Terrell Suggs’ Case for Canton

Suggs headerTerrell Suggs is one of the most iconic players in Ravens history. He’s the team’s all-time sack leader and provides veteran leadership on what should continue to be a top-level defense this coming season. He has played 15 years for the franchise and has yet to show any signs of slowing down despite 2 serious injuries taking a season and a half of his career away. He’s a sure-fire Ring of Honor member, and is currently considered a bubble player in the Hall of Fame discussion.

The Ravens selected Suggs with the 10th pick of the 2003 draft as a pass rushing outside linebacker. He saw limited action in his first year, only officially starting a single game, but still managed to make a strong first impression with a dozen sacks and an eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year award. At the time Suggs was the youngest player in the league, at only 20 years old. T-Sizzle could have had a great career as just a pass rusher, he’s extremely talented in that regard, and may have created a legacy similar to Dwight Freeney (who Suggs has the exact same amount of sacks as). But what I believe makes him especially impressive is his contribution stopping the run. That’s not to say he’s adequate at stopping the running back, he absolutely excels. Suggs plays at an elite level no matter the play type, making him a true every down, well-rounded player. On a recent radio appearance with Gerry Sandusky, Suggs admitted to only focusing on being a pass rusher early in his career and attributed Ray Lewis with helping him develop the rest of his game. Ray told him something along the lines of “We don’t draft specialists in the first round” and lit the fire under Suggs to motivate him into being the best he could be from an early age.

To keep things as simple as possible, the main stat an edge rusher will be remembered for is sacks. Hurries, knockdowns, tackles, and turnovers are important of course, and I’ll bring some of those up again later, but to put it as bluntly as possible you want your edge rusher to get to the quarterback. Terrell Suggs currently has 125.5 total sacks, putting him at a tie for 17th place with Dwight Freeney. If his career ended today, he’d be in a very respectable place in NFL history, but we know he has at least one more season in him, if not more. There’s certainly room for upward mobility in where Suggs lands in NFL history, and every sack he records should move him one step closer to the Hall of Fame. If he can manage 8 sacks, which he’s done in every full season since 2009, he’d move to 12th all time; and if he can record 12 sacks, which is only one more than a season ago, he’d move into the top 10. Realistically speaking, he’ll probably take the 12th slot at the end of this season, which would put him in phenomenal company. Everyone in the top 10 is either in the Hall of Fame or will be when eligible, and if he comes back for one more year he’d very likely find himself in the top 5 of an incredibly elite list of players

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Suggs has 812 total tackles and a game-breaking 34 forced fumbles to add to his 125.5 career sacks.

So in short, Suggs checks off the sacks requirement, but that’s not all there is to it. There aren’t any official rules or guidelines for making it to Canton, but one that gets brought up often in media is that a player “has to be the best at his position in the league at some point.” Luckily for Suggs, he should check that box easily. There were multiple years of his career where you could make a strong argument for him being the best outside linebacker, but no year was more clear than 2011. In 2011, Suggs had a career high 14 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. He was an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses, and was voted Defensive Player of the Year. Not only was Suggs the best edge rusher in the league, he was the best defensive player. Check off another box.

Heading into his 16th year, its an understatement to claim Suggs has displayed longevity, but to see him continue playing a high volume of snaps is nothing short of inhuman. He plays both running and passing downs, and doesn’t rotate out more often than a 25 year old player would, proving to be a complete anomaly when compared to other players his age. Despite all the play time, he’s managed to show an incredible amount of durability as well. Suggs has played in at least 15 games in 12 of his 15 seasons and has missed more than 3 games only twice. He somehow managed to come back from a torn Achilles after only 5 months of recovery in 2012 and hasn’t shown any signs of lingering effects since then. Suggs has also shown versatility throughout his career, lining up at both outside linebacker spots as well as both defensive end positions. His longevity, toughness, and versatility may be taken for granted, but it only improves his chances of making it to the Hall.

The last thing the media generally mentions when discussing if a player is Hall of Fame worthy is his important accolades: MVP, DPOY, All pro nominations, super bowl victories, etc. I already covered his Defensive Player of the Year season, and every Ravens fan already knows we won the Superbowl after the 2012 season, but Suggs has even more accolades to his name. To go along with 1 DPOY, his rookie of the year vote, and super bowl win in 2012-2013, he also has 7 pro-bowl appearances and 2 all-pro selections (1 first team, 1 second team). He has reached the ultimate level of personal success as well as the ultimate level of team success, and put up flashy numbers while doing it. He also has a unique personality that’ll help him stand out from the pack; whether it be his pre-game gladiator helmet or his iconic introductions in primetime games, Hacksaw does a lot to stand out as a person as well as a player.

As things currently stand, Suggs is on the verge of being in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, one more season like the one he had last year should push him over the top, and he’s a guarantee if he can put up two more. Hitting the top 10 in sacks all time should be good enough considering everything else he’s accomplished, and hitting the top 5 would absolutely cement his legacy as one of the best outside linebackers ever. Another Superbowl win would do a lot for his chances of making it to Canton (and would be awesome as a fan in general) but if he can’t get another he could certainly still make it. One thing is for sure though: even if his career ended today, Terrell Suggs is one of the most important Ravens of all time, and his contributions to the team should be appreciated by Baltimore’s fans for the rest of time.

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