Tag Archive | "ozzie newsome"

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Ravens pass on using franchise tag for 2015 season

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Luke Jones

As expected, the Ravens elected not to use the franchise tag on any player for the 2015 season.

Limited salary-cap space and the lack of an ideal candidate made it a foregone conclusion that the Ravens would not use the franchise or transition tag on any player before Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. This marks the third consecutive offseason in which the Ravens have not used the designation with former running back Ray Rice being the last Baltimore player to be tagged in 2012.

The five NFL players to be designated as his team’s franchise player were Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Miami tight end Charles Clay was given the transition tag, which is cheaper than the franchise tag but only gives the Dolphins the right to match any offer sheet to which Clay might be signed by another team and does not award them two first-round picks like the non-exclusive franchise tag does.

A look ahead to next offseason provides a pair of intriguing franchise tag candidates in cornerback Jimmy Smith and kicker Justin Tucker. For a frame of reference, the franchise tag for a cornerback is $13.075 million this season while the tag for a kicker is set at $4.126 million.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 02 March 2015 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’ 14 unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and 11 exclusive-rights free agents.

The 2015 salary cap has been set to a record-high $143.28 million and the Ravens are expected to be over that total — Baltimore has less than $4 million in cap space currently, according to OverTheCap.com — upon signing their list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players. In other words, the organization still has a lot of work to do to clear room over the next several days with most attention on the fate of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for the 2015 campaign.

Though the signing period officially begins on March 10, 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 2014 free-agent forecast HERE.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

CB Antoine Cason: LEAVES
Skinny: Considering the veteran defensive back was a non-factor after being signed last December, there’s no reason to think the Ravens will attempt to re-sign Cason unless he’s still on the market come minicamp time.

LS Morgan Cox: STAYS
Skinny: Cox is as reliable as they come at the long snapper position, but he’s also coming off the second anterior cruciate ligament injury of his career, which will work in the Ravens’ favor in getting him to sign a cheaper contract.

TE Owen Daniels: STAYS
Skinny: The temptation will be there to follow Gary Kubiak to Denver, but Daniels will be viewed as a priority to give Joe Flacco a safety net and to continue to mentor second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore.

RB Justin Forsett: STAYS
Skinny: It will be interesting to see how teams will value the veteran back who will be 30 next season, but we got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome last week that the Ravens view him as the top priority among their own free agents.

CB Danny Gorrer: LEAVES
Skinny: After undergoing a season-ending knee injury in December, Gorrer could be an option to re-sign if he’s still on the market over the summer, but the Ravens will look elsewhere for veteran help at the cornerback position.

DE Lawrence Guy: STAYS
Skinny: With veteran Chris Canty being cut last week, Guy would be a good veteran option to compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Brent Urban at the 5-technique defensive end spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPhee: LEAVES
Skinny: Newsome all but confirmed that McPhee won’t be back as the rush specialist is in line for a big payday and will join the likes of Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Arthur Jones as defensive players the Ravens couldn’t pay in recent years.

S Jeromy Miles: STAYS
Skinny: A good special-teams player and someone who emerged to play real defensive snaps in 2014, Miles will likely be cheap enough to retain and throw back into the safety mix this summer.

G Will Rackley: LEAVES
Skinny: After suffering a concussion early in training camp that landed him on injured reserve, Rackley isn’t expected to be back and the Ravens are in much better shape along the offensive line than they were a year ago.

OL Jah Reid: LEAVES
Skinny: The Ravens would like to add another offensive lineman for depth this offseason, but the 2011 third-round pick was one of the organization’s biggest draft disappointments over the last few years.

CB Aaron Ross: LEAVES
Skinny: The veteran tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with several injuries in recent years, making you wonder if his career has come to an end.

S Darian Stewart: LEAVES
Skinny: With former secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo back in New York as the Giants defensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Stewart land in the Big Apple as the two have a relationship dating back to their days in St. Louis.

WR Torrey Smith: LEAVES
Skinny: The offense will have a difficult time trying to replace his deep-ball ability, but the Ravens seemed to go out of their way last week to prepare fans for the likelihood of the University of Maryland product departing for more money elsewhere. 

QB Tyrod Taylor: LEAVES
Skinny: After serving as the backup for the durable Flacco for four years, Taylor will likely explore other possibilities as the Ravens will look at 2014 sixth-round choice Keith Wenning and other cheap options for the No. 2 job.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Restricted free agents have three accrued seasons in the league. The Ravens can offer a first-round tender ($3.347 million based on a $143 million cap), second-round tender ($2.351 million), or original-round tender ($1.539 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.

S Will Hill: STAYS (second-round tender)
Skinny: His off-field baggage may prompt the Ravens to give Hill the low tender, but teams would then be able to sign the talented safety to an offer sheet with the Ravens receiving no compensation if they elected not to match.

CB Anthony Levine: STAYS (cheaper two-year deal)
Skinny: The special-teams standout emerged to play meaningful snaps at cornerback in the second half of 2014, but Levine will be offered a two-year deal at a cheaper rate than the low tender as the Ravens did with defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi.

K Justin Tucker: STAYS (second-round tender)
Skinny: Tucker could be in line to become the highest-paid kicker in the league in the next year, so the Ravens will give him the second-round tender to deter any teams from sniffing around for his services.

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have two or fewer accrued seasons in the league and own no negotiating rights. In order for the Ravens to retain the rights to these players, they must tender contracts at the league minimum based on their respective service times in the NFL. Though not certain, the Ravens generally tender all exclusive-rights players since their contracts are not guaranteed for the 2015 season.

WR Kamar Aiken: STAYS
Skinny: With Torrey Smith potentially departing, Aiken could find himself competing for a more meaningful role after an encouraging 2014 season in Baltimore. 

CB Tramain Jacobs: STAYS
Skinny: The Texas A&M product will be one to watch during training camp as he impressed the Ravens enough to land on the practice squad and cracked the 53-man roster later in the year before a hamstring injury sent him to IR. 

OL Ryan Jensen: STAYS
Skinny: The 2013 sixth-round pick spent much of last season on the practice squad before injuries garnered him a promotion, and he will find himself once again fighting to make the regular-season roster. 

LS Kevin McDermott: STAYS
Skinny: With Cox working his way back from ACL surgery, McDermott would figure to hang around to compete with the veteran long snapper during training camp. 

DE Steven Means: STAYS
Skinny: Since McPhee is likely to depart via free agency, there is an opportunity for younger players like Means to emerge as a situational rusher in the linebacker rotation this season. 

CB Rashaan Melvin: STAYS
Skinny: Even if Melvin was exposed by Tom Brady in the divisional round, he played well enough down the stretch for the Ravens to be encouraged and he should be a contender for the No. 3 and No. 4 cornerback jobs this summer. 

LS Patrick Scales: LEAVES
Skinny: Unless the Ravens choose to say goodbye to Cox, it would make little sense to bring back both McDermott and Scales to the long snapper mix. 

TE Phillip Supernaw: STAYS
Skinny: The former Houston Texan could find himself vying for a bigger role in the offense if Daniels doesn’t return and Dennis Pitta cannot return to the field in 2015. 

RB Fitz Toussaint: STAYS
Skinny: The Michigan product was taking carries away from veteran Bernard Pierce late last season and figures to have a chance to make the 2015 roster as the No. 3 running back. 

S Brynden Trawick: STAYS
Skinny: Trawick was not one of the Ravens’ many safeties to receive opportunities in the secondary last year and makes his money on special teams, putting him right back on the roster bubble this summer. 

DT Casey Walker: STAYS
Skinny: With Canty already released and Ngata potentially gone as well, players like Walker have to be salivating over an improved opportunity to crack the defensive line rotation. 

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Ravens release Canty to clear $2.66 million in cap space

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Ravens release Canty to clear $2.66 million in cap space

Posted on 27 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Defensive end Chris Canty became the second veteran player to be released by the Ravens this week.

The 32-year-old had his contract terminated on Friday morning, a move that saves the Ravens $2.66 million on their 2015 salary cap. Canty was entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and had been pondering retirement this winter, but many predicted he would be a roster victim due to the Ravens’ tight salary-cap situation.

Return specialist Jacoby Jones had his contract terminated earlier this week.

“I am very proud to be a Raven,” Canty said in a statement released by the organization. “They are a great franchise, and I was privileged to be a contributor to that outstanding tradition of defense that is part of the team’s lore.

“I am going to continue to prepare to play again and will explore other possibilities to play the game I love.”

In 26 games over two seasons with Baltimore, Canty didn’t make a big impact on the field, but he was one of the most respected veterans in the locker room, a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked after the turbulent nature of last year with the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. However, with the Ravens selecting defensive end Brent Urban in the fourth round of the 2014 draft — he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s training camp — and also having younger options on the roster such as DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, Canty was viewed as expendable.

The Ravens could also re-sign veteran Lawrence Guy, who played effectively at the 5-technique in the defensive line rotation after being picked up from the San Diego Chargers in early October. General manager Ozzie Newsome did not rule out the possibility of bringing back Canty at a reduced rate, but the Ravens will likely be content in going with younger, cheaper options at defensive end.

“We are a better franchise for having Chris Canty with us the last two years,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “He added maturity and leadership. Chris played well and played a lot of snaps for us, especially last season. He was an outstanding contributor to our playoff season in 2014.”

Canty missed five games during the 2014 campaign while dealing with a staph infection in his wrist in October and an ankle injury at the end of the regular season. He finished the year with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a half-sack.

In his 10-year career, Canty has also played for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, earning a Super Bowl XLVI championship ring.

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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ brass met with reporters Tuesday to review the 2014 season and look ahead at the offseason priorities for 2015.

Below are seven takeaways from what was discussed:

1. The Ravens made it clear they’re more than willing to walk away from wide receiver Torrey Smith.

You got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti that the organization is not willing to break the bank for the 2011 second-round pick as the latter even mentioned how much the Miami Dolphins regretted paying speedy receiver Mike Wallace a couple years ago. You wonder if the Ravens were trying to show Smith some “tough love” negotiating tactics as he’s a couple weeks away from hitting the open market but has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore.

2. Running back Justin Forsett might be a higher priority than we thought.

Forsett will be 30 next season and many have wondered how much of his success was a product of an improved offensive line, but Newsome mentioning what kind of mentor the running back has been in his career was interesting with questions about how he’d be valued on the open market. The Ravens will look to add another young running back for the future, but it wouldn’t make sense for Newsome to offer such a compliment if he were trying to low-ball the veteran, who was such a great story in 2014.

3. We’re still waiting to hear about the future of defensive end Chris Canty.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he hasn’t spoken to the veteran defensive lineman since the end of the season when he told reporters he was contemplating retirement. You’d have to think the Ravens are trying to be respectful to the 32-year-old, who may be a salary-cap casualty if he decides to continue his career. Baltimore was in a similar position with veteran center Matt Birk a couple years ago and likely would have cut him had he not decided to retire in the offseason following Super Bowl XLVII.

4. If there were any lingering doubts, rush specialist Pernell McPhee won’t be returning to Baltimore.

Newsome couldn’t have been more clear unless he said, “We wish Pernell good luck in his future endeavors.” The 2011 fifth-round pick had a terrific season as a situation player this past season and is expected to cash in with a number of teams vying for his services. It will be interesting to see how McPhee handles a full-time role elsewhere as his cranky knees were an issue at a few different points during his run in Baltimore.

5. Safety Terrence Brooks is likely to start the 2015 season on the physically unable to perform list.

After suffering a serious knee injury in December, Brooks figured to be a question mark to begin the 2015 campaign and Newsome confirmed that on Tuesday. The 2014 third-round pick showed a few flashes while also making plenty of mistakes as a rookie, but it will be hard to count on him contributing more in his second year as he works his way back from injury. Much attention has been paid to the cornerback position, but it’s clear the Ravens need to add an impact safety this offseason.

6. Bisciotti experienced his worst year as the owner of the franchise.

It wasn’t surprising to hear the owner share the sentiment, but the conviction with which he spoke let you know just how bothered he was by the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. Bisciotti quipped that he was off “suicide watch” and would have considered selling the team to Steve Ballmer last year, but he didn’t come across well in disputing the notion that the NFL had an image problem before team president Dick Cass saved him by pointing to the league’s concerns with domestic violence.

7. Newsome’s discussion about the Ravens secondary was disappointing.

Newsome is an excellent executive, but his thoughts on the secondary lacked accountability as he leaned on the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury. There’s no disputing that injuries played a role in last year’s woes, but many opined that the Ravens didn’t do enough last offseason to augment the unit after the free-agent loss of cornerback Corey Graham and long before the rash of injuries. Either way, actions will speak louder than words in how the Ravens address the defensive backfield.

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Luke Jones

More than a month after their season-ending loss to New England in the divisional round, the Ravens will finally hold their annual “State of the Ravens” press conference Tuesday afternoon as they look back at last year and offer a look into their offseason plans to improve for 2015.

Below are five topics of interest that are likely to be covered at length:

1. Off-field conduct

A lingering Ray Rice question or two will be asked — particularly of team president Dick Cass, who hasn’t addressed the matter in a press conference setting — but the focus will likely fall on what the organization is doing to address off-field concerns that included five arrests last offseason and ex-Raven Terrence Cody and safety Will Hill already surfacing in the news over the last month. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged in January that the bar is higher in terms of expectations, but concerns will remain until the Ravens can show last year was an aberration and not a lack of organizational control.

2. The future of Haloti Ngata

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s future and $16 million salary cap figure for 2015 have been dissected ad nauseam, but it will be interesting to listen to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s thoughts after Harbaugh expressed confidence last week that an extension would get done. Even though he ultimately inked linebacker Terrell Suggs to a new deal last winter, Newsome made it clear at last year’s “State of the Ravens” that he wasn’t afraid of letting a good player walk out the door. You wonder if we’ll hear a similar “bad cop” routine from Newsome to contrast Harbaugh’s optimism and put some heat on the veteran player.

3. Fixing the secondary

Newsome has often said you can never have too many good cornerbacks, but there’s no question the Ravens were lacking at that position last year even before the season-ending injury to top corner Jimmy Smith. Veteran Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million cap figure and is a likely candidate for a pay cut or a restructure deal, but the Ravens need to find a cornerback — maybe two — who is ready to step into a meaningful role. Safety might be an even bigger concern with Hill’s off-field baggage and the disappointing starts to the NFL careers of Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks.

4. Taking care of their own 

Much of this will hinge on a tight cap situation, but the Ravens proved last year that they were more concerned with taking care of their own than jumping into the free-agent market after re-signing Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones. The Ravens would love to have wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels back next season, but how realistic is that with so few resources available? An offense that took major strides a year ago will already be dealing with new offensive coordinator, but it’s possible there will be significant player turnover as well.

5. Offseason surgical procedures and health concerns

Pitta’s future is bound to come up again after Harbaugh presented a less-than-encouraging update last week, but the end-of-season press conference typically brings updates on other players who’ve undergone offseason surgeries. The Sun reported earlier this month that center Jeremy Zuttah underwent a cleanup procedure for his hip, but the Ravens also have a number of players continuing to recover from season-ending injuries including Jimmy Smith, right tackle Rick Wagner, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, cornerback Asa Jackson, and Brooks.

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Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

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Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has fielded countless questions about the future of Peyton Manning since becoming the head coach of the Denver Broncos last month.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, a reporter asked Kubiak an oft-repeated question about his old quarterback in Baltimore.

Is Joe Flacco elite?

“You bet he is. He helped me. It’s probably why I’m standing up here today,” said Kubiak as he laughed. “Joe was tremendous. I really enjoyed working with him — as talented a young man as I’ve ever coached and as good a person as I’ve ever coached. I think we’ll be talking about Joe for a long, long time. I really appreciated my time with him, and I wish him the best.”

Not only leading the Ravens offense to franchise-best marks in total yards and points scored, Kubiak guided Flacco to arguably the best regular season of his seven-year career. The 30-year-old threw a career-best 27 touchdowns and completed 62.1 percent of his passes, his best completion rate since 2010.

And while Kubiak already owned a coaching résumé that included an eight-year stint as the head coach of the Houston Texans, the 53-year-old once again praised the Ravens organization for the opportunity it provided last season. He’s using that experience in Denver, a place he previously spent two decades as a player and assistant coach.

“I took a lot of things,” Kubiak said. “I went there because I knew what the organization stood for. I knew what John [Harbaugh] stood for. That’s what I wanted to be a part of — the tremendous expectations there. I just think the job that they do as an organization, everybody’s on the same page and working together. I think Ozzie [Newsome] was tremendous for me to watch him in the draft and Eric DeCosta. That was very beneficial for me.

“To watch the team go through [the Ray Rice] situation early in the season and watch the organization deal with that. For me as a head coach, watching them deal with that situation and bring the football team out of it in a very positive way was very beneficial. Football-wise, a very experienced staff [with] Dean Pees and some of the coaches I got a chance to work with. The bottom line is watching a successful organization go about it every day — one that’s been there each and every year — I take a lot of that with me.”

Kubiak reiterated Wednesday that he wants Manning to return as the Broncos quarterback and said all indications are pointing toward that happening in 2015. Though the schedule won’t be finalized with dates until this spring, the Ravens will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos this coming season.

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Key dates on NFL offseason calendar

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Key dates on NFL offseason calendar

Posted on 12 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Even if we’re in the midst of a rare quiet time in the NFL calendar, below is a look at what’s coming up for the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams as the offseason kicks into high gear in the coming weeks:

February 16 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

February 17-23 — NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis

February 24 — Ravens hold their 2014 season-review/2015 season-preview press conference at 2 p.m. in Owings Mills

March 2 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

March 7-10 — Clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m. on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until the official start of free agency on that day.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

“Rule of 51″ begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m.

All 2014 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m.

The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m.

Trading period for 2015 begins at 4:00 p.m. after expiration of all 2014 contracts.

March 22-25 — NFL annual meeting in Phoenix

April 6 — Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.

April 20 — Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

April 24 — Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

April 29 — Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents

April 30-May 2 — NFL draft in Chicago

May 8-11 or May 15-18 — Clubs may elect to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.

May 18-20 — NFL spring league meeting in San Francisco

June 21-27 — Rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio

July 15 — At 4:00 p.m., deadline for any club that designated a franchise player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2015 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular-season game.

Mid-July — Clubs are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or “injured players” may report to a club’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

No Ravens free-agent-to-be has sparked more debate over the last several months than wide receiver Torrey Smith as he’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks.

So much time is spent picking apart his shortcomings in running routes and arguing that he’s not a No. 1 receiver — there aren’t 32 of them in the entire NFL, by the way — that we lose sight of what Smith has brought to the table in his four years with the Ravens. Prior to his selection in the second round of the 2011 draft, the Ravens lacked any kind of a vertical threat for quarterback Joe Flacco and were regularly suffocated by any defense simply playing Cover 2 with aggressive cornerbacks. From the moment he arrived, the speedy receiver brought an ability to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the process of doing so.

The University of Maryland product ranks third on the all-time franchise list in receptions and is second with 30 touchdown catches while never missing a game in four years. After a 2013 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards — both career highs — his numbers dipped to 49 catches for 767 yards under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Smith still caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew an impressive 261 yards on pass interference calls. The six-foot, 205-pound wideout wasn’t a great fit in Kubiak’s system that focused on short-to-intermediate passing, but his skill set is something that would be hard to replace.

By all accounts, Smith is also one of the best men in the Ravens locker room, a factor that shouldn’t be lost in the wake of last offseason when five players were arrested and after the recent reports of Will Hill and Terrence Cody being in trouble with the law. Character can’t be everything when it comes to valuing a player, but it should count for something.

It’s true that Smith profiles best as a good No. 2 receiver, but that still carries substantial value, evident by a CBS Sports report indicating the Ravens offered him a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season. And even if the 26-year-old won’t cash in on his gamble in the same way that Flacco did in his walk year two years ago, offers in that same neighborhood — or slightly better — will still be thrown his way on the open market. Resources such as Spotrac.com have projected Smith to be worth slightly above $7 million per year, and that’s before learning whether top free-agent receivers such as Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb will even hit the market.

If you’re convinced the Ravens shouldn’t pay Smith what they offered him a few months ago or sweeten the deal a bit to potentially get it done, then what?

Even if Bryant, Thomas, and Cobb find their way to the market, the Ravens won’t have the salary cap space to make a competitive offer. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin would be next on the list, but most project him to fetch more than Smith in free agency. A look at contracts signed in recent offseasons likely puts Smith in line with the deals received by Eric Decker and Golden Tate last offseason, but the final price will depend on the supply of quality receivers on the market and the number of teams willing to spend.

Whether re-signing Smith or not, the Ravens will take a long look at the wide receiver position in the draft, but Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White will be long gone by the time they pick 26th overall. And let’s not forget that general manager Ozzie Newsome’s sterling draft reputation doesn’t extend to the wide receiver position where Smith is the Ravens’ biggest success story in two decades. Going into the draft needing to find a starting receiver with a late first-round pick isn’t a recipe for success for a playoff-caliber team.

Drafting a wideout such as DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, or Devin Funchess could pay off in the long run, but few positions are as unpredictable as wide receiver, especially if you’re expecting one to play a significant role immediately.

Should Smith depart, the Ravens would be looking at a 36-year-old Steve Smith as one starter and a competition among the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Jacoby Jones (if he isn’t a cap casualty) for the No. 2 spot. Those receivers are complementary parts — not NFL starters — at this stage, and the Ravens can’t depend too much on Steve Smith, who slowed down at different points last season after a blazing start.

As they have in the past, Baltimore could look for another short-term veteran fix, but there’s only so much upside to be had with receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially if you’re looking for someone to stretch the field.

Of course, Smith will also need to prove just how much he wants to remain in Baltimore as he told WNST.net last week that he won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder and complimented the organization for giving him a chance to win every year. If the Ravens are still offering the fifth-year receiver what they did a few months ago and are willing to offer a little more as a show of faith in him, Smith can’t accuse them of disrespecting him after a season he’s described himself as less than stellar.

Most agree that Smith needs to be “the right player at the right price” for the Ravens to continue their relationship with him, but his departure would spell bad news for a team trying to build on a 10-6 season that ended in the divisional round.

His detractors have had few problems pointing out what Smith isn’t, but replacing him would be more difficult than many are willing to admit.

 

 

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Examining the Ravens’ possible 2015 salary cap cuts

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Examining the Ravens’ possible 2015 salary cap cuts

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With Super Bowl XLIX now in the books and the 2014 season officially over, the Ravens are continuing to make plans for 2015 as they evaluate a tight salary cap and try to improve from a 10-6 campaign that resulted in a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The NFL has yet to set the 2015 salary cap, which is projected to increase from $133 million this past season to somewhere between $138 million and $142 million for the upcoming year. That’s good news for the Ravens as they currently own a commitment of over $137 million for players currently under contract, per Spotrac.com.

With a slew of key free agents to address as well as visions of trying to improve other areas of the roster, general manager Ozzie Newsome will face some difficult decisions pertaining to several veterans on the roster. That begins and ends with five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata, who is entering the final season of a five-year, $61 million deal signed in 2011. Easily one of the best players in franchise history, the 31-year-old defensive tackle finds himself in a similar position to the one Terrell Suggs was in last year before he signed a contract extension to lower his 2014 cap figure.

A name not included on the list of potential cap casualties below is tight end Dennis Pitta, whose $4 million base salary for 2015 is guaranteed. It remains unclear whether Pitta will play football again after suffering two serious hip injuries in two years, but cutting him this offseason would increase his cap figure for 2015.

It’s important to remember the rule of 51 as the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count against the salary cap. The savings from any released player are offset in part by an additional player jumping into the top 51 from the bottom of the list. For example, if a released player carrying a $3 million cap number is replaced in the top 51 by another player carrying a $405,000 cap number, the end result is a $2.595 million savings on the salary cap.

Here’s how I’d rank the list of possible candidates to be cut for cap purposes (with the pre-June 1 cap savings noted in parentheses), in order from most likely to least likely:

1. DE Chris Canty ($2.66 million)
Skinny: The 32-year-old may take this decision out of the Ravens’ hands as he acknowledged at the end of the season that he’s contemplating retirement. Injuries limited his production in 2014, and the Ravens will likely push to re-sign the underrated Lawrence Guy while looking toward young defensive linemen Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore to be factors at Canty’s 5-technique defensive end spot. With so many other pressing needs elsewhere and a few younger options at this position, Canty returning would be more of a luxury than a necessity for next season, making it likely that he’s played his final game with Baltimore.

2. WR Jacoby Jones ($750,000)
Skinny: On the surface, the minimal savings gained by cutting the return specialist now wouldn’t appear worth it, but you have to wonder where Jones fits after falling behind the likes of Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken on the depth chart and not appearing as explosive in the return game in 2014. A possible strategy would be to designate Jones as a post-June 1 cut, which would create $2.5 million in savings for the summer and autumn when the Ravens need a “rainy day” fund to account for injuries. The only problem with that strategy is his scheduled 2015 cap number of $3.375 million staying on the books during the first few months of free agency, but it just doesn’t feel like there’s a place for Jones moving forward.

3. LB Albert McClellan ($1 million)
Skinny: A core member of Jerry Rosburgh’s special teams units over the last few years, McClellan has been a reliable player, but other young inside linebackers such as Arthur Brown and Zachary Orr are cheaper and should be ready to handle more responsibility. Of course, we’re not talking about a great deal of savings here, but veteran special-teams players are typically among the first to go when teams are dealing with cap pains.

4. P Sam Koch ($2.5 million)
Skinny: Many assumed Koch would be a cap casualty last year with his high price tag for a punter, but the Ravens value his ability a great deal and regard him as one of the best in the NFL. That said, Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker is a restricted free agent and will be looking for a long-term contract over the next 12 months. If Koch is willing to sign a team-friendly extension to lower his cap number, the Ravens would be more than happy to keep him around, but they probably can’t afford to pay their kicker and punter in the top 10 at their respective positions. Entering the final year of his contract, Koch is more likely to be a casualty this year than he was last offseason.

5. DT Haloti Ngata ($8.5 million)
Skinny: The only certainty is that the longtime Raven won’t be playing for his scheduled $16 million cap figure. Whether that means he signs an extension like Suggs or is cut remains to be seen. Ngata’s 2014 season was his best in a few years, but his four-game suspension for Adderall use allowed the Ravens to take an extended look at 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan, who played very well in the 31-year-old’s absence. The sides talked about an extension last season with little progress, so it will be interesting to see how motivated Ngata is to make amends for his suspension and finish his career in Baltimore. The Ravens must be smart as it’s typically unwise to throw money at defensive linemen on the wrong side of 30.

6. CB Lardarius Webb ($2 million)
Skinny: It was a disappointing year for the 29-year-old after he missed all of training camp and three of the first four games of the season with a back injury. Since suffering the second anterior cruciate ligament tear of his career in 2012, Webb has looked like nothing better than average, which is problematic when he’s carrying a $12 million cap figure for 2015. However, cutting him this winter would only save $2 million and create less depth at a position where the Ravens are already looking to improve. Newsome may ask Webb to take a pay cut, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens depleting their depth at cornerback further — even if he’s no more than average at this pointby cutting him outright for minimal savings.

 

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens wasted little time in officially beginning the process to replace offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak by interviewing Denver assistant Adam Gase Monday night.

Serving as the Broncos offensive coordinator in each of the last two years, Gase traveled to Baltimore to meet with head coach John Harbaugh before the Ravens staff traveled to Arizona to coach the Pro Bowl this week. Though interest has been lukewarm for Gase in trying to become a head coach this offseason, Jacksonville and several other teams have courted the 36-year-old to become their offensive coordinator.

Gase has come highly recommended by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as he helped orchestrate the NFL’s top-ranked offense in 2013 and No. 4 unit in 2014. However, some have questioned how much of Gase’s success should be attributed to working with a Hall of Fame quarterback who has essentially run his own offense in Denver.

After spending time as an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Gase was hired by then-coach Josh McDaniels to join the Broncos staff in 2009 and was retained by John Fox when he was hired in 2011. As a quarterbacks coach, Gase was credited for getting enough production out of quarterback Tim Tebow to get the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 before Manning arrived on the scene the following year.

The hiring of Gase would likely bring a shift in offensive philosophy as he is known for an up-tempo, pass-happy style that differs from Kubiak’s West Coast offense that worked so well in Baltimore this past season. However, Gase adapted to a more run-oriented attack in the second half of 2014 when Manning struggled through the final weeks of the season with a quadriceps injury, leading you to believe his system can be more balanced.

A certain amount of mystery remains over how successful Gase can be as an offensive coordinator without Manning — or his many offensive weapons in Denver — but his credentials are impressive for someone who didn’t even play college football, let alone compete in the NFL. He began his coaching career as an undergraduate at Michigan State helping out coach Nick Saban, who then took Gase with him to Louisiana State as a graduate and recruiting assistant. Given general manager Ozzie Newsome’s relationship with the current Alabama coach, you can assume the Ravens have done their homework on a man regarded as one of the finest young offensive minds in the NFL.

Should the Ravens decide Gase is the right choice to replace Kubiak, they may need to move quickly given the interest he’s drawn from other teams and the high number of offensive coordinator jobs that remain unfilled around the league.

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