Strong leverage helps Suggs

It looks like we have our second $63-million contract in two days for a player with a franchise tender. After Matt Cassel agreed to a $63M deal with the Chiefs on Tuesday, today’s similar deal between the Ravens and Terrell Suggs is another top-of-market contract that’s sending ripples though the league’s pay scale.

Suggs had some strong leverage, perhaps even more than Cassel. Unlike Cassel, Suggs had not signed his one-year tender, making him an unsigned player with no obligation to report to any offseason activities or training camp. Also, Suggs was on his second franchise tag, meaning that if he were to play it out and be franchised again in 2010 (which could be uncapped), he would have to be tendered at the highest amount for any position – likely that for quarterbacks at a number that will continue to grow once Eli Manning and Philip Rivers join Cassel with new contracts. Thus, Suggs, at $10.2M this year, could have reasonably expected to make almost twice that if he were tendered again in 2010.

With that leverage, Suggs was able to garner guarantees in the next two years of reportedly over $33M, more than the previous top-of-market defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Jared Allen, who have been at $31M and $32M, respectively. That was obviously a key marker for the deal. According to reports, Suggs also will make more than this year’s free agency poster child, Albert Haynesworth, in cash flow over one-, two- and three-year looks (they are virtually the same in cash flow of $48M after four years).

Suggs’ deal has set a new bar for defensive linemen and linebackers. Somewhere, DeMarcus Ware is smiling.

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