When free agency starts on March 11th, the Ravens will have some key players hitting the open market (Again), and will have to make some tough decisions on who to keep and who to let walk. Here’s a breakdown of every Ravens UFA in 2014:
LT Eugene Monroe: Monroe made an immediate impact at LT in 2013 after the Ravens acquired him in a trade with Jacksonville. Monroe has showed that he is rock solid in pass protection, while also being quick and athletic on the blind side.
Decision: Keep. Along with his stellar 2013 season, Monroe will be just 27 years old in April, and will thus be one of the most coveted free agents in the 2014 class. With that being said, keeping Monroe should be priority #1 for the Ravens in 2014. Monroe is set to receive a huge contract this off-season, but it’s worth it to keep the 6-5, 306 pound standout in Baltimore.
RT Michael Oher: A 1st round pick in 2009, Oher showed big time potential in 2009 and 2010, but along with being penalty prone, his inconsistency in pass protection and his inability to play at LT hindered his development in the past couple of seasons.
Decision: Gone. Some team will most likely offer Oher a pretty big deal in free agency (Especially for a RT), and with the Ravens facing the task of re-signing Monroe among other key FA’s, they will not be able to afford to keep him.
NOTE: Aside from taking Michigan OT Taylor Lewan in the 1st round as I mentioned yesterday, the Ravens have other options for replacing Oher. One option is giving 2nd year OL Ricky Wagner a shot to start at RT in 2014. A 5th round pick in 2013 out of Wisconsin, Wagner has good size (6-6, 310) and is a solid athlete that has a high motor and plays tough. He was thought of as a potential 1st round pick at the start of his senior year at Wisconsin before injuries and a bad outing at the Senior Bowl made him fall in the draft. The West Allis, Wisconsin native will turn just 25 in October, and if he keeps steadily improving the Ravens might just have found a gem in the 2013 5th rounder.
TE Dennis Pitta: Going into 2013, the 6-4, 245 pound TE from Fresno, California was coming off of back to back great years in 2011 and 2012 and was in line to have a huge season before dislocating and fracturing his hip in training camp. He returned for the final four games of 2013 and recorded 20 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown.
Decision: Keep. When he is healthy, Pitta is a major part of the Ravens passing attack, along with being QB Joe Flacco’s go-to-guy when a big play or tough catch is needed. Turning 29 in June, Pitta is still in the middle of his prime and will be 100% healthy for 2014. Weather it be through the franchise tag or a long-term deal, keeping Pitta should be the Ravens highest priority behind Eugene Monroe.
WR Jacoby Jones: After getting hurt in week one and missing the following four games, the New Orleans, Louisiana native returned to put up a solid season in 2013. The 6-2, 215 pound playmaker notched 37 receptions for 455 yards and 2 TD’s, while excelling in the return game ( What’s new?). The-29-year-old (30 in July) had 237 yards on 19 punt returns (12.4 avg) and 892 yards on 31 kick returns (28.7 avg) along with a touchdown.
Decision: Keep. If the Ravens can afford it, it would be a great move to bring Jacoby back in 2014. Even though he’s not the most consistent receiver, he is still a legitimate deep threat and a dynamic playmaker that can take it to the house every time he touches the pigskin, and the Ravens need that to go with WR’s Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown. And with over 5,947 All-purpose returning yards ( KR and PR) and 8 total return TD’s, I’m pretty sure he’s earned elite status as a return man.
S James Ihedigbo: After being a special teams standout for the majority of his career before the 2013 season, the 6-1, 214 pound hard-hitter from Northampton, Massachusetts earned a starting spot in the Ravens secondary and had a breakout year. The 30-year-old racked up 101 tackles to go with 2 FF, 3 INT’s and 11 PD’s in 16 games. Ihedigbo took the NFL by surprise in 2013, and he’s sure to garner plenty of interest in free agency.
Decision: Gone. Ihedigbo will garner way more interest from other teams than he’s ever had before in free agency, but that’s not the main reason the Ravens will allow him to walk. The Ravens drafted Matt Elam in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, and is a more natural strong safety. Expect the Ravens to add a playmaking free safety through free agency or the draft to pair with Elam.
A couple of draft prospects to keep an eye on at the FS position in 2014: FSU’s Terrence Brooks (50 tckl, 2 INT), USC’s Dion Bailey (58 tckl, 5 INT) and Vanderbilt’s Kenny Ladler (87 tckl, 5 FF, 5 INT)
MLB Daryl Smith: After starring in Jacksonville for the first eight years of his career, the 6-2, 248 pound linebacker from Albany, Georgia missed most of his 9th and final year with the Jaguars in 2012 due to a groin injury and had to settle for a one-year ”prove it” deal with the Ravens last off-season. What a steal it was for the Purple & Black. Smith made play after play all season long and finished the 2013 season with 123 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 INT’s and 19 PD’s.
Decision: Keep. Even though he will be 32 in March, Smith is a must-keep for the Ravens after his stellar 2013 season. His presence and leadership in the middle of the defense is a desirable quality. Smith wants to win now and wants to stay in Baltimore, so a hometown discount is a possibility.
DE Arthur Jones: A 2010 5th round pick out of Syracuse, the 6-3, 315 pound Jones has gotten better and better every year and has made huge strides in his development over the past two years. In 2013, Jones posted a career-high 53 tackles to go along with 4 sacks, and now stands to hit free agency as one of the most coveted free agents in the NFL, all while entering the peak of his prime (28 in June).
Decision: Gone. As much as the Ravens would like to keep Jones, that’s just not going to happen. The Rochester, New York native just had a career year and hasn’t even hit his full potential yet. Needless to say, he is in line for a monster contract that the Ravens have no shot of matching.
CB Corey Graham: Corey Graham is the most underrated player on the Ravens roster other than Daryl Smith. After being a Pro-Bowl caliber special teams ace for the Chicago Bears from 2007-11, the 6-0, 196 pound corner signed with the Ravens in 2012, and has done nothing but play well and solidify himself as a legitimate NFL CB.
Decision: Keep. The Buffalo, New York native had a career year in 2013, recording 74 Tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, and 12 PD’s, and had 134 tackles and 6 interceptions to go along with 20 PD’s in his two great years in Baltimore. The 28-year-old (29 in July) has the Raven pedigree and wants to stay in Baltimore, so it’s a no-brainer to re-sign Graham in 2014.
NT Terrence Cody: In brutal truth, the 6-4, 340 pound Cody never lived up to the expectations of a 2010 2nd round pick out of Alabama or his potential. Plagued by injuries in 2013, he managed just 15 tackles in 12 games, and recorded 87 tackles in 56 games with zero sacks as a Raven from 2010-2013. However, the Ft.Myers, Florida native will turn just 26 in June, so maybe a change of scenery will be just what he needs to turn his career around.
Decision: Gone. Cody is surplus to requirements at this point, especially with the promising young defensive lineman already on the roster in 24-year-old Kapron Lewis-Moore, the 6-4, 298 pound 6th round pick in 2013 out of Notre Dame (He was a solid mid-round prospect before tearing his ACL in the National championship game against Alabama in 2013, could be a steal), along with promising 3rd year DL DeAngelo Tyson (6-2, 315, 25 in April) and 2013 3rd round pick Brandon Williams, (6-1, 335, 25 in February) who will be looked upon to step up in 2014.
TE Ed Dickson: The 6-4, 255 pound TE had a ton of potential coming out of Oregon with his great receiving and athletic ability, but he never lived up to that potential as a 3rd round pick in 2010. Dickson was constantly plagued by drops and struggled as a blocker for the Ravens from 2010-2013. In 2013, Dickson saw increased playing time with Pitta’s training camp injury, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity and finished the year with 25 catches for 273 yards and 1 touchdown. In his four year career, the Inglewood, California native totaled 111 receptions for 1,178 yards and 7 TD’s.
Decision: Gone. Dickson will turn just 27 in July, so it’s not too late for him to reach his potential, and like Cody, a change of scenery might do him a lot of good.
NOTE: Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins should be the Ravens top target at TE in the 2014 draft, but another TE to keep an eye on is Iowa TE C.J Fiedorowicz. The 6-7, 265 pound Senior (23 in October) from Johnsburg, Illinois posted 26 catches for 253 yards and 6 TD’s in 2013 and has a solid size/speed/athleticism combo (Especially for a Big-Ten TE) while also being solid in blocking situations.
TE Dallas Clark: The 6-3, 252 pound veteran came to Baltimore for his 11th NFL season in 2013, and played a solid role for the Ravens in the first six weeks of the season before steadily losing playing time as the season wore on, and eventually ended up on the inactive list for the last four games of the season after Dennis Pitta returned. He ended the year with 31 receptions for 343 yards and 3 TD’s.
Decision: Gone. Turning 35 in June and entering his 12th NFL season, rumors have circulated that Clark may consider retirement.
S Jeromy Miles: The 6-2, 214 special teams standout recorded 9 tackles in 12 games for the Ravens in 2013 after being claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals early in the season. Miles, who will turn 27 in July, has been a special teams ace in all of his first four NFL seasons, most notably recording 28 tackles in 2012 (mostly on ST) and another 16 tackles on special teams in 2011, totaling 58 career tackles.
Decision: Keep. The Vorhees, New Jersey native is the definition of a special teams ace, and you need core ST players like Miles on a contending team.
RB Bernard Scott: The 5-10, 195 pound former Bengal was signed mid-season as insurance to RB’s Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and appeared in two games for the Ravens in 2013, totaling 14 yards on 4 carries and 2 catches for 10 yards.
Decision: Gone. Scott will turn 30 in February, but he should catch on elsewhere in 2014 as a back-up.
NOTE: It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a RB in the later rounds. One late-round prospect to watch is USC RB Silas Redd.
The 5-10, 200 pound Redd missed the first five games of 2013 due to knee surgery, but came back and still managed to total 376 yards on 81 carries (4.6 avg) with 1 TD. In 2012, Redd posted 905 yards on 167 carries (5.4 avg) with 9 TD’s in his first year with the Trojans, and in 2011 he posted 1,241 yards on 244 carries (5.1 avg) with 7 TD’s as a sophomore at Penn State before transferring.
Redd reads blocks well, is quick to the hole, and he attacks the defense when the ball is in his hands. He also changes direction with ease, can make tacklers miss and has excellent vision. The talented back will be 22 in March, and has a big upside. Projected to go in the 5th or 6th round, Redd could be one of the biggest steals of the 2014 NFL draft.