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Ravens playing “good cop, bad cop” with Monroe?

Posted on 23 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Members of the Ravens brass have presented a lukewarm attitude regarding incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe throughout the offseason, but Steve Bisciotti took a different approach speaking at the league meetings on Tuesday.

And while much could change between now and the start of the season, the Baltimore owner sure made it sound like the man who’s been limited to just 16 starts over the last two years will again be entrusted to protect Joe Flacco’s blind side this fall. Monroe is scheduled to enter the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract and would carry an $8.7 million salary cap figure for 2016.

“He is our left tackle going into next year,” Bisciotti told The Sun in Boca Raton, Fla. on Tuesday. “It’s like [third-year wide receiver Michael] Campanaro. We think the world of him. But you have to know what you get out of the guy, and Eugene has been a pretty durable player these last couple years. But nobody works out harder than he does.

“I just feel bad. I think a lot of the speculation about us moving on from him clearly comes down to the fact that he’s been hurt a lot, because he’s played pretty well when he’s been in there. We’ve always been happy with him when he’s on the field.”

Bisciotti’s comments were a contrast from those made by coach John Harbaugh earlier in the day, who was asked about Monroe and said he anticipated a competition that would include right tackle Rick Wagner and reserves James Hurst and De’Ondre Wesley. Perhaps this is the Ravens’ version of “good cop, bad cop” in trying to motivate their left tackle for 2016.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Wagner enters his third season as the projected starting right tackle. The Wisconsin product played at a very high level in 2014 before a Lisfranc injury cut his season short. He started all 16 games last year, but it was apparent that he was still feeling the effects of foot surgery as he finished 49th among qualifying offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system.

Meanwhile, Hurst started 11 games in Monroe’s place and graded 74th among 77 tackles, according to PFF. It was Hurst who was pushed into Flacco’s left knee, causing tears to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments of the franchise quarterback last November. Even if the Ravens elect to go with Monroe for another season, upgrading the backup left tackle spot is a crucial need.

“I don’t have any doubt that all those tackles can play both sides,” Harbaugh said. “In some ways, the NFL has changed a little bit where it’s not just left-tackle oriented like it used to be maybe 10, 15 years ago. It used to be a little more left-tackle oriented because of the way the protections were organized. Now, you can move that around a little bit.

“The blind side still is important. The quarterback doesn’t see that tackle getting beat when he’s one-on-one, so it still has value. But there are ways to protect both tackles. It’s going to be a competition with those guys and whoever else we add.”

It’s predictable for Harbaugh to speak with confidence about players currently on the roster, but envisioning any of the aforementioned names seriously challenging Monroe’s ability is a stretch. Wagner played left tackle in college, but it’s fair to doubt whether he has the quickness to be a serious candidate on the left side. As Bisciotti correctly noted, Monroe has performed well when he’s been on the field, but his lack of durability over the last two years is a major concern.

The tone of Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome might be a better reflection of how the organization feels about Monroe, but there should be no rush to part ways with him before a real replacement is added through free agency, trade, or the draft. Cutting Monroe now would clear just $2.1 million in cap space and would leave $6.6 million in dead money, making a post-June 1 release more of a possibility.

Even if Bisciotti’s thoughts can be taken at face value and Monroe is destined to return as the starting left tackle, Harbaugh clearly stated the organization’s position on the offensive lineman’s commentary on medical marijuana that has garnered much attention over the last couple weeks.

“Those are his comments,” Harbaugh said. “What’s the disclaimer? ‘He does not speak for the network.’ I promise you he does not speak for the organization.”

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What’s next at safety after Ravens bring on Weddle?

Posted on 15 March 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens already had a crowded safety group before agreeing to a four-year deal with three-time Pro Bowl selection Eric Weddle on Monday.

The 31-year-old should bring the stability, high-impact play, and leadership that the Ravens have lacked at the position since the days of Ed Reed, but what Weddle’s arrival means for the other safeties on the roster remains to be seen. There was already a prevailing thought that the organization would part ways with at least one safety from a group that includes Lardarius Webb, Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, and Matt Elam, and the arrival of the longtime San Diego Charger would appear to make that a certainty.

But who would be the likeliest candidate to go?

The Ravens would save $3.5 million in salary cap space by cutting Webb, who only converted from cornerback to safety late last season and is scheduled to carry a $9.5 million cap figure for the 2016 season. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have both talked up the veteran’s potential at his new position and have spoken with conviction about him being a starter. Of course, that all came before the Ravens gave $13 million in guaranteed money to their new safety, and Weddle and Webb would be a smaller duo compared to most safety tandems around the league.

It’s worth noting that a pre-June 1 release of Webb would leave $6 million in dead money, but a post-June 1 designation would leave his heavy commitment on the salary cap until most offseason activity has already concluded.

Releasing Hill would save $3 million in cap space, but he was the NFL’s 17th-highest-graded safety in Pro Football Focus’ rankings and his 6-foot-1, 228-pound frame would appear to be the perfect complement to the undersized Weddle (5-foot-11 and 200 pounds). The Ravens love having interchangeable safeties capable of playing the free or strong spot, and the combination of Weddle and Hill would appear to fit that vision perfectly.

There wouldn’t appear to be much use for Lewis in the base defense anymore, but releasing him would save just $933,000, which is very little when you account for the player taking his place in the “Rule of 51” list that counts against the salary cap. He would appear to be a reasonable backup option with just a $1.867 million cap figure for 2016.

Elam might be the most interesting name as the Ravens have never given up on a first-round pick prior to the conclusion of his rookie deal, but he carries a $2.14 million cap figure for 2016 and his release would save $1.33 million in space. Coaches said last summer that the University of Florida product had a strong offseason prior to tearing his biceps in training camp, but Elam didn’t show enough in his first two seasons to make you believe he’s a long-term fit.

The Ravens aren’t in a position where they need to make a decision immediately as Weddle’s signing leaves them with roughly $8 million in cap space for 2016, but this position group has become too crowded and too expensive to not make an adjustment as the offseason progresses.

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Baltimore Ravens 2016 Mock Draft by Dennis Koulatsos

Posted on 13 March 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos

 

 

DeForest Buckner

When the Baltimore Ravens are on the clock in this year’s 2016 NFL Draft, GM Ozzie Newsome and his scouting department will be under tremendous pressure to select players that can come in and contribute right away.  With the Ravens missing the playoffs 2 out of the last 3 years, and sporting just a 23-25 regular season record since their Super Bowl victory over the 49ers, owner Steve Bisciotti has to be running out of patience.

Along with the Ravens faithful fan base, he has watched an unusually high number of draft picks play way below their draft grade/position.  Players such as Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Matt Elam, and Arthur Brown quickly come to mind. Even last year’s top draft pick WR Breshad Perriman has yet to see field action in an NFL game.  In fairness to Perriman he did suffer a knee injury in training camp, but the bottom line is that has not been able to contribute, and even more disturbing is that the team has been awfully quiet in regards to how well his recovery is progressing.

The Ravens cleared up a bunch of cap space by releasing several players (Daryl Smith, Chris Canty) and restructuring the contracts of others (Marshal Yanda, Jimmy Smith).  They are currently $12.5 million under the cap, and are in talks with players such as WR Mike Wallace.  No doubt Ozzie Newsome will also fill some holes after the June 1 cuts.

With the signing of Shareece Wright to a new deal, I don’t think that CB is the Ravens top priority.  Putting pressure on the QB is still the best way for a team to improve their pass defense, which is why I think DeForest Buckner, the 6’7″ 290 pound DE from Oregon makes sense for the Ravens with the 6th pick in the first round.  He is a capable replacement for Chris Canty, and he is built like an AFC North defensive end.  If he is gone by the time it’s the Ravens’ turn to pick, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa would be a solid option.  Bosa plays the run better than Buckner, but does not get after the QB as well.  Buckner is also a better fit with the Ravens from a scheme-fit standpoint.

Hopefully the rookie QBs will shake-up this year’s draft and make the Ravens an attractive trade partner. It would be great to see the team trade back – even one spot to the QB needy 49ers – and pick up another 2nd round draft pick.  That would present the ideal, best case scenario. But if the board holds true and there are no trades, here are 9 players that could be Ravens at the conclusion of the draft:

First round: No. 6 -DeForest Buckner, DE Oregon

Second round: No. 36 – William Jackson III, CB Houston 

Third round: No. 70 – Le’Raven Clark, OT Texas Tech

Fourth round: No. 101 – Tyler Matakevich, ILB Temple

 No. 127 – Spencer Drago, OG Baylor

No. 132 – Harlan Miller, CB NE Louisiana

No. 134 – Malcom Mitchell, WR Georgia

Fifth round: None (swapped picks with Denver in Gradkowski trade)

Sixth round: No. 182 – Justin Simmons, FS Boston College

No. 209 – Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Maryland

Seventh round: None (traded to Miami for cornerback Will Davis)

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Free-agent receiver Wallace reportedly set to visit Ravens

Posted on 12 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Looking to add more speed to their passing game, the Ravens continue to look at free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace.

According to Sports Illustrated, the 29-year-old will visit the Ravens on Monday and remains an option at the right price. Wallace was cut by the Minnesota Vikings last week after the worst season of his seven-year career in which he caught just 39 passes for 473 yards and two touchdowns.

Since leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2012 season, Wallace hasn’t been the same receiver who posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, but he’s also played with quarterbacks in Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater who lacked the arm strength to take full advantage of his speed. That wouldn’t figure to be an issue playing with the strong-armed Joe Flacco, who acknowledged at the end of last season that he wouldn’t mind seeing the Ravens copy Pittsburgh’s approach of having multiple vertical threats.

The Ravens would like to add another speed receiver to go along with 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruicate ligament in his right knee. Perriman had yet to be fully cleared as of last month, and the Ravens cannot afford to put all hope for their vertical passing game in a receiver who has yet to complete a full-contact practice at the NFL level.

According to CBS Sports, Baltimore is also interested in three-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, who had spent his entire career with the San Diego Chargers before becoming an unrestricted free agent last week.

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Three compensatory picks awarded to Ravens for 2016 draft

Posted on 11 March 2016 by Luke Jones

The NFL announced Friday that the Ravens will receive three compensatory picks in the 2016 draft next month.

Two of the selections will come in the fourth round while the final one is a sixth-round pick. This marks the fourth consecutive year in which Baltimore has received at least three compensatory selections. The maximum number of compensatory picks allotted to any team in a single draft is four.

Needing to revamp the roster after the Ravens’ worst season since 2007, general manager Ozzie Newsome will have a total of nine picks to work with in the 2016 draft. The organization owns one first, one second, one third, four fourths, and two sixth-round picks.

The Ravens lost unrestricted free agents Pernell McPhee, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Darian Stewart, and Tyrod Taylor and signed unrestricted free agent Kendrick Lewis last offseason, a net loss of free agents that put them in line to receive up to four compensatory picks. However, Taylor’s deal with Buffalo fellow below the line of the 33 compensatory picks awarded by the league on Friday.

Determinations for compensatory picks are based on a formula considering the salary, playing time, and postseason honors earned by unrestricted free agents who left their teams in the previous offseason. Compensatory picks may not be traded, but that will change beginning with the 2017 draft.

Since the compensatory pick program was introduced in 1994, the Ravens have led the NFL in receiving 47 compensatory picks as the organization has often refrained from signing many unrestricted free agents over the years while losing many of their own. Green Bay and Dallas are tied for a distant second with 37 compensatory picks over that period of time.

Compensatory choices have been used on the likes of McPhee, tight end Crockett Gillmore, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and right tackle Rick Wagner in recent years. In the 2015 draft, the Ravens selected cornerback Tray Walker (fourth round), tight end Nick Boyle (fifth round), and guard Robert Myers (sixth round) with their three compensatory picks.

Below is a history of the Ravens’ compensatory picks since 1996 with the round in which the player was selected noted in parentheses:

1996: none
1997: LB Cornell Brown (sixth), QB Wally Richardson (seventh), S Ralph Staten (seventh), DT Leland Taylor (seventh)
1998: TE Cam Qualey (seventh)
1999: G Edwin Mulitalo (fourth)
2000: none
2001: none
2002: WR Javin Hunter (sixth), RB Chester Taylor (sixth), S Chad Williams (sixth)
2003: FB Ovie Mughelli (fourth), OT Tony Pashos (fifth), C Mike Mabry (seventh), S Antwoine Sanders (seventh)
2004: WR Clarence Moore (sixth), WR Derek Abney (seventh), G Brian Rimpf (seventh)
2005: QB Derek Anderson (sixth)
2006: RB P.J. Daniels (fourth), TE Quinn Sypniewski (fifth), P Sam Koch (sixth), CB Derrick Martin (sixth)
2007: LB Antwan Barnes (fourth), FB Le’Ron McClain (fourth), QB Troy Smith (fifth), LB Prescott Burgess (sixth)
2008: OL Oniel Cousins (third), OL David Hale (fourth), S Haruki Nakamura (sixth), RB Allen Patrick (seventh)
2009: none
2010: none
2011: CB Chykie Brown (fifth), DE Pernell McPhee (fifth)
2012: S Christian Thompson (fourth), CB Asa Jackson (fifth)
2013: FB Kyle Juszczyk (fourth), OT Rick Wagner (fifth), OL Ryan Jensen (sixth), CB Marc Anthony (seventh)
2014: TE Crockett Gillmore (third), DE Brent Urban (fourth), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth), G John Urschel (fifth)
2015: CB Tray Walker (fourth), TE Nick Boyle (fifth), G Robert Myers (fifth)

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Ravens get “positive news” on Gillmore, move receiver to tight end

Posted on 10 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day veteran Benjamin Watson was introduced to the local media, the Ravens continued making news at the tight end position.

After signing the 35-year-old to a two-year, $7 million contract on the first day of free agency and surprisingly tendering the relatively-unknown restricted free agent Chase Ford $1.671 million, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the organization received “some positive news” on Crockett Gillmore last week. The third-year tight end needed surgeries for torn labrums in both shoulders this offseason.

Newsome first revealed that Gillmore might not be ready for the start of training camp at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, but he remains confident that the 2014 third-round pick will play this season.

“He’s still has a recovery road that he has to go down in order to get himself ready for the beginning of the year,” said Newsome, who admitted that Gillmore’s health and Nick Boyle’s 10-game suspension turned the tight end position into an unexpected priority that needed to be addressed. “But I feel very good about it, barring any setbacks.”

The Ravens also revealed that they are moving 2015 sixth-round pick Darren Waller from wide receiver to tight end. The Georgia Tech product caught two passes for 18 yards in six games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

The 6-foot-6 target was a solid special-teams player in his first NFL season, but the organization sees his size better utilized at a different position.

“We just feel like a 250-pound wide receiver who can run like he can has a chance to maybe grow into a tight end,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s embraced it, and he’s working on that right now in the offseason. Ben will have a chance to kind of work with him a little bit, too. It’s pretty exciting.”

The Ravens currently have nine tight ends on their 90-man offseason roster: Watson, Gillmore, Boyle, Ford, Waller, Maxx Williams, Konrad Reuland, Harold Spears, and Dennis Pitta. Of course, most expect Baltimore to release Pitta if he doesn’t retire, and a post-June 1 designation would create $5 million in salary cap space for the 2016 season and $4.4 million in dead money on the 2017 cap.

In other news, the organization created an additional $4.5 million in cap space by restructuring cornerback Jimmy Smith’s contract. The Ravens converted $6 million of his original $7 million base salary for 2016 into a bonus, lowering his cap figure from $9.6 million to $5.1 million for the coming season.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens began Thursday with just over $12.5 million in cap space, but that did not reflect all maneuvers from the last couple days, making the actual amount slightly lower than that.

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As free agency opens, new concern becomes apparent for Ravens

Posted on 09 March 2016 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens entered the offseason, one of the few strengths of a 5-11 team appeared to be its depth at tight end.

Even with the serious doubts surrounding Dennis Pitta’s future in Baltimore, the position consisted of 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and 2015 draft picks Maxx Williams (second round) and Nick Boyle (fifth round). The trio combined to make 83 receptions for 833 yards and five touchdowns, making one assume that tight end was one of the few spots on either side of the ball that general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t need to touch.

Then came last month’s news of Boyle being suspended for the first 10 games of the 2016 season for a second violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The following week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh revealed that Gillmore — who finished the 2015 season on injured reserve with a back injury — needed surgery for torn labrums in each of his shoulders.

Newsome said Gillmore would “hopefully” be ready for the start of training camp in late July, but the executive’s moves at the start of free agency make you wonder if concerns are even greater than he and Harbaugh indicated late last month.

The signing of veteran tight end Benjamin Watson to a two-year, $7 million contract was surprising because of the Ravens’ typical patience at the start of free agency, but it still made sense with Boyle gone until late November and the offense’s heavy reliance on tight ends. Even at age 35, Watson caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans last season and brings strong character and leadership to a position with very young talent.

But Newsome followed that acquisition with the surprising tender of restricted free agent Chase Ford, who didn’t play a snap for the Ravens last year and was sent to IR shortly after being signed in mid-November. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Ford caught a combined 34 passes for Minnesota in 2013 and 2014, but the $1.671 million low tender is steep for a player who didn’t play a snap last year and was on the Vikings practice squad before Baltimore signed him.

To be clear, the right-of-first-refusal tender isn’t guaranteed, but that amount currently counts toward the salary cap and it’s no secret that the Ravens don’t have an abundance of room to maneuver. Perhaps the organization thinks Ford is a diamond in the rough, but it’s more likely a reflection of the uneasiness about Gillmore’s status for the start of the season.

The Ravens are already facing the brutal reality of Pitta retiring or releasing him with either outcome leaving a total of $6.6 million in dead cap space that will likely be split over the next two seasons with a post-June 1 designation. But Boyle’s foolishness and Gillmore’s health concerns transformed one of the roster’s deepest positions into a concern on which Newsome felt compelled to act.

These may have been the right moves under the current circumstances, but a $32 million contract to Pitta and three draft picks had already been devoted to the position over the last two years before Watson and Ford were added to the picture over the last couple days, exhausting more resources at tight end.

And that’s a disappointing development when the Ravens have an assortment of needs on both sides of the ball and only so much cap space and so many draft picks to go around.

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Osemele set to join Oakland when free agency opens

Posted on 08 March 2016 by Luke Jones

More than 24 hours before free agency officially opened, the Ravens have all but officially lost their best player from this year’s class.

According to NFL Network, fifth-year offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele has agreed in principle to a deal with the Oakland Raiders that’s expected to pay him more than $11 million per season. The contract will reportedly make the 2012 second-round pick one of the five highest-paid offensive linemen in the league.

The Ravens had hoped to keep Osemele and planned to permanently move him to left tackle, but it soon became apparent after they made an “aggressive” offer that interest from competing teams with more salary cap space were going to be too much to overcome. With Osemele having only started four games at left tackle in his NFL career and the Ravens already extending five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda last fall, it would have been too great a risk to pay Osemele lucrative money solely to play a position where he remains relatively unproven.

Much of the angst regarding Osemele’s status has stemmed from the disappointing return on the five-year, $37.5 million contract awarded to left tackle Eugene Monroe two years ago. Since signing that deal in March of 2013, the 28-year-old has started just 16 games and has fallen out of the good graces of the organization, evident from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s lukewarm endorsement this offseason.

As much as critics have pointed to Monroe’s health problems over the last two years, it’s worth noting that Osemele missed 13 games over the last three seasons and underwent major back surgery in 2013.

Monroe is scheduled to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for 2016, but cutting him prior to June 1 would create just $2.1 million in space and $6.6 million in dead money on the cap. With Osemele joining the Raiders, the Ravens would also be without a starting left tackle if they decided to cut Monroe.

While many mock drafts have linked the Ravens to Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in April, the organization might be better off — for cap purposes and on the field — sticking with Monroe for another season while aiming to draft an offensive tackle with some upside in the second or third round. At the very least, this could upgrade the backup plan that includes James Hurst, who played poorly filling in for Monroe in 2015 before eventually being replaced by Osemele.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that right tackle Rick Wagner is set to become an unrestricted free agent next winter.

Young offensive linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are expected to compete for the starting left guard job.

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Ravens can’t compound Monroe mistake with another

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Kelechi Osemele is a heck of a football player.

In a perfect world without a salary cap, the Ravens would re-sign one of the better guards in the NFL and continue their experiment from last December to see if he can be a franchise left tackle. If Osemele couldn’t, Baltimore would just move him back to his normal position and allow him and five-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda to continue serving as the best guard tandem in the NFL.

But the league doesn’t work that way, and it’s for that reason that the Ravens are probably wise to let their 2012 second-round pick sign elsewhere this week, especially if other teams are willing to pay him upwards of $10 million per year as some reports have indicated.

Osemele is a very good guard who has shown ability to swing outside, but we don’t yet know whether that translates to being a long-term left tackle. Other teams with more cap space and less money invested in the guard position can afford to experiment knowing that they can always move Osemele back to guard where he’s established himself as a commodity approaching Pro Bowl stature. Other teams would be happy to keep Osemele at guard if tackle proves to be too much for him.

But that very scenario is the worst thing that could happen to the Ravens, who have limited cap space and an array of other positional needs after they already extended Yanda’s contract last October. The truth is that Osemele held up admirably at left tackle in his four-game tryout, but he didn’t stand out as a future Pro Bowl player, either. That’s not meant as criticism for a man who was only playing left tackle for the first time since his days at Iowa State, but it is a warning sign that the Ravens shouldn’t spend too drastically on the hope of Osemele being able to solidify the position moving forward.

You can criticize the Ravens for not trying out Osemele at left tackle much sooner — especially with Eugene Monroe having made just 16 starts over the last two years while James Hurst struggled mightily as his understudy — but smart organizations don’t step outside their comfort zone to overpay a relatively-unknown commodity at the position where they really need him.

It’s clear by now that Baltimore made a mistake investing a five-year, $37.5 million contract in Monroe, who played very well in 11 starts after being acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2013 season but hasn’t been able to stay on the field since receiving a big payday two years ago. General manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn’t compound that error by paying too much for the mere chance of Osemele being able to stick at left tackle for the long haul.

Other teams have the flexibility to keep an open mind about where the fifth-year lineman will play, but this only works for the Ravens if he becomes their long-term left tackle. Otherwise, they’ve invested an astronomical amount of money at the guard position and still have the same problem protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside.

That doesn’t seem to be a good bet at $10 million per year or more.

For that price, you need more of a sure thing.

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Flacco extension more about future than short-term relief

Posted on 02 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were never going to “win” the contract negotiations with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco and agent Joe Linta, who held all of the leverage like they did three years ago.

Sure, senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty could have negotiated a structure that would have created more salary cap space for 2016 than the extra $6 million provided by Flacco’s three-year, $66.4 million extension, but the Ravens have been down that road before and didn’t want to be forced to go back to the negotiating table three years from now. Instead, they sacrificed some immediate cap relief in favor of the long-term balance that will provide the organization more flexibility when Flacco reaches the back end of his contract.

“Going forward, it’s a very flat deal, especially with the rise of the salary cap as we’ve seen over the last couple years,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “The deal is a lot flatter. And if he wins three Super Bowls in a row, then we might have to revisit this thing — I don’t know.”

Flacco’s $40 million signing bonus is an NFL record — an emphatic win for Linta and his client — but the extension includes no future option bonuses that can eventually make cap figures untenable like we witnessed with the original six-year, $120.6 million contract that included numbers of $28.55 million for 2016 and $31.15 million for 2017. His deal now runs through the 2021 season.

To be clear, the Ravens didn’t get a favor from their longtime quarterback — he is now scheduled to be paid a whopping $125 million over the next six years — but they undid some of the cap damage from the first time around. The move wasn’t about any generosity from Flacco as much as it was about cooperation.

“It’s tough to say you give up anything when you’re signing these kinds of deals,” said Flacco as he laughed when asked if he had made any sacrifices by extending. “I mean, come on, I’m sure there are a couple things I could probably pick and say, ‘Man, I wish you guys could have done this and that,’ but no. This thing happened pretty quickly, and I took a couple days to at least sleep on it, because this only happens [a few] times in a career.”

For years, the Ravens have rewarded star players with back-loaded contracts, a practice that provides short-term cap benefits before a team ultimately pays the cap price in latter years. Lucrative contracts given to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ray Rice in recent years fell into that category, and the organization faced difficult decisions of whether to further extend aging star players with high cap figures or be forced to part ways altogether.

Flacco’s original deal was severely back-loaded as $25.85 million of the $62 million he was paid over the first three years of the deal had yet to be accounted for on the salary cap. That balance doesn’t just go away, no matter how you try to rework a contract. You can only kick the can so far down the road.

The 2008 first-round pick’s cap figures will remain north of $22 million over the duration of the contract, but the Ravens will have some flexibility over the final years. As a result, Newsome can feel more confident in constructing his roster knowing a dramatic spike in Flacco’s cap number isn’t looming.

Should the quarterback’s play diminish to the point that Baltimore is ready to move on, cutting him prior to 2020 — when he is 35 — will result in just $8 million in dead money. Parting ways before the final season of the deal would not leave any dead money, and if a 36-year-old Flacco is still playing at a high level then, the Ravens could easily rework his 2021 non-guaranteed base salary of $24.25 million into a short-term extension of another season or two with minimal cap ramifications.

For the time being, Flacco has again become the highest-paid player in the NFL, but the salary cap has also increased 26 percent since he signed the original deal in 2013. Newsome citing the money Washington and Philadelphia will pay Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford, respectively, shows how expensive even unproven quarterbacks are becoming. The price was steep, but the Ravens can now take solace in knowing they’re off the quarterback contract carousel for the next several years.

Flacco certainly doesn’t come cheap, but the flatter structure of his deal coupled with an ever-increasing salary cap should keep the Ravens in position to be successful as long as they’re wise with other resources, something they’ve struggled to do over the last few seasons. The harshest detractors blame Flacco’s contract for the Ravens missing the playoffs twice in the last three years, but he accounted for a reasonable total of $36.15 million in cap space over those seasons.

“It’s all about winning football games,” Flacco said. “Once this thing is signed and over with, that’s all that we’re worried about. This gives us the best chance to move forward. Over the next six years, it’s a huge window to go win another Super Bowl — another two, another three, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, that’s our goal.”

And at the end of day, teams who have quarterbacks — whether they’re future Hall of Famers, elite, or merely good enough to get you over the championship hump — must do what it takes to keep them. Critics will say the Ravens overpaid for Flacco’s services again — his regular-season statistics would say they’re correct —  but you can’t value quarterbacks in a vacuum. Teams would rather have the right guy than to simply be right about how much to pay him.

Just ask the Cleveland Browns.

Flacco’s extension was more about righting the structure of the original deal and setting the Ravens up for the next six years with a quarterback who has already won a Super Bowl and plays his best football in the postseason. After spending more than a decade in Baltimore without a franchise signal-caller, Newsome isn’t about to question Flacco’s value, especially after watching the Ravens play without him this past season.

“I just spent about five days with GMs [at the scouting combine in Indianapolis] who are looking for a Joe Flacco, and they’re not sleeping at night, I can tell you,” Newsome said. “We did that, and no one can appreciate a good quarterback [like] Ozzie Newsome can after going through what we went through. I learned a lot of lessons along the way of what a good quarterback really is.”

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