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.