OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In each of the past two years, the Baltimore Ravens have watched pass-rusher Paul Kruger and defensive tackle Art Jones produce big in the final years of their contract and price themselves out of the Ravens' range in free agency. Could pass-rusher Pernell McPhee be the next to follow them?
A fifth-round pick in 2011, McPhee has not only become one of the most disruptive pass-rushers on the Ravens but the league as well. In addition to his four sacks (all of which have come in his past three games), he has recorded eight quarterback hits and 14 hurries.
The word "special" was used by both Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs when asked to describe McPhee. He separates himself from others because he can rush off the edge or collapse the middle by lining up inside.
“He’s our specialist," Dumervil said. "A guy who’s that size, [with] that quickness, to be able to go inside, outside. I mean, he’s a special player. I’ve never been around a guy like that before.”
McPhee recorded six sacks as a rookie, but he only managed 4.5 sacks over the next three seasons because of injuries. This season, he's second on the team in sacks and forced a critical fumble in the red zone Sunday.
"Whenever you’ve got an outside linebacker than can play all the spots on the front seven, that’s a special thing," Suggs said. "He’s clicking right now."
The Ravens have seen this type of development before. In 2012, Kruger led the team with nine sacks after struggling to get on the field for most of his career and then signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. Last year, Jones set career highs in starts (13) and tackles (53) with the Ravens before going to the Indianapolis Colts for a five-year, $33 million contract.
McPhee is certainly on that same path for a big payday and a significant raise from his $645,000 base salary. Right now, his primary motivation is finishing with more sacks than Dumervil and Suggs in their friendly competition.
"You know how it is with this gig. If you are never selfish, you will never be great," McPhee said. "Right now I’m selfish when it comes to pass rush.”