Free agency won’t begin until March 14, but the Ravens face arguably the most pivotal offseason in team history after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and seeing fan support dwindle in 2017.
As has become Baltimore’s annual story, salary cap space will be a problem as the Ravens currently hold an estimated 2018 Rule of 51 commitment of just under $170 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2018 salary cap won’t be set until March, but it is projected to rise from $167 million in 2017 to somewhere between $174 million and $178 million. Since the aforementioned commitment doesn’t include any of their pending free agents, the Ravens will clearly have difficult decisions to make with some cap analysts already painting a very gloomy picture about their lack of cap space and their limited flexibility.
This comes with the reality that the Ravens have substantial work to do to their roster — especially on the offensive side of the ball — if they want to escape the land of mediocrity in which they’ve resided since Super Bowl XLVII.
Of course, the Ravens can create cap space by renegotiating, extending, or terminating veteran contracts and will surely do some combination of that. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, cornerback Brandon Carr, running back Danny Woodhead, right tackle Austin Howard, defensive back Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Albert McClellan stand out as veteran candidates who could become cap casualties this winter.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The Ravens will have the opportunity to retain any of the following 12 unrestricted free agents before they can officially sign with any other team beginning on March 14 at 4 p.m.
CB Brandon Boykin: Once considered one of the better slot corners in the league, Boykin was placed on injured reserve in early September and is not expected to return.
OL Luke Bowanko: The veteran saw action in all 16 games and made one start, but the returns of guards Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa from injuries make him expendable.
WR Michael Campanaro: The River Hill product played in a career-high 13 games and did nice work as a punt returner, making him a candidate to be re-signed at a cheap price.
TE Crockett Gillmore: The 6-foot-6, 266-pound Gillmore showed intriguing potential in 2015, but he’s missed 29 of Baltimore’s last 36 games due to injury, making his return highly questionable.
OL James Hurst: The once-maligned reserve offensive tackle found a niche as a serviceable starting left guard in 2017, but the aforementioned returning depth inside probably makes him expendable.
C Ryan Jensen: His emergence as a formidable starting center was a godsend with two backups handling the guard spots all year, but did the rest of the NFL also take notice in the process?
LB Steven Johnson: The veteran journeyman did a solid job on special teams in 10 games, but his spot and opportunity will likely go to a younger and cheaper player in 2018.
QB Ryan Mallett: With Joe Flacco turning 33 later this month and battling inconsistency and some health concerns in recent years, the Ravens should be looking to draft a backup with more upside.
DE Brent Urban: The 6-foot-7 specimen looked poised for a strong year during the preseason, but he’s missed 39 games in four seasons, making him a poor candidate in which to invest any real money.
WR Mike Wallace: Market demand will be a major factor here, but the Ravens will be looking at needing to add two to three impactful receivers if Wallace exits and the disappointing Maclin is cut.
TE Benjamin Watson: The 37-year-old was a good story coming back from last year’s torn Achilles tendon to lead the team in catches, but the Ravens really need more of a play-maker at this position.
RB Terrance West: The Baltimore native and Towson product turned his career around with the Ravens, but he will likely be seeking a better opportunity elsewhere in 2018.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS – none in 2018
EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
These seven players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. The Ravens usually tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s nothing assured beyond the opportunity to compete for a spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.
WR Quincy Adeboyejo: The rookie turned some heads early in training camp and received a Week 17 promotion from the practice squad, but he’ll need to earn his way onto the 2018 roster.
RB Alex Collins: Given the present challenges with the cap, Collins falling into the Ravens’ laps was a major development of the season as he’ll be the clear favorite to be the 2018 starter at a cheap cost.
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste: Promoted to the active roster after Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles tendon in early December, Jean-Baptiste will be in the mix next summer to try to make the roster.
TE Vince Mayle: Though not a factor as an offensive player, Mayle was a consistent special-teams contributor and has a chance to reprise that role next season.
LB Patrick Onwuasor: With the disappointing development of Kamalei Correa, Onwuasor started 12 games at the weak-side inside spot, but the Ravens could use some more competition here.
OL Maurquice Shakir: Promoted from the practice squad at the end of October, Shakir was inactive for eight games and will have the chance to compete for a job next summer.
G Matt Skura: The former undrafted free agent and practice-squad member did a respectable job filling in for the injured Yanda and could be in the mix at center if Jensen departs via free agency.