Tag Archive | "Anquan Boldin"

Cost-Effective Boldin Replacements

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Cost-Effective Boldin Replacements

Posted on 12 March 2013 by Brett Dickinson

As the aftermath of the Anquan Boldin trade coincides with the start of Free Agency, the Ravens may look to some guys off the street to fill his role. Even with his departure, the team is still strapped against the cap because of the amount of their own Free Agents (Unrestricted and Restricted) on the roster. With holes at vital positions such as Left Tackle, Middle Linebacker and Defensive Line, the Ravens will probably look for some cost effective options for a veteran presence, while drafting a player with big upside in April.

Here is a look at possible veteran wide outs that the Ravens could consider:

Early Doucet
Former Team: Arizona Cardinals
2012-2013 Stats: 28 Catches, 207 Yards

Doucet was the reason the Cardinals were willing to depart Boldin in the first place. He obviously did not live up to expectations; he plays a similar style as Boldin, as a physical presence who is willing to make tough catches across the middle. Doucet has struggled with injuries (playing in only 5 games last season), but if he can stay on the field he has the potential to be a solid No. 3 option.

 

Brandon Gibson
Former Team: St. Louis Rams
2012-2013 Stats: 51 Catches, 691 Yards, 5 TDs

Gibson has the potential to become a stud at Wide Receiver but has yet to put it all together. Injuries have derailed his past couple seasons and he has a tendency to disappear for games at a time. When he is hitting on all cylinders though, he can put numbers like he did against Buffalo last season (6 Catches, 100 Yards, Td).

 

Julian Edelman
Former Team: New England Patriots
2012-2013 Stats: 21 Catches, 235 Yards, 3 TDs

Edelman is a natural slot receiver in the mold of Wes Welker (who he learned the position from). He can be a threat in the middle of the field and an asset in the short passing game. His size and tools will not wow anyone, but he can grind out yards 5-10 yards at a time (11.4 YPC in 2013).

 

Ramses Barden
Former Team: New York Giants
2012-2013 Stats: 14 Catches, 220 Yards

Barden’s biggest issue his entire career has been finding his way on the field, playing behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. He is an imposing target at 6’6”, who can go up and get the ball over many corners in the NFL. If he can get consistent playing time, he may be able to perform like he did in his start against the Panthers last season (9 Catches, 138 Yards).

 

Mohamed Massaquoi
Former Team: Cleveland Browns
2012-2013 Stats: 17 Catches, 254 Yards

Massaquoi’s has struggled catching the ball ever since entering the NFL, but the potential is there to become a dynamic threat. He has a good combination of size and speed, who may benefit playing for a good QB like Joe Flacco (unlike Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Brandon Weeden). Massaquoi’s peak would be as a decent No. 2 wide out across from Torrey Smith.

*All Photos Courtesy of NFL.com.*

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Boldin releases statement thanking Ravens fans

Posted on 12 March 2013 by WNST Staff

Currently traveling in Africa on a charity mission, former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin has released a statement to the fans of Baltimore:

“I thank the Ravens fans for their incredible support for myself and my family throughout my years in Baltimore. I am grateful in getting to know you and will miss what I call home.

“I thought this was the last stop of my career, but regardless of the circumstances, I came here to win a championship, and in February we came home champions.”

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Boldin trade looks like loser now, but that doesn’t matter in March

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Boldin trade looks like loser now, but that doesn’t matter in March

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Luke Jones

It’s difficult to look at the Ravens’ decision to trade veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers with any level of enthusiasm.

Yes, Baltimore will save $6 million in salary cap space for the 2013 season.

The Ravens were able to fetch a sixth-round pick when it looked as though they would end up releasing Boldin with nothing in return after he balked at the idea of a $2 million pay cut. Of course, the Ravens’ recent sixth-round history includes such sterling names as wide receiver Tommy Streeter, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood, and running back Cedric Peerman — not exactly a group to go crazy over.

The trade prevents another AFC North rival such as the Bengals or the Browns — both with plenty of cap space — or another conference opponent from signing the dangerous slot receiver on the open market. The Ravens aren’t scheduled to play the 49ers again until 2015 unless these teams were to meet in the Super Bowl yet again.

But what hurts is that Boldin won’t be playing for the Ravens in 2013. It’s a tough pill to swallow for fans — and media, quite frankly — who assumed such a move was no longer in play after the organization inked quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract that freed up cap space for the immediate future as opposed to the hefty price of a franchise tag wreaking havoc on the 2013 roster picture.

The trade makes the Ravens a worse team now, but the good news is the start of the regular season is still almost six months away.

We’re still more than six weeks out from the 2013 draft, one in which the Ravens are projected to have 12 selections by the time compensatory picks are announced at the league meetings next week.

And the Ravens are 4 1/2 months away from the start of training camp in sultry Owings Mills.

The truth is nobody knows whether this will ultimately be a good decision or not for quite some time. That the Ravens look like losers on March 11 doesn’t really matter. But that doesn’t eliminate the same sinking feeling experienced over the last few years when the likes of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Ben Grubbs, and Jarret Johnson parted ways with the organization.

In fact, to judge this decision based solely on trading Boldin for a sixth-round pick is an incomplete and shortsighted look before we see how the cap space saved is ultimately used.

Will the Ravens take that $6 million to explore a deep market of left tackles in hopes of finding a long-term solution at a critical position that’s experienced several years in limbo? Does Baltimore take a look at a deep free-agent class of wide receivers with its new-found cap space?

Could general manager Ozzie Newsome use his heavy collection of picks to explore a trade for an established — but younger — wide receiver in a similar manner to when he traded third- and fourth-round picks to the Arizona Cardinals in return for Boldin and a fifth-round choice three years ago? Do the Ravens look to the first two rounds of the draft for a potential franchise wide receiver?

The possibilities are endless and, of course, not all outcomes are necessarily favorable as it’s possible this move blows up in the organization’s face as the Ravens and Newsome are far from infallible.

The move doesn’t come down to one draft pick or one wad of cash or even one particular player replacing the slot receiver. While Boldin’s production is unlikely to be matched by the increased use of internal options such as Dennis Pitta and Tandon Doss, that doesn’t mean the pair won’t be part of an overall solution that makes the Ravens better in the long run.

The rationale appears fuzzy now as the offseason is just getting underway, but Newsome and the Baltimore front office have earned the benefit of the doubt just five weeks after winning Super Bowl XLVII. The one thing that’s certain is that a number of plans and options have been discussed; this wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Boldin balking at the suggestion of a $2 million pay cut.

Plans were already in motion for this scenario to play out, so the Ravens will now look to the future just like they did after losing countless veteran players over the years. And before panicking, ask yourself just how many of those departures looked like they would sting before the Ravens came out on the other end smelling like roses.

Yes, Monday was one of the gloomier days in recent memory for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Many media and fans are already saying the Ravens will deeply regret this move without seeing how the money is spent and how resources are allotted in building the 2013 roster.

Past glory doesn’t guarantee future success, but the front office didn’t suddenly become incompetent in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLVII. And as good as Boldin was for three years in Baltimore, his best days continue to rapidly move behind him and a $6 million price tag just didn’t add up in the Ravens’ minds — whether you agree or not.

Younger and faster is the name of the game the Baltimore offense will be preaching under offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.

How it all takes shape remains to be seen.

It’s a scary proposition delving into the unknown, especially when letting go of a reliable and safe commodity like Boldin. It’s the kind of move that looks like a big loser at first blush.

But the season doesn’t start on March 11 and this is the time of year when Newsome shines. It doesn’t matter how bad the move looks right now.

Check back with me over the weekend of the draft and at the start of training camp and, most importantly, in early September.

Because the last time I checked, the Ravens don’t play any games in March.

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Boldin’s departure really isn’t that hard to figure out…but it’s tough to digest

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Boldin’s departure really isn’t that hard to figure out…but it’s tough to digest

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Drew Forrester

There’s an old Chris Rock comedy bit in which he jokes about O.J. Simpson seeing his ex-wife, Nicole, and her new boyfriend, Ron Goldman, driving around Los Angeles in the expensive automobile Simpson once purchased for his spouse.

Rock then opined that seeing Goldman cruise the town in those wheels was just too much for O.J. to handle.  It was the ultimate sign of disrespect from both the new boyfriend and the ex-wife.

“I ain’t saying O.J. shoulda killed her,” Rock said.  ”But I understand…”

Well, that brings me to today’s news that the Ravens have shipped wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49′ers for the equivalent of a box of athletic tape and a year’s supply of deer antler spray.

And I’ll sum it up the way Rock summed it up:

“I ain’t saying the Ravens shoulda traded Anquan Boldin…but I understand.”

The Ravens position on Boldin and the deal to the 49e’rs is simple:  They don’t think he’s a seven million dollar football player anymore.  That’s not Drew saying that…that’s the Ravens saying that.

That much is clearly evident when you realize the Ravens are under the salary cap as of today.  In other words, they weren’t being forced to do anything with Boldin by Tuesday’s start of free agency.  Last Friday, they asked him to take a paycut, but they did so simply because they felt he was no longer a player capable of playing up to the level of the seven million-plus he was going to “cost” them (salary cap wise) in 2013.

A Ravens staffer confirmed to me on Monday the Boldin-to-San Francisco deal was all about money and the perceived value of a player now entering the October of his career.

Boldin’s contract for 2013 is six million, with the remaining monies connected to the salary cap coming as a result of his signing bonus back in 2010.

So, that’s that.  The Ravens decided, as an organization, that Anquan Boldin is no longer a player who can command a six or seven million dollar salary.

At least not in their eyes.

My guess is plenty of teams around the NFL would pay Boldin that kind of money, including, perhaps, the team he was traded to on Monday.  There are whispers that the Browns were interested in the veteran wide receiver, but Ozzie Newsome isn’t in the business of helping his AFC North rivals.

It does, however, say something about Boldin’s value when the only thing the Ravens could get for him was a 6th round draft pick.

I like Boldin as a player.  I thought he was a smart pick-up back in 2010.  He was a good regular season performer who seemed to be more productive when the post-season rolled around, notwithstanding a crucial end-zone drop in the fourth quarter of the January 2011 playoff loss at Pittsburgh.  He was a gamer.  The bigger the game, the better Boldin seemed to play, particularly in this most recent playoff run when he was superb in the AFC title game and the Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.

(Please see next page)

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Ravens trade WR Boldin to 49ers for a sixth-round pick

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Ravens trade WR Boldin to 49ers for a sixth-round pick

Posted on 11 March 2013 by WNST Staff

A day before free agency began and after a weekend where it was reported that the Ravens asked top wideout Anquan Boldin to restructure his contract, the team officially washed its hands of the problem by trading the 10-year veteran to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick.

The move was first reported by the Baltimore Sun, and ProFootball Talk said the Ravens were looking to ship him to get Boldin’s 7.5 million dollar cap number and six million dollar base salary off their books.

For 2013, WNST’s Luke Jones says the Ravens will only have 1.5 million in dead money for 2013 regarding Boldin’s contract.

The Ravens reportedly had asked Boldin to take a pay-cut of nearly two million dollars in the last year of his contract according to several sources-despite Boldin saying this weekend in Arizona that he would play under his current deal this season with the Ravens.

Boldin, who spent the last three years with the Ravens after coming over from the Arizona Cardinals, was a big part of the team’s Super Bowl XLVII run this season in which the receiver caught 22 balls for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.

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Top-heavy 2014 cap commitment could be barrier to Boldin extension

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Top-heavy 2014 cap commitment could be barrier to Boldin extension

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Luke Jones

News over the weekend of the Ravens’ attempt to cut the salary of Anquan Boldin by a reported $2 million has naturally been met with plenty of negative reaction in the aftermath of a tremendous postseason performance by the veteran receiver.

There are several possible outcomes to this ordeal spelled out by WNST.net’s Glenn Clark, with the idea of a short-term contract extension reducing his $7.5 million cap number for the 2013 season being the most popular one. It seems like a simple solution to the problem — and one that’s still possible considering the Ravens haven’t yet pulled the trigger in releasing Boldin — but an early look at the 2014 salary cap helps explain why general manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization might be hesitant to offer any money to the veteran beyond this season.

As it stands right now, the projected 2014 salary cap has $70.9 million in space committed to just six players — Haloti Ngata, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Marshal Yanda — and next year’s cap is not expected to increase dramatically from the $123 million set for the 2013 season. Of course, the Ravens could explore contract restructures — or even releases of Suggs and Ngata, specifically — before next season, but that’s a huge percentage of space committed to a small number of players.

It’s clear the Ravens want to keep their No. 1 receiver for the 2013 season or they wouldn’t have even offered a pay cut to Boldin and would have simply terminated his contract in the way they did with veteran guard Bobbie Williams on Friday. But with Boldin turning 33 next season and already struggling to gain separation while still relying on a quick first step and incredibly strong hands, it’s fair to wonder how productive he will be as he continues through the latter portion of his career.

A contract extension would reduce Boldin’s 2013 cap number, but it also means committing money to future caps, whether they would choose to keep the veteran wideout beyond this season or not. And even if it’s only a few million dollars on the books for 2014, that would be a precious amount with the Ravens currently having an astronomical figure committed to a half-dozen players.

If the Ravens aren’t confident that Boldin will be worth the investment beyond 2013 — he turns 33 in October — you can understand their trepidation with even offering an extra year and there’s no guarantee the prideful receiver would accept that short of an extension anyway. It may simply be a case of electing to rip the band-aid off now instead of risking dead money on the 2014 cap with a potential release a year from now.

Looking for more space — and there could be more cuts coming with Vonta Leach, Jacoby Jones, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Jameel McClain as potential candidates — while hoping to commit to Boldin for one more year before reevaluating his status next offseason sounds like the perfect solution for the Ravens, but this may be a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it too.

The hardline stances taken by each side will be interesting to follow as we wait for a resolution, and it’s not dramatically different from the Bryant McKinnie saga that played out last September, which resulted in the sides working out a compromise when it appeared for several hours that the veteran tackle wasn’t going to be a member of the 2012 team. The Ravens are still hopeful something along those lines can happen again.

However, it may not be a happy ending in terms of working out a solution for Boldin to stay as Newsome must ultimately look ahead to a top-heavy 2014 salary cap and do what’s best for the organization in the long run.

Even if it means taking the short-term hit in knowing Boldin has played his final game with the Ravens.

 

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Your Monday Reality Check: In Ozzie we trust, with Boldin we’ve won

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Your Monday Reality Check: In Ozzie we trust, with Boldin we’ve won

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Glenn Clark

For the second time since the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, I spent the weekend away from Charm City.

I was in New York celebrating a friend’s birthday for a few days, rocking out with the Allman Brothers Band, staring at Manhattan while drinking beers on a Brooklyn rooftop and discovering what a “Yotel” was. (They seem nice.)

For the second time in as many trips away from Baltimore in recent weeks, I also spent a good chunk of my time away reminding as many folks as I could that I was “from the home of the World Champions” in as nonchalant a way as possible.

I will admit that at one point while sitting on the Brooklyn roof, I was telling a story about LB Brendon Ayanbadejo’s courageous fight for marriage equality. I started a sentence by dropping the term “I know a guy who plays for the Ravens” to which I received the response “you act like that’s not a big deal. They’re the Super Bowl champions.”

I can assure you the purpose of the story was not to illicit said response, but every time I hear those words I can’t help but smile.

No matter what your connection is to the team, there’s no question it matters a great deal to all of us to know that our hometown is held on a greater pedestal due to the incredible success of the organization with whom we share a home.

Over the course of the weekend a bevy of news flew around about the future of Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, First came a Saturday morning FoxSports.com story that said the two sides were prepared to part ways Friday after Boldin balked at the idea of cutting his $6 million base salary in 2013. It was followed by a USA Today report that stated the Boldin camp had flat out rejected an offer from the team and was readying for the postseason hero to be released and see unrestricted free agency Tuesday.

That particular report didn’t sit too well with those who remembered Anquan saying recently in a NBC Sports interview that if the team were to cut him he’d choose to retire instead of playing elsewhere. I never believed it, so it won’t bother me if he doesn’t follow up on his words. I understand why not everyone will feel how I feel.

Later Saturday news came from ESPN that Boldin was not prepared to be released but instead was planning on playing under his contract in 2013. The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday the team asked the receiver to slash his pay by $2 million.

(I was actually a bit afraid of writing about Boldin for this week’s column out of fear that when I woke up Monday morning the news would already be different.)

What the Sun report didn’t explain was how the team asked Boldin to cut his pay. If they asked him to cut his figure for 2013 but convert the money to bonus dollars in future years of a contract extension, it would seem fair. Boldin is in the last year of a four year, $28 million contract but has certainly shown a level of play that would make you think he has more than just one solid season ahead of him even at the age of 32.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens want Boldin to take pay cut to prevent being released

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Ravens want Boldin to take pay cut to prevent being released

Posted on 09 March 2013 by Luke Jones

The Ravens awarded quarterback Joe Flacco with the richest contract in NFL history but are asking his primary receiver to take a cut in pay if he wants to remain with the organization in 2013.

As first reported by Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has been asked to take a pay cut to prevent being released by the start of free agency on Tuesday. The 32-year-old is scheduled to make $6 million in base salary and carries a $7.53 million number for the 2013 salary cap.

Much of Flacco’s postseason success correlated with the outstanding play of the veteran receiver, who caught 22 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns. The touchdown productivity matched his regular-season output of four that went along with 65 catches for 921 yards in 15 games.

Boldin said in an interview with NBC Sports last month that he would retire if he were to be released by the Ravens after catching six passes for 104 yards and the first touchdown of Super XLVII. However, a USA Today report indicates Boldin has rejected the Ravens’ request and is preparing to become a free agent.

It’s been speculated that the Ravens would explore an extension that could flip his $6 million base salary into a bonus — thus lowering his 2013 cap number — but an extension was not on the table as of Saturday afternoon.

Needless to say, the loss of Boldin would be a major blow to the Baltimore offense as the veteran shines from the slot and is the Ravens’ most consistent receiver. There’s always the possibility that the organization is playing hardball with the wideout as they wouldn’t need to release the veteran to be in compliance with the salary cap, but it’s clear general manager Ozzie Newsome is looking to create more flexibility for the Ravens to be active in free agency.

Boldin is entering the final season of a four-year, $25 million contract signed upon arriving in Baltimore through a trade with the Arizona Cardinals in 2010.

The Ravens have just over $12 million in cap space following the release of veteran guard Bobbie Williams on Friday, but that doesn’t included the anticipated tenders for their restricted free agents. Baltimore is focused on re-signing inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to a long-term contract, but unrestricted free agents are now allowed to begin negotiating with all 32 teams ahead of the start of the signing period at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Difficult decisions still loom for Ravens after locking up Flacco

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Difficult decisions still loom for Ravens after locking up Flacco

Posted on 02 March 2013 by Luke Jones

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office had to wake up smiling the morning after reaching an agreement in principle with Joe Flacco on a six-year, $120.6 million contract that’s expected to be finalized Monday.

The move not only locks up the franchise quarterback for the long haul, but it’s also expected to provide short-term relief to a tight salary cap that would have had a difficult time absorbing a minimum of $14.9 million with the non-exclusive franchise tag. All the terms of the record-setting contract have yet to be released, but the 2013 cap number is just $7 million, according to CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora.

Estimated to have roughly $18 million in cap space before accounting for their quarterback or any of their unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive-rights free agents, the Ravens will now have some space to maneuver but not enough to change the entire landscape of their offseason. Moderation will be the key as Newsome will look to sign a couple of his own unrestricted free agents, make wise decisions on his seven restricted free agents, and then turn toward the open market to explore some shrewd signings.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect as the Ravens address their remaining free agents:

No tag this year

The first order of business will be the potential use of the franchise tag as teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to designate a player if they so desire. Many have begun asking if Newsome and the Ravens will now use the tag on outside linebacker Paul Kruger or inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, but we received a preliminary answer to that query just a few days after the Super Bowl.

“If we get a deal done with Joe, we will not franchise another player,” said Newsome as he appealed to owner Steve Bisciotti with a humorous tone. “We will not do that. You are OK with that, right?”

The 2013 tag numbers released by the NFL on Friday suggest that stance isn’t changing as the Ravens would be looking at a $9.6 million cost at the linebacker position. As it relates to Kruger, the pass rusher could contest that he should be considered a defensive end, which commands an $11.175 million tag number for the 2013 season.

Those price tags are far too expensive for Kruger or Ellerbe as the Ravens would be looking at massive cuts to accommodate the franchise tag, regardless of what Flacco’s 2013 cap number ultimately is.

Cuts still coming

We’ve spent plenty of time discussing which veterans might be on the chopping block due to cap constraints and the Ravens will still pull the trigger on a few. It just won’t be the mass exodus that was feared if Flacco had received either of the franchise tag options.

Offensive lineman Bobbie Williams is the easiest decision as the Ravens will clear $1.2 million from their cap by releasing the 36-year-old lineman. Linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo ($806,000 in savings) and Jameel McClain ($1.8 million saved) are also likely to go, with McClain becoming far more expendable if the Ravens can sign Dannell Ellerbe to a long-term deal before he hits the open market.

It would be an unpopular decision, but fullback Vonta Leach remains an intriguing option to release as it would save $3 million in cap space. Leach is tremendous at what he does as the best pure fullback in the NFL, but the Ravens are clearly moving toward a pass-heavy attack after committing the richest contract in league history to their quarterback.

The 31-year-old Leach took part in just 39.7 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in the postseason, so can you justify devoting that big of a cap number to the fullback with other pressing needs at left tackle and all over the defense? Should they part ways with Leach, tight end Ed Dickson could serve in more of an H-back capacity and the Ravens could look to a younger, cheaper option coming out of college.

The Flacco contract means wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones are very likely to be safe, but the Ravens could explore reasonable contract extensions for both as they enter the final years of their respective contracts, thus lowering their cap numbers for 2013. This is especially true for Boldin, who carries a $7.5 million number for the upcoming season and proved himself worthy of a couple more years in Baltimore after an outstanding postseason.

Prioritizing unrestricted free agents

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Clock ticking, exclusive tag price falling (a little) for Flacco and Ravens

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Clock ticking, exclusive tag price falling (a little) for Flacco and Ravens

Posted on 28 February 2013 by Luke Jones

As the clock ticks for the Ravens to strike a long-term agreement with quarterback Joe Flacco ahead of Monday’s deadline to use the franchise tag, there have been no indications that the sides have engaged in contract talks since the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Flacco’s agent Joe Linta and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty entered contract discussions last weekend for the first time since last August, but there was no report of a deal being imminent. Of course, this doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made and it’s not surprising the sides are without an agreement as the March 4 deadline for designating a player with the franchise tag is now only days away.

Deadlines provide a greater sense of urgency to get deals done as we’ve seen in recent years when long-term agreements were struck with running back Ray Rice, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata with only hours — or even minutes — to spare in each case.

Linta has stood firm in his quest to make Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and league insiders such as ESPN’s Adam Schefter have said a potential deal will exceed New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ five-year, $100 million contract that included $60 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal. As has been said countless times since Super Bowl XLVII, you’d be hard-pressed to find a recent example of a player having this much leverage over a team strapped for salary-cap room and knowing they will need to fork over big bucks to a quarterback who just completed one of the greatest postseason performances in league history.

The question isn’t whether Flacco really deserves to make more than any other quarterback in football but rather do you want to keep him in Baltimore for the long haul.

The Ravens did receive some good news this week in terms of the exclusive franchise tag with New England quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reworking their current deals to lower their cap figures for the 2013 season. While neither is expected to impact the long-term negotiations between Flacco and the Ravens, the lower cap numbers for both Brady and Roethlisberger have taken them out of the league’s top 5 quarterback cap listings, which are averaged to determine the tender amount for the exclusive franchise tag.

As a result, the exclusive tag has been lowered from just under $20.5 million to a reported $19.13 million, making the use of the pricier option that takes Flacco off the free-agent market completely a bit more appealing. The non-exclusive tag is expected to cost $14.6 million for a quarterback, but it would allow another team to sign Flacco to an offer sheet and potentially surrender two first-round picks to the Ravens if they were unable to match the deal.

The lower number might do more to entice the Ravens to use the exclusive tag, but it requires an extra $4.5 million of cap room that the team already doesn’t have. In deciding between using the non-exclusive tag and the exclusive one, it could be the difference between keeping wide receiver Anquan Boldin and needing to make the painful decision to release him to clear an additional $6 million in cap space. The exclusive number also creates a natural springboard for Linta to use for negotiating by reminding the Ravens they already view Flacco as a $19.13 million-per-year player at worst in using the exclusive tag.

However, the cheaper non-exclusive tag would also result in sleepless nights for general manager Ozzie Newsome over the thought — as highly unlikely as it might be — of a team with a dramatic cap surplus like the Cleveland Browns swooping in and signing Flacco to a front-loaded offer sheet with an absurd cap number for 2013 that would either prohibit the Ravens from matching or force them to cut even more players to match the offer.

Regardless of where you fall on the decision of which tag the Ravens should use — and opinions are split around the league — it’s apparent how urgent this situation is for the Ravens as they’ve engaged in virtually no discussion with other free agents because they don’t have a clear picture of what their salary-cap picture will be at this point. Baltimore has been in contact with the agent for inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe — considered the second-biggest priority among their unrestricted free agents — but even keeping him would be extremely difficult if Flacco is to carry either tag number.

Ellerbe, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, safety Ed Reed, and any other free agent — with the team or not — remain little more than an afterthought at this point in time.

We’ll begin to receive more clarity by 4 p.m. on Monday, the last day teams may designate a player with the franchise tag, but it won’t mean negotiations will automatically break off should the Ravens announce they are tagging their quarterback. The significant time for the Ravens and Flacco to have a long-term contract in place by falls on March 12 at 4 p.m. for the start of the new league year — and the opening of free agency — when teams must be in compliance with the salary cap.

But in those final days leading up to the start of free agency, the ax could fall on a few of Flacco’s teammates as the Ravens wouldn’t be able to assume a long-term deal will happen in time to quell their cap concerns.

The clock is ticking as the Ravens and Flacco approach the first tangible deadline of the offseason and their negotiations.

As I wrote right after the Super Bowl, the real question is when — not as much if or how — the deal gets done.

And the Ravens are in a holding pattern with the rest of their offseason until it does.

 

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