The Ravens’ offseason has hit a significant snag after their original agreement with free-agent defensive lineman Michael Brockers fell through on Friday.
After agreeing to a three-year, $30 million contract including $21 million guaranteed early last week, the sides were unable to strike a modified deal after concerns rose over the high ankle sprain sustained by Brockers in the 2019 season finale. The 29-year-old will instead return to the Los Angeles Rams on a three-year contract worth a maximum of $31.5 million, according to NFL Network.
Brockers’ agent, Scott Casterline, told NFL Network Wednesday that he was “very confident” a deal would be announced this week, but the Ravens’ reported interest in free agent Ndamukong Suh — who elected to re-sign with Tampa Bay — made it clear there was concern since an announcement hadn’t been made more than a week after the opening of free agency. In a tweet posted early Friday morning, the Ravens said they would not sign Brockers “after being unable to come to an agreement on terms of a contract.”
It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic has complicated the start of the new league year as training facilities have been closed and teams have been prohibited from meeting with free agents and completing their own physicals, instead relying on outside exams to be conducted. That reality didn’t prevent general manager Eric DeCosta from completing a trade for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, but the 33-year-old defender described a more complicated process from the time he received word from Jacksonville until the swap was officially announced a few days later.
Those challenges make it easy to see how a concern over a physical exam could sink an agreement.
“I was in Arizona when the trade went through, and I had to go to get a physical at the Mayo Clinic, which is independent,” Campbell said in a conference call on Thursday. “The process of getting the medical records to them, doing all the paperwork, it was just a little bit trickier than it normally would be. That process was very unique.”
The Brockers news comes after former Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce signed with Minnesota and the Ravens dealt fourth-year defensive end Chris Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick to Pittsburgh for a fifth-round selection in next year’s draft. Now dangerously thin behind Campbell and Brandon Williams on the defensive line, Baltimore could turn to another veteran on the open market such as Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris or simply put a higher priority on strengthening the defensive line in next month’s draft.
It’s quite a turn of events after the Ravens had clearly prioritized beefing up their run defense with the trade for Campbell and the expected signing of Brockers as the two are among the best run-stopping linemen in the league. According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens have just over $16 million in salary cap space, which gives DeCosta the flexibility to make another substantial move — for the defensive line or at another position — if the right opportunity presents itself.
Brockers confirmed his return to the Rams in a post from his verified Instagram account on Friday.
This marks the second time in three years in which the Ravens have had a free-agent agreement fall apart due to a problem with the physical exam. Baltimore agreed to a four-year, $29 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed for veteran wide receiver Ryan Grant in 2018 before backing out due to an ankle injury that prompted a failed physical. That situation sparked scrutiny with some even accusing the organization of negotiating in bad faith due to buyer’s remorse, but Brockers was an early target in free agency and it seems unlikely the Ravens would have dealt Wormley if they didn’t have every intention of executing their deal with a standout defensive lineman who’s missed a total of five games over his eight seasons.
This was the second NFL free-agent agreement to fall apart in the last 24 hours after veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard’s reported deal with Jacksonville fell through on Thursday.