.

The more realistic candidates for being cap cuts are in the second tier of cap numbers: linebacker Jameel McClain, fullback Vonta Leach and punter Sam Koch. Releasing those three players would create $6.55 million in salary-cap space.

McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion, but the team would get $3.2 million by releasing him. It's almost certain that the Ravens will part ways with Leach ($1.75 million savings if cut), who was phased out of the offense. And the Ravens may feel a $2.2 million salary is too much for a punter like Koch (who ranked 13th in average), and they can gain $1.6 million in cap room by releasing him. Defensive end Chris Canty ($1.8 million) is another option, but the Ravens are already going to need to replace one starter (free agent Art Jones) on the defensive line.

Outside of Suggs, no one else among the top tier of salary-cap numbers are in danger of getting cut. Ngata has the largest cap number in 2014 at $16 million, but the Ravens would only save $1 million by releasing him. The same with running back Ray Rice, who has a $8.75 cap number but represents no savings if cut.