PALM BEACH, Fla. – As the Baltimore Ravens arrive at the posh Breakers hotel for the annual NFL owners meetings, it’s regarded as unlikely that they’ll engage in heavy spending on more free agents.
The Ravens were roughly $4.664 million under the salary cap prior to signing inside linebacker Jameel McClain to a three-year, $10.5 million contract Friday along with Pro Bowl special-teams ace Corey Graham to a two-year contract averaging nearly $2 million per year, three-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo to a three-year contract with a minimum value of $3.2 million that includes a $400,000 signing bonus and safety Sean Considine to a one-year contract.
The Ravens recently signed center Matt Birk to a three-year, $8.52 million deal and picked up a $500,000 roster bonus for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.
The Ravens are now extremely close to the NFL salary cap limit without borrowing money against future cap years.
Their primary agenda going forward will be to attempt to hammer out lucrative long-term contract extensions with quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and cornerback Lardarius Webb. That will take time, and a lot of money.
However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t rule out potential additions
“Further moves are possible,” Harbaugh said. “We would like to fill as many spaces as we can between now and the draft. You can only do that when the move presents itself. In other words, when there is a player available that can make your team better and the economics work out that you can actually get him, then you try to make a move.
“There are some areas, still, that we would like to continue to shore up before the draft, but I don’t think we’ll say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that.’ You can’t make a move unless the player is available and you can actually sign the guy.”
Deals for Flacco ($8 million salary-cap figure), Rice ($7.742 million cap figure) and Webb ($2.742 million) would create some salary-cap breathing room. Rice has been designated as the Ravens’ franchise player, and the team has until July 15 to negotiate a contract with him. Otherwise, he’ll play the entire season under the expensive tag.
The Ravens’ offensive line could still use bolstering.
Although they return starters in Birk, McKinnie, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and right offensive tackle Michael Oher, the Ravens could still acquire competition for Jah Reid at left offensive guard through the draft perhaps with their first-round draft pick or via an inexpensive veteran. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound third-round draft pick from last year is the de factor starter for now.
Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs signed a $36 million contract with the New Orleans Saints after declining the Ravens’ contract offer.
“He’s definitely a possible answer at left guard,” Harbaugh said. “I would say right now, today, he’s the left guard. He’s got to earn that spot but we’ll be continuing to look for players. Our goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen on the field. Jah, certainly, I’d like to see him be one of those guys, but it’s up to him to earn that spot.”
The Ravens are looking to upgrade the return game and had speedy Ted Ginn Jr. in for a visit prior to him rejoining the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year contract. They could also use another wide receiver.
The Ravens lost starting defensive end Cory Redding to the Indianapolis Colts and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson to the San Diego Chargers.
They brought in defensive end Mark Anderson for a visit, but he signed a $27.5 million contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Since free agency started, the Ravens have lost Redding, Johnson, safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski and Grubbs.
“It probably wasn’t as hard for me as it was for the fans because I had a little more of a front seat to what we were doing,” Harbaugh said. “We were involved with guys all the time but we have our limits as what we are going to be able to pay certain players. That was for our own guys that left and it was also for free agents out there that we were interested in. There just weren’t going to be big numbers that we were going to be able to spend on guys.
“Really, in free agency those guys are worth every penny that they can get, but they’re not worth the same to every team. Some teams have bigger needs. Some teams have more cap room. And it was just something that we knew we were just going to have to ride out a little bit, and again, try to make some wise decisions as we go forward.”
The top candidates to replace Johnson and Redding are Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee, respectively.
McPhee is slated to compete with Arthur Jones at left defensive end
A fifth-round steal a year ago, McPhee had six sacks as a rookie.
Now, McPhee and Jones are likely to emerge as more important contributors next season.
“Those two guys are excited,” Harbaugh said. “They’re disappointed to see Cory go. They learned so much from Cory. Cory was such a great mentor for those guys. I talked to Pernell on the phone and I’ve seen Art here twice in the last couple weeks. I could hear Pernell smile and I could see Art smile.
“So, they’re both really looking forward to competing for that spot. They have flexibility, too. Art can play inside and Pernell can go outside, so there’s some flexibility with those guys as well.”