Posted on 11 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 10 March 2014 by Luke Jones
Free agency does not begin until 4 p.m. Tuesday, but the Ravens could know their fate in the free-agent tackle market quickly if this weekend was any indication.
With other veteran left tackles such as Branden Albert and Jared Veldheer already being linked with other teams, there is growing optimism that Baltimore could re-sign Eugene Monroe despite electing not to use the franchise tag on the incumbent left tackle. The Ravens and Monroe have remained in negotiations since last Monday’s deadline passed when they didn’t use the $11.65 million franchise tender to keep him off the free-agent market.
Reports have indicated that Monroe is seeking upwards of $10 million a year while the Ravens have preferred a contract closer to $8 million annually, so it remains to be seen whether the sides will be willing to bridge the gap prior to Tuesday afternoon.
Multiple reports are saying Albert is expected to leave Kansas City to sign a long-term contract with the Miami Dolphins while Veldheer — who passed on a long-term extension offer from Oakland earlier in the weekend — could land with the Arizona Cardinals. After these two chips would potentially fall, that would leave the Ravens to potentially work something out with Monroe while Oakland and Tampa Bay potentially eye St. Louis tackle Roger Saffold and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins.
Of course, none of these weekend “revelations” are set in stone as it’s difficult to decipher what’s conjecture and what’s authentic as teams and player agents are jockeying for the best possible prices and fits they can find. But the amount of smoke coming from the three-day negotiating window indicates there could be rapid movement as the Ravens try to secure their left tackle for 2014 and beyond.
If Albert, Veldheer, and Monroe find contracts elsewhere, the Ravens would be faced with the prospects of rolling the dice on a second-tier option such as Saffold or Collins or deciding they will address other needs while looking seriously toward May’s draft to address the tackle spot. Of course, Michael Oher is also set to become an unrestricted free agent and could be an option once again at left tackle, but all signs have pointed to him being more of a Plan C or D option leading into the start of free agency.
Baltimore enters free agency with just under $25 million in cap space before potentially addressing six exclusive-rights free agents and restricted free-agent wide receiver Tandon Doss. Linebacker Albert McClellan was scheduled to become a restricted free agent before reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal Sunday.
Posted on 08 March 2014 by Luke Jones
Though most attention remains on the official start of free agency at 4 p.m. Tuesday, NFL teams were allowed to begin contacting and entering into negotiations with the agents of pending outside free agents at noon on Saturday.
The NFL has made it clear that a contract cannot be executed with a new team prior to the start of the new league year on Tuesday afternoon in fear of leaks to the media occurring over the weekend, but all this three-day window really does is provide a ceremonial tampering period that’s already existed for the last several weeks.
During this negotiating window, prospective free agents may not visit a club at its permanent facility — or any other location — and may not have any direct contact with an employee or representative of the organization. Only certified agents are officially permitted to communicate with outside teams, but the truth is these discussions have been ongoing, with last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis long considered a haven for free-agent tampering.
How else do you explain a number of blockbuster deals being announced in the first hour — or opening minutes — of free agency in past years?
In reality, outside teams have already inquired about the likes of upper-tier free agents such as Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive tackle Arthur Jones just like general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore front office have slyly looked into outside free agents that could be a good fit for their 2014 roster. The three-day window set up by the league is merely a perception mechanism to help explain why a top free agent potentially has a new contract and a new team by 4:01 p.m. on Tuesday.
The negotiating window is only designed for unrestricted free agents and does not allow teams to reach out to franchise or transition tag players, restricted free agents, and exclusive-rights free agents. Of course, any free agents who were released earlier this offseason such as linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach are already free to sign with other teams.
Here is the press release that was published by the NFL regarding free agency earlier this week:
Q. When does the 2014 free agency signing period begin?
A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11.
Q. What is permitted during the three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?
A. Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.
During this negotiation period, a prospective unrestricted free agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.
Clubs (other than the player’s current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players’ 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.
The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential unrestricted free agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.
Q. What are the categories of free agency?
A. Players are either “Restricted Free Agents” or “Unrestricted Free Agents.” A Restricted Free Agent may be subject to a qualifying offer. A Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent may be designated by his prior club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.
Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?
A. For Restricted Free Agents, from March 11 to May 2. For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 11 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For Franchise Players, from March 11 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 11. For Transition Players, from March 11 until July 22. If the above-listed players do not sign by November 11, they must sit out the season.
Q. What is the difference between a Restricted Free Agent and an Unrestricted Free Agent?
A. In the 2014 League Year, players with three accrued seasons become Restricted Free Agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013 League Year. Unrestricted Free Agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.
Q. What constitutes an “Accrued Season”?
A. Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.
Q. What could restrict the ability of a Restricted Free Agent to sign with a new club?
A. If he has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through May 2. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed on or before May 2, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player. No Restricted Free Agents were designated as Franchise or Transition players this year.
Q. What determines an Unrestricted Free Agent?
A. A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club if by June 1 the old club tendered the player a one-year contract for 110 percent of his prior year’s salary. His old club then has until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (November 11) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.
Q. What determines a Franchise Player?
A. The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.
An “exclusive” Franchise Player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on May 2; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.
Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the required tender for such a player:
The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years . . . ; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year . . . (the “Cap Percentage Average”) . . . ; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater . . . .
If a club extends a required tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.
Q. How many Franchise Players and Transition Players can a team designate each season?
A. A club can designate one “Franchise” Player or one “Transition” Player among its potential restricted or unrestricted free agents.
Q. Can a club decide to withdraw its Franchise or Transition designations on a player?
A. Yes. A club can withdraw its Franchise or Transition designation, and the player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent, either immediately or when his contract expires.
Q. What is the salary cap for 2014?
A. The salary cap is $133,000,000 per club.
Q. When must teams be in compliance with the cap?
A. At the start of the 2014 League Year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.
Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team carry over room to the next season?
A. Yes. A team may “carry over” room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 4:00 p.m. ET on the day before the team’s final regular-season game indicating the maximum amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.
Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?
A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.
Posted on 06 March 2014 by Brett Dickinson
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BK: After the Ravens were able to sign Dennis Pitta to a five year deal, I was convinced that the Ravens would use the franchise tag on LT Eugene Monroe. Monday’s deadline came and went, with Baltimore declining to use the franchise tag. Brett, are you surprised that the Ravens decided not to use the franchise tag on Monroe, now the top left tackle on the market?
BD: While it was a realistic option to tag a player they gave up two picks for just last year, the move (or lack there of) does not surprise me. The salary number for a franchised Tackle would reach above $11 Million for the upcoming season; a hefty sum for a player Ozzie Newsome has limited experience with his presence on the roster. The Ravens will do everything in their power to resign him before free agency starts next week, but would have lost some negotiation power, when putting that type of price range on his value with the franchise tag.
Monroe will hit the market as the top offensive lineman available, with several teams looking for a stalwart LT. Reports are that Miami will make a strong push for him, along with other teams that could use upgrades at the position such as: the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and regrettably the Pittsburgh Steelers. Competing with that amount of teams drastically lowers the chances that he will back on Joe Flacco’s blind side this upcoming season.
The good news is that the Ravens can find a similar option via free agency (or even the draft). Looking at young LTs such as the Kansas City Chiefs Branden Albert, Oakland Raiders Jared Veldheer, Cincinnati Bengals Anthony Collins or St. Louis Rams Rodger Saffold (Read profiles on Albert and Saffold HERE), leaves them plenty of talent to consider. The front office may have examined the availability of those players, who may have price tag more cohesive to money they have set for aside for LT. Also, the drop-off from Monroe and the rest of the free agents is not severe, where the Ravens may even value one (or maybe several) of them as better fits to the new offensive scheme.
With that being said, Baltimore still has holes to fill at several other key positions. Everyone knows the needs at the WR, FS, TE, RB, DL and LB, after watching the Ravens fail to defend the Super Bowl title last season. So Barry, which players out on the market intrigue you as upgrades for an 8-8 roster?
BK: As we write this blog on Thursday, the number of salary cap casualties continues to grow. With free agency beginning on Tuesday, teams are looking to cut veteran players that will command too much money, and give them the flexibility to sign players that best fit their scheme and needs.
The position that has been hit the hardest by the cap cuts is Cornerback. Veterans like Champ Bailey, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, and Cortland Finnegan will all be searching for new teams this offseason. While the Ravens seem to be set with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb as their starters, depth in the secondary is a current concern. Despite all of the available players, Corey Graham is probably the team’s best option; his knowledge of the system, special teams prowess, and ability to move outside on third downs (Webb typically moves inside) make him more valuable than any of the aforementioned players. Many of the available cornerbacks on the market are one-trick ponies that do not offer teams the ability to play special teams. Look for the Ravens to explore the cornerback market, but take back the known commodity in Graham.
Two players who might come up on the Ravens radar are Jacksonville Jaguar G Uche Nwaneri and Philadelphia Eagles WR Jason Avant. The Ravens had success with an experienced lineman from Jacksonville in Monroe, and Nwaneri could provide quality depth at the guard position. Nwaneri has 92 career starts, and would allow the Ravens to part ways with Jah Reid, who never lived up to expectations. Avant is a proven veteran who could really thrive as a third down target for Joe Flacco. With Marlon Brown on the roster, and the Ravens expected to draft a wide receiver in the early rounds, Avant’s work ethic and mentorship could pay large dividends moving forward. Both of these veterans would have to come at the right price, and I have some concerns as to how cap casualties will view the Ravens as a potential destination. After an 8-8 season, off the field issues, and other AFC contenders (Miami, Indianapolis) with money to spend, can the Ravens compete for veteran players the way that they used to?
BD: That is a real question, and may be the part of the reasoning on why to extend Terrell Suggs, instead of cutting him. Without Ray Lewis, the team lost its main free agent recruiter; something the boisterous Suggs could help replace.
Oh and those TWO SUPER BOWL TROPHIES on display at the Castle could help…
Posted on 05 March 2014 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — While they await a court date regarding an alleged domestic altercation that occurred in Atlantic City last month, Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée plan to attend a couples seminar to work out their issues.
Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence following the incident at an Atlantic City casino. A court summons said they struck each other with their hands and that Rice rendered his fiancée unconscious.
The Ravens continue to gather information about the altercation and general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that the portion of the surveillance video released by TMZ didn’t look good, but the general manager said that he feels positive about Rice’s side of the story.
“I’ve talked to Ray a lot, and [I have] really nothing to add other than what’s been said already,” coach John Harbaugh said at a Wednesday press conference to announce tight end Dennis Pitta’s new five-year, $32 million contract. “The facts will determine the consequences, and we’ll see where it goes. I haven’t seen anything different, just like you haven’t seen anything different.
“Ray has told me his side of it, and everything that we’ve seen so far is very consistent with what he’s said. There’s nothing he’s said that hasn’t turned out to be the case. I know Ray is going to spend a week at a seminar-type of thing as a couples-type deal. He’s doing everything he can to do what he needs to do and make things right.”
The original court date was canceled last month and has yet to be rescheduled after Atlantic City police turned the case over to the prosecutor’s office for further review in determining whether additional or different charges needed to be filed.
Flacco, receivers plan to get to work
With Pitta now locked up for the next five years as a critical contributor in the passing game, the 28-year-old now plans to get together with quarterback Joe Flacco and the other wide receivers under contract to begin working prior to the start of the offseason program and organized team activities.
Pitta said he likes what he’s seen of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system and wants to put in extra time working with Flacco and his other teammates in trying to jump-start a passing game that ranked 18th in the NFL last season.
“We’ve talked about it, and it’s nothing set in stone right now,” Pitta said. “I know that’s something Joe wants to get done. He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we’re going to be doing. I’m sure we’ll get that ironed out in the next few weeks.”
NFL teams with returning head coaches may begin their offseason programs on April 21.
Pitta supports Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag grievance
After much discussion of possibly receiving the franchise tag before agreeing to a long-term deal last week, Pitta empathized with New Orleans’s Jimmy Graham, who is filing a grievance with the league over being designated at the tight end position as the Saints’ franchise player.
Graham took a majority of his snaps lined up out wide and in the slot last season and contends that he should be viewed as a wide receiver, which would mean receiving a tender of $12.132 million instead of the $7.053 million specified for the tight end position. Pitta could have made a similar argument after lining up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his snaps last season.
“I think he’s been a top producer in this league, certainly on his team, [and] led his team in catches, yards, touchdowns,” Pitta said. “Why all of a sudden, because he’s labeled as a tight end, does that devalue his stock? I think it’s something that he should challenge because it’s not right that he can catch more touchdowns and more yards than maybe someone who is classified as a wide receiver, yet because he has that tight end label, now all of a sudden his value is cut in half.”
Not following in Flacco’s footsteps
After being asked whether he’d celebrate his new contract in a similar manner to how Flacco commemorated his record-setting $120.6 million deal last offseason, Pitta made it clear that his best friend on the team will still be taking care of the bill when they meet for dinner.
“I probably won’t go to McDonald’s after this,” said Pitta, laughing as he recalled Flacco’s highly-publicized first meal after officially signing a nine-figure contract. “No, I didn’t get Joe Flacco money, so he will still be paying for dinners.”
Posted on 04 March 2014 by Luke Jones
With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. next Tuesday, it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 13 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and six exclusive-rights free agents.
The 2014 salary cap was officially set to a record-high $133 million last week and the Ravens have just under $25 million in cap space after signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that includes a cap figure of just $3.2 million for the 2014 season. Most media attention focuses on unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens’ list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players will take up a noticeable portion of that available cap space when tendered.
In much better cap position than they’ve been in a few years, the Ravens will likely have the ability to be a bigger player in the free-agent market than they are in most years, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has also valued compensatory picks over the years and signing unrestricted free agents hurts the formula in determining those.
Though the signing period officially begins on March 11, the NFL allows teams to enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the three days leading up to the start of the new league year, meaning the rumors and speculation will pick up this weekend before the start of the signing period.
To see how I fared last year, check out my 2013 free-agent forecast HERE.
Unrestricted free agents
TE Dallas Clark: LEAVES
Skinny: Earlier this offseason, Clark expressed uncertainty whether he would play again in 2014, but it’s all but guaranteed that he won’t be back with the Ravens after he was no longer a factor when Pitta returned from injury last December.
NT Terrence Cody: LEAVES
Skinny: The 2010 second-round pick wasn’t quite the bust that fellow 2010 class member Sergio Kindle was, but he was certainly a disappointment in his four-year run with the Ravens and never really improved.
TE Ed Dickson: LEAVES
Skinny: He may have been the best blocking tight end on the roster the last couple years, but that was still an issue for the Ravens in 2013 and both sides appeared ready to move on by the end of last season.
CB Corey Graham: STAYS
Skinny: Viewed more as a luxury than a pressing need, Graham may ultimately fit into the Ravens’ plans with an improved cap position and the lack of quality cornerback depth behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.
DT Arthur Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Emerging as one of the better 3-technique defensive tackles in the AFC in his first full year as a starter, Jones figures to fetch the kind of deal that will be more than the Ravens are willing to pay with so many needs on the other side of the ball.
WR Jacoby Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: The door will remain open for a return at the right price, but the shortage of quality wide receivers on the open market will likely lead to another team overvaluing Jones’ limited ability as a wideout.
S James Ihedigbo: LEAVES
Skinny: All things being equal, the Ravens would like to have Ihedigbo back, but he deserves to start somewhere and 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam is a better fit at the strong spot than at the free safety position where he struggled as a rookie.
S Jeromy Miles: STAYS
Skinny: Plucked from Cincinnati’s roster early last season, Miles is a strong special-teams player and shouldn’t command more than the veteran minimum to remain with the Ravens.
OT Eugene Monroe: LEAVES
Skinny: The 26-year-old remains the Ravens’ top priority, but it’s clear that the sides have a difference in opinion of his value and a number of teams are looking for a left tackle, which doesn’t bode well for the chances of him re-signing.
OT Michael Oher: LEAVES
Skinny: A high-ranking member of the organization expressed the belief that Oher would be viewed as a left tackle if he were to remain with the Ravens, but he appears to be no more than a Plan C or D at this point.
RB Bernard Scott: LEAVES
Skinny: With Ray Rice dealing with legal problems and Bernard Pierce coming back from shoulder surgery, the No. 3 running back job has suddenly become a bigger priority and the Ravens will be looking for a substantial upgrade over Scott.
LB Daryl Smith: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens took a chance on Smith last summer and he rewarded them handsomely with a strong 2013 season, so it makes too much sense to re-sign him after Jameel McClain was cut due to cap reasons last week.
WR Brandon Stokley: LEAVES
Skinny: The man who caught the first touchdown of Super Bowl XXXV announced his retirement at the end of last season but will always be a popular figure in Baltimore.
Restricted free agents
Restricted free agents have three accrued seasons in the league. The Ravens can offer a first-round ($3.113 million), second-round ($2.187 million), or original-round tender ($1.431) million to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer sheet from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. If the player originally went undrafted, it simply provides the team the right to match an offer sheet but awards no compensation should the player sign elsewhere.
WR Tandon Doss: STAYS
Skinny: The 2011 fourth-round pick has disappointed as a receiver, but his ability as a punt returner will lead to the Ravens either offering him the low tender or re-signing him on a cheap two-year contract.
LB Albert McClellan: STAYS
Skinny: McClellan was a non-factor defensively last season but is a strong special-teams player and has the ability to play all four linebacker spots, making him a likely choice to receive the low tender or an inexpensive two-year deal.
Exclusive-rights free agents
Posted on 03 March 2014 by Luke Jones
Needing to decide by 4 p.m. Monday whether they would designate left tackle Eugene Monroe as their franchise player, the Ravens elected not to use the tag on their starting left tackle.
The Ravens would have been required to offer an $11.654 million tender if they’d named Monroe their franchise player. Prior to signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract on Friday, the Ravens had roughly $26 million in cap space, which does not include tenders for exclusive-rights free agents and restricted free agents. However, with other pressing needs on the offensive line as well as at wide receiver and free safety, the tag price was considered a steep investment with no guarantee of a long-term deal in the future.
Several outlets reported Monday morning that the sides remained far apart in long-term contract negotiations as other teams such as the Miami Dolphins have already leaked interest in the 26-year-old should he hit the market when free agency begins on March 11. The 2009 first-round pick has routinely been ranked in the top 10 of available NFL free agents by various outlets.
Other teams may begin negotiating with Monroe on March 8, but no contracts may be signed before next Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the start of the new league year. However, with no tag in place, it appears unlikely that the offensive lineman wouldn’t want to at least explore other offers on the open market.
According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe earned the fourth-best grade of any tackle in the league over the final 11 weeks of the 2013 season, the period of time in which he played with the Ravens. The University of Virginia product has never been named to the Pro Bowl but has started 73 of 76 games in his five-year career, showing durability and consistent play despite spending most of that time with the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars.
Monroe has continued to work out at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills and has acknowledged he would like to remain in Baltimore after the Ravens forked over fourth- and fifth-round picks to acquire him from Jacksonville last October, but he does not intend to give them a hometown discount.
“I want to be here, but I know there could be opportunities everywhere,” Monroe said in an interview with AM 1570 WNST last month. “I just have to be patient and wait for things to unfold. Everyone in the business should understand that you have to get the absolute best, and that you can’t give any discounts because you have to have you and your family’s best interest at heart.”
The Ravens have routinely used the franchise tag as a mechanism to extend the negotiating window in order to eventually reach a multi-year contract, but a simple look at the last three times general manager Ozzie Newsome used the tag indicates the tender amount ultimately provides a framework for the average cost per year of a long-term deal, which may have made Baltimore leery over a figure approaching $12 million.
In 2009, linebacker Terrell Suggs was tagged with a $10.2 million tender before signing a deal worth $10.5 million per season over six years, Two years later, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata received a $12.4 million franchise tender before signing a contract worth $12.2 million per year over five seasons. And two years ago, running back Ray Rice was set to play for a $7.7 million franchise amount before inking a five-year contract paying an average of $7 million per season.
In other words, Monday’s decision could simply be viewed as the Ravens not valuing Monroe as an $11.65 million-per-year player.
In their 19-year history, the Ravens have used the franchise tag on five players — designating cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Terrell Suggs twice each — and only failed to reach a long-term agreement with one as offensive lineman Wally Williams departed after the 1998 season to sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Posted on 25 February 2014 by Luke Jones
Facing a critical offseason after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Ravens have wrapped a productive week of evaluating the 2014 rookie class at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Much work remains with pro days still to come and the draft not taking place until May 8, but the combine provides a strong framework of information as well as the first opportunity for teams to meet with underclassmen who declared for the NFL.
In addition to evaluating draft prospects’ physical tools, administering physicals, and interviewing players to gauge their intelligence and character, the Ravens were busy trying to address their pending free agents as general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged continuing negotiations with the representatives of tight end Dennis Pitta, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, and linebacker Daryl Smith. However, no deals were considered imminent at the conclusion of the combine on Tuesday.
Of course, Newsome and coach John Harbaugh were also asked about the status of troubled running back Ray Rice, echoing the sentiment that the facts of the case will determine the consequences. As of now, the Ravens have offered no indication that Rice’s future could be in jeopardy after he and his fiancée were charged with simple assault-domestic violence in Atlantic City earlier this month.
Below is a list — though not intended to be a complete collection — of draft prospects the Ravens interviewed in Indianapolis, according to a number of publications including ESPN, the Carroll County Times, and The Sun. It’s important not to read too much into these meetings as it’s common for players to meet with a plethora of teams, but it can indicate special interest in a given prospect.
In addition to a tidbit on each prospect, a estimated projection of when the player might be drafted is included.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 prospect ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap in addition to showing consistent hands, factors likely leading to him being gone before the Ravens pick 17th.
Marqise Lee, USC — first/second round
Skinny: A 4.52-second 40 time wasn’t overwhelming by any means, but he performed solidly in field drills and pundits think he plays faster than his time indicated in Indianapolis.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State — first round
Tidbit: At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin has freakish size but isn’t as polished as Evans, carrying more of a bust risk while remaining an intriguing prospect.
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State — first/second round
Tidbit: Considered one of the big winners in Indianapolis, the 5-foot-10 Cooks may have solidified his standing as a first-round pick after running a blazing 40 (4.33 seconds) and displaying excellent hands in drills.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt — first/second round
Tidbit: The 6-foot-3 receiver’s 40 time was much better than many thought, which bodes well for his draft prospects after a monster career playing in the SEC.
Jarvis Landry, LSU — second/third round
Tidbit: A slow 40 time was the result of a hamstring injury, but questions remain about the underneath receiver’s explosiveness as teammate Odell Beckham Jr. outperformed him at the combine.
Mike Davis, Texas — third round
Tidbit: A minor foot injury kept Davis was taking part in field drills, but he remains a viable Day 2 option.
Robert Herron, Wyoming — fourth round
Tidbit: The 5-foot-9 receiver has quick feet with a 4.45 40-yard dash time and compiled more than 2,000 receiving yards in college, making him a name to watch on Day 3.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina — first round
Skinny: Previously considered a good fit for the Ravens at 17th overall, the 6-foot-4 pass-catching threat had a monster workout in Indianapolis and very well could have vaunted himself into the top 10.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech — first/second round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 target posted an underwhelming 4.74-second 40 time and clearly fell far behind Ebron in the battle for top tight end prospect, but he remains a top 50 player despite small hands and some drops during drills.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa — third
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 product is known for being a tremendous blocker and fits the mold of a more traditional tight end even if he lacks the upside of the other top prospects at the position.
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame — second
Skinny: Praised by Harbaugh earlier this week, Niklas has a monster 6-foot-6 frame and could be a steal in the second or third round.
Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona — second/third round
Skinny: A slow 4.70 40 time didn’t do him any favors in trying to improve his draft stock, but his instincts, soft hands, and blocking ability keep him in position to be one of the first running backs selected despite a forgettable combine.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State — second/third round
Skinny: The Buckeyes back hurt his hamstring running the 40 but remains a candidate to be the first running back to come off the draft board.
Terrance West, Towson — third round
Skinny: All eyes were on the local product to see how well he would test and the record-setting back ran a 4.54-second 40, only helping his stock to be a potential second-day pick as he continues to rise on experts’ boards.
Andre Williams, Boston College — third/fourth round
Skinny: The 230-pound bruiser tested very well in running the 40 (4.54), which follows a 2,000-yard season with the Eagles and bodes very well for his draft status.
Taylor Lewan, Michigan — first round
Skinny: The massive 6-foot-7 lineman ran a remarkable 4.87 in the 40-yard dash and shined in blocking drills to solidify his standing as a top 15 pick and future left tackle at the next level.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama — first/second round
Skinny: The combine couldn’t have been much worse for the projected first-round choice as concerns arose about an arthritic knee, and a 5.59 40-yard dash time and underwhelming bench press now threaten to drop him considerably.
Zack Martin, Notre Dame — first round
Skinny: Quickly becoming a favorite of teams with multiple needs along the offensive line like the Ravens, Martin continues to be a likely choice in the second half of the first round and is projected to be able to play multiple positions on the line.
Morgan Moses, Virginia — first/second round
Skinny: Not considered a good athlete despite his strong play on the field, Moses finished near the bottom of speed and agility categories among offensive linemen and remains a fringe first-round talent.
Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-6, 318-pound lineman stood out at the Senior Bowl and worked out well in Indianapolis, but his uneven performance in games still leaves questions for teams to investigate.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS/EDGE RUSHERS
Dee Ford, Austin — first/second round
Skinny: After excelling at last month’s Senior Bowl, Ford didn’t work out at the combine due to a medical flag of a 2011 back surgery after proclaiming himself to be better than Jadeveon Clowney a day earlier.
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech — third/fourth round
Skinny: The pass rusher didn’t work out in Indianapolis due to hamstring and hand injuries, but he’s an intriguing mid-round prospect after collecting 12 1/2 sacks last season.
Michael Sam, Missouri — third/fourth round
Skinny: Impressing mightily in the way he handled his media session, Sam ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and still can’t shake concerns of being too small to play defensive end and not being athletic enough to play outside linebacker.
Adrian Hubbard, Alabama — fourth round
Skinny: His 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame is complemented well by a 4.69 40-yard dash, but uneven production on the field with the Crimson Tide hurts his draft stock.
Lamin Barrow, LSU — third/fourth round
Skinny: His 4.64-second 40 was the third-fastest time among linebackers, and he appears to have the skills necessary to cover running backs and tight ends at only 229 pounds.
Chris Borland, Wisconsin — third round
Skinny: His measurables weren’t overly impressive at the combine — including short arms and a subpar 4.83 40 time — but his football instincts are highly regarded as he figures to be a solid mid-round prospect at inside linebacker.
Posted on 02 January 2014 by Luke Jones
The start of free agency is more than two months away, but the Ravens face a number of critical decisions in their efforts to bounce back from missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.
As it is most seasons, salary cap space will be a concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with 37 players under contract for an estimated cap commitment of roughly $112 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2014 salary cap has not been officially set, but most are projecting a limit of $126.3 million for the new season.
Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts when considering that a staggering $70.9 million in cap space is devoted to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs, cornerback Lardarius Webb, running back Ray Rice, and right guard Marshal Yanda. Of those six, Suggs would appear to be the only player in serious danger of being released — he is owed a $7.8 million base salary in the final year of his contract — as the termination of any of the other five contracts would bring large quantities of dead money on the cap and little to no net savings.
Other veterans such as fullback Vonta Leach, linebacker Jameel McClain, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings in 2014.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they are free to sign with any other team beginning on March 11 at 4:00 p.m. Each player’s 2013 base salary is noted in parentheses and a brief thought is included:
TE Dallas Clark ($940,000) – The 34-year-old didn’t see one snap after Dennis Pitta’s return and is more likely to retire than to have any chance to return to the Ravens in 2014.
DT Terrence Cody ($630,000) – It’s clear the 2010 second-round pick never panned out as a starter and is unlikely to return next year.
TE Ed Dickson ($1.323 million) – Pitta’s hip injury was a big opportunity for Dickson to prove his worth as a starting-caliber NFL tight end and he was unable to do it, making it likely both sides will move on.
CB Corey Graham ($2.05 million) – Coach John Harbaugh expressed a strong desire to keep Graham earlier this week, but you wonder if other teams will come calling with an opportunity to start and more money.
DT Arthur Jones ($2.023 million) – Jones blossomed into arguably the Ravens’ most complete defensive lineman in 2013, but his strong play will likely make his price tag too high for the Ravens.
WR Jacoby Jones ($3 million plus $1 million roster bonus) – Jones showed improved ability as an intermediate receiver late in the season, but he may prove too costly with so many other needs on both sides of the ball.
S James Ihedigbo ($715,000) – With 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam better suited for strong safety, the Ravens need to allocate resources for a free safety with better coverage skills and Ihedigbo doesn’t really fit that mold.
S Jeromy Miles ($1.323 million) – Miles is a strong special-teams player and the Ravens would likely be interested in bringing him back at a cheaper rate.
OT Eugene Monroe ($3.8 million) – One of the Ravens’ top priorities this offseason, Monroe proved himself worthy of a long-term contract after being acquired from Jacksonville in early October, but how much money will he command?
OT Michael Oher ($3.785 million) – Coming off a disappointing season at right tackle, Oher is unlikely to be back with the Ravens, who will concentrate their efforts toward retaining Monroe and look for another option for the right side.
TE Dennis Pitta ($2.023 million) – It’s unlikely that Pitta is going anywhere as the Ravens will try to work out a long-term deal and could use the franchise tag ($6.8 million for tight ends in 2014) as a last resort.
RB Bernard Scott ($715,000) – With Rice’s future as a feature back in question and Bernard Pierce’s durability an issue, the Ravens are more likely to draft a running back in the middle-to-late rounds than to keep Scott.
LB Daryl Smith ($840,000 and $285,000 signing bonus) – The 31-year-old was a great value signing, but the status of McClain as well as the development of 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown are important factors to consider here.
WR Brandon Stokley ($940,000) – The 37-year-old has already announced his plans to retire after a 15-year NFL career that began with the Ravens in 1999.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens must tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.
There are three different tenders that can be made: a first-round tender (estimated $3.02 million) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.12 million) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.389 million) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match a competing figure.
The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:
WR Tandon Doss (fourth) - Doss would either receive no more than the low tender or be re-signed at a lower rate and displayed some added value as a punt returner earlier in the season after Jacoby Jones injured his knee in Week 1.
LB Albert McClellan (undrafted) - McClellan fell out of the mix defensively in 2013 but continues to be a strong special-teams player, making his return at the low tender rate or at a lower salary a reasonable possibility.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
These players have less than three years of accrued service and must be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing more than an invitation to training camp provided to each.
LB Josh Bynes
LB Adrian Hamilton
LB D.J. Bryant
S Anthony Levine
S Omar Brown
S Brynden Trawick
Posted on 31 December 2013 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasted no time in spelling out the biggest reasons why he thought his team fell short of the postseason for the first time in his six-year tenure in Baltimore.
The biggest downfall started up front with the offensive line, a unit that was so instrumental to the team’s Super Bowl XLVII run but one that also underwent several changes this season.
“We’re going to need to run the ball better, we’re going to need to protect Joe [Flacco] better,” Harbaugh said. “Offensively, those things will make us better.”
Finishing the season with three new starters from the line that protected Flacco so effectively in last year’s postseason, the Ravens averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry and rushed for 1,328 yards, two marks that shattered previous single-season lows in franchise history. Baltimore also allowed 48 sacks, the second-highest total in team history and the most given up since the 1999 Ravens were sacked 56 times.
Media and fans have pointed fingers most often at run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, who implemented a new zone-blocking scheme in his first year with the Ravens that didn’t fit an offensive line featuring a new center responsible for making calls at the line of scrimmage. Harbaugh said Tuesday that no changes to the coaching staff were in the works for now, but the coach alluded to the possibility of staff members potentially moving on to take other jobs as the Ravens’ brass will meet next week to make further evaluations within the organization.
Even if Castillo isn’t retained, Harbaugh was quick to point out that the former Philadelphia offensive line coach has a strong track record and was just one of many responsible for the shortcomings of the Ravens’ failures in the trenches.
“Being in those meetings every single day and being a part of that thing every single day, I know better, and every one of our players knows better, and every one of our coaches knows that there are a lot of things that go into that,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got complete confidence and belief in all of our coaches. I believe in our coaches. That goes for Juan Castillo; it goes for all of our guys. I think he’s a great coach, but I think all of our guys are great coaches. But, we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to use our personnel better. We’ve got to get better.”
The Ravens are all but guaranteed to feature a new-look offensive line in 2014 with starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both unrestricted free agents. Harbaugh complimented Monroe’s play and expressed hope that he would re-sign with Baltimore after he was acquired from Jacksonville for fourth- and fifth-round picks in early October, but the Ravens will not have a great amount of cap space and can’t overspend for an above-average tackle who has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his five-year career.
Meanwhile, Oher is expected to depart via free agency after a disappointing season at right tackle and failing to pan out as the left tackle of the future when he was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft. The Ravens will evaluate 2013 fifth-round pick Rick Wagner for the right tackle spot and likely turn to the draft in early May to add more offensive line help.
Beyond the obvious holes at both tackle positions, Harbaugh made it clear that only Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda — coming off an underwhelming season by his high standards — is a sure bet to line up at the same position next year. The Ravens are encouraged with the progress made by second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele from his November back surgery to repair a herniated disc, but where he’ll fit in the 2014 puzzle remains to be seen. Osemele played right tackle during the regular season of his rookie year before being shifted to left guard for the 2012 playoffs and started 2013 at that spot before landing on injured reserve.
His versatility will provide general manager Ozzie Newsome with more options when trying to address two open tackle positions at the start of the offseason.
“I think there will be a competitive situation pretty much at every spot on the offensive line except right guard,” Harbaugh said. “We will be looking forward to getting [Osemele] back. Whether he plays left guard or right tackle, we will have to make a determination on that. He can play either one of those spots. I would assume that he will be in that lineup somewhere, because he’s that kind of a player, but he’s got to come back and do it.”
Adding new bodies to the mix at tackle will be a top priority, but the competition at center might be more intriguing as 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski struggled in his first season as a starter. Replacing 15-year pro Matt Birk, Gradkowski struggled to make the right protection calls for most of the season but improved as the year went on, according to Harbaugh.
Reserve lineman A.Q. Shipley competed for the starting center job in training camp before ultimately being needed to replace Osemele at left guard and rookie Ryan Jensen is considered an intriguing prospect with a 6-foot-4, 318-pound frame that would figure to physically hold up better than the smaller Gradkowski. However, the Ravens could elect to search free agency and the draft for more competition and a better option at center.
Gradkowski received the worst cumulative grade of any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Early in the season, Gino would probably be the first to tell you that we had a lot of problems,” Harbaugh said. “You go from Matt Birk that does everything, that makes every call, and in some ways tells every lineman what to do in the heat of battle because he is so good — because you’ve got an offensive line coach basically in there playing center for you — to a guy that is doing it for the first time. That was part of the reason that we didn’t have a hat on a hat a lot of times early on, and that was a tough transition for us.
“And yet, Gino fights through it, and by the end of the year, he is making all those calls and doing a good job with that. [He is] a really smart guy, huge student of the game.”
A variety of other issues must be addressed on both sides of the ball as the Ravens try to regroup after their commendable run of five consecutive playoff appearances comes to an end, but the 2013 struggles of Flacco, Ray Rice, and the passing game were all impacted by the inconsistency along the offensive line.
It’s just one area that needs to be fixed, but it’s a critical one in which the Ravens must explore every avenue in hopes of improving by the time training camp rolls around in late July. Decisions in terms of coaching and personnel must be made carefully in arguably the most important offseason of the Harbaugh era.
And losing the battle up front was one major flaw the Ravens simply couldn’t overcome in 2013.
“Everything is going to be on the table that way [to improve],” Harbaugh said. “Every one of our guys, all of us understand in this league that it is a production business — coaches and players. We all have to be accountable for producing and winning.”