Can the Ravens build a defense this offseason that is not so dependent on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs?
While the Ravens expect Suggs to return from Achilles surgery, he is 33 years old, and will be entering his 14th NFL season in 2016. Finding a pass rusher via the draft, free agency, or trade is a top offseason priority for the Ravens. Asking Suggs, the franchise’s all-time sack leader (106 1/2) to duplicate his 12-sack season of 2014, and to be a three-down linebacker, could be asking too much. At the “State of the Ravens” press conference Thursday, owner Steve Bisciotti admitted that he underestimated how much it hurt to lose Suggs for the season in Week 1.
“I think I didn’t come close to understanding the impact,” Bisciotti said. “For many, many years, we said that Ray Lewis made people 10 percent better just by playing with him. And what we didn’t appreciate in Suggs was the reason why (Elvis) Dumervil went from 17 sacks downs to six. Dumervil didn’t become a bad player, and our linebackers were exposed in coverage because of our lack of pressure.
“It was the biggest domino effect of losing one guy. If anybody in this league said, ‘If we lost Joe Flacco in Week 1, where would we be?’ We’d say, ‘Not good.’ If you had said, ‘What one guy can’t you afford to lose on defense?’ I think most of you would have said Suggs.”
General manager Ozzie Newsome has gotten indications from Suggs that he planned to return, although Suggs has been in infrequent visitor to the Ravens’ practice facility since his injury.
“First of all, I had numerous conversations with Sizz (Suggs), while he was not necessarily in the building,” Newsome said. “And he has been in the building. I think he had his reasons for not being here – both personal and some other reasons.
“I think he gets out of his (walking) boot soon. In my last conversation with him, his answer to me was, “I don’t want to leave the game the way I left out in Denver (injured). So I think he is using that as motivation. He’s had that injury before, so he knows what it takes to get back.”
However, Dumervil will turn 32 years old January 19, and the Ravens do not want him to carry the load he did in 2015. Finding another pass rusher would also help young linebacker ZaDarius Smith to become more effective.
Regardless of what kind of player Suggs is next season, the Ravens need more help for their pass rush, and for their defense overall. Suggs returning can help the Ravens’ defense, but he can’t save it alone.