The NFL draft is two weeks away with the Ravens undoubtedly looking ahead to the nine selections they’re scheduled to make to augment a roster with clear Super Bowl aspirations.
However, it’s impossible to forget the emphasis general manager Eric DeCosta has placed on continuity as the Ravens have re-signed or placed the franchise tag on nine of their unrestricted agents since mid-January. That activity came after Baltimore had already awarded contract extensions to several players last year.
According to the NFL Players Association’s public report, the Ravens currently have $9.163 million in salary cap space for 2020, but the rookie draft pool and the need for a rainy day fund for inevitable regular-season roster maneuvering roughly cost that much. In other words, it appears unlikely we’ll see any other major signings without substantial restructuring of current contracts.
But are there any remaining Baltimore free agents who could still be in the plans for 2020?
Below is a look at those individuals who remain unsigned or were released for cap-related purposes:
Unrestricted free agents
DB Brandon Carr — The Ravens’ silence in declining the 33-year-old’s $6 million option for 2020 was surprising considering how they typically handle a respected veteran’s departure with a statement of praise from management. Baltimore could use a backup safety, but the re-signings of veterans Jimmy Smith and Anthony Levine eased the urgency for veteran secondary depth entering the draft.
OL Hroniss Grasu – With separate stints in Baltimore in each of the last two years, the 28-year-old could be classified as an in-season emergency option and was active for the final four games of last season, but the Ravens are aiming for better and younger options at this point. Grasu has played in only four NFL games over the last two seasons.
OLB Pernell McPhee – The 31-year-old played in seven games before tearing his triceps last season, but he recorded three sacks and six quarterback hits while setting the edge effectively and providing inside-outside versatility. His return at a cheap rate could still make sense, but the Ravens already re-signed depth piece Jihad Ward and want to add more youth and upside at the edge in the draft.
DT Domata Peko – Noncommittal about his football future at the end of last season, the 35-year-old seems likely to approach 2020 in the same way he did last year when he initially passed on signing with the Ravens before changing his mind in November. The re-signing of defensive tackle Justin Ellis further diminished the chances of Peko returning as the Ravens need more youthful depth up front at this point.
S Brynden Trawick – Though he’s a good special-teams contributor, the market for a player like Trawick on the wrong side of 30 is always going to be slow. Counting the postseason, the reserve safety appeared in just seven games last year, but the way Baltimore values special teams means a reunion shouldn’t be ruled out at some point between now and the start of the season.
Released for cap-related purposes
OL James Hurst — The Ravens valued Hurst’s versatility for a long time, but there’s little urgency to bring back a depth option who will be suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season for a performance-enhancing drug violation.
S Tony Jefferson — The veteran safety continues to rehab and work his way back from a serious knee injury, but it’s difficult for potential suitors to get a strong feel for his progress due to the free-agent environment created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Non-tendered restricted and exclusive-rights free agents
OL Randin Crecelius – A 2018 practice-squad member, Crecelius sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason.
OL Parker Ehinger – Active in four of the last five regular-season games, the 27-year-old was never going to receive a restricted tender, but he earned some praise in limited action late last year. Depending on how the draft plays out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ehinger back in the mix to compete for a regular-season roster spot.
DB Fish Smithson – The Baltimore native was signed late in the 2019 preseason and ended up on IR only a few days later.