Baltimore Ravens

Examining Ravens LB Terrell Suggs’ Hall of Fame chances

21 November 2010: Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) celebrates a sac against the Carolina Panthers during an NFL football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 21, 2010.
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ESPN’s Bill Barnwell penned an interesting piece last week - projecting Hall of Fame odds for standout players on all 32 NFL teams. As would be expected, such an article raised some interesting talking points.

Barnwell wrote that J.J. Watt had a 100 percent chance of being enshrined in Canton, for instance. Watt’s obviously been unreal from a production standpoint in his pro career, but to call a player a lock after just five pro seasons does border on bold.

For the Baltimore Ravens, several interesting names came up in Barnwell’s story. Joe Flacco and Marshal Yanda, two Ravens stalwarts, were lumped into the 1-10 percent tier. But what Ravens fans will likely find most egregious is that Terrell Suggs, arguably the face of the franchise, was given just a 30 percent chance of someday donning a gold jacket.

Barnwell’s argument is sound. He notes that Suggs hasn’t been a consistent double-digit sack producer. Suggs failed to reach the 10-sack mark even once between 2005-09. His 106.5 career sacks are an impressive enough standalone total, but guys like Dwight Freeney and John Abraham notched many more and aren’t considered locks for enshrinement.

Barnwell suggested that Suggs will need to get around 130 career sacks to ensure a place at the table. For a 33-year-old coming off a second torn Achilles, that won’t be an easy feat. But if he can play just two more seasons and produce at a reasonable six-to-eight sack clip he’d finish around 120 for his career. Should 10 sacks really make the difference in whether or not Suggs had a Hall of Fame-worthy career?

This writer thinks not.

While Suggs’ statistics might not line up with some of his contemporaries, few would dispute his status as one of the most dominant defenders of his day. The six-time Pro Bowler’s earned a host of accolades throughout his career, including one Defensive Player of the Year nod.

Along with his pass-rushing prowess, Suggs has been an astute run-defender and an asset in coverage. Hall of Fame voters like for their enshrinees to have signature moments and he has more than a few to his credit. He’s been of particular trouble to Baltimore’s biggest rival - the Pittsburgh Steelers. His game-clinching interception against Pittsburgh in the postseason is one such instance that won’t soon be forgotten.

Suggs has also racked up 12.5 sacks in 17 postseason games. For a team that’s enjoyed tons of playoff success during Suggs’ career, that figure will undoubtedly stand out.

Where some might sour on Suggs is the fact that he’s played on such loaded defenses. He’s always been one of the linchpins, but it’s easy to lose sight of that when recalling the successes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed had in Baltimore. Fortunately for the Arizona State product, he’s been able to reverse that narrative over the past five years or so.

Suggs earned his Defensive Player of the Year award as Lewis’ and Reed’s playing days were winding down. In the years since, he’s taken over as the emotional leader for a rugged Baltimore defense. A quick Google search of “Terrell Suggs leader,” will turn up numerous pieces of supporting evidence. Suggs was always a figurehead on Baltimore’s defenses, but his willingness to step in and lead the charge after years as second or third fiddle can’t be understated.

As things stand, there are players with better statistical cases for enshrinement than Suggs. The brash defender has a way to go to catch any of Freeney, Abraham and Simeon Rice on the all-time sack list. But those three were pass-rush specialists. Suggs is a hell of a pass-rusher in his own right, but he brings more to the table. Furthermore, were any of these three so synonymous with a team, and a city, as Suggs has been?

Barring a late-career surge, it’s doubtful that Suggs winds up a first-ballot inductee. But it’s hard to believe he won’t wind up in Canton sometime down the road. Put simply, he’s been too important to this era of football.

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