With plenty of bodies set to hit the free agency market on March 9th, teams ready to make plenty of cuts to create cap space, and the Ravens with plenty of holes to fill, there’s no doubt that this team needs to assess every possible scenario, and leave no stone unturned.
As the Ravens keep an eye on what’s going on around them, they need to keep an eye firmly locked on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Per OverTheCap, the Chiefs currently sit at $4.7M in cap space with several holes to fill on the roster. More importantly, the potential loss of two key players – safety Eric Berry and defensive lineman Dontari Poe – looms large in Kansas City.
Let’s start there, as the Ravens are in the market for help on the defensive line, as well as the safety position (once Lardarius Webb is inevitably cut for an unjustifiable, ungodly cap hit).
Like current Raven/FA in waiting Brandon Williams, Poe plays the nose tackle position, and he does it well. Both Williams and Poe had down years in 2016, but I see Poe as the higher upside player here. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a year younger than Williams (27 & 28, respectively), giving the team a little more comfort with a longer-term contract.
I believe the team sees more value in keeping Brandon Williams in Baltimore, but if he ends up jetting off for a big deal (while Poe may command less after an injury-riddled 2016), making a run on a player like Poe could very well provide the Ravens with a seamless transition on the interior of the defensive line.
The other potential free agent leaving Kansas City, safety Eric Berry, is scary good.
Without a need for explanation, Berry is not only the top free agent safety on the market, but one of the top free agents overall. The Ravens would likely need to cut every guy on the fringe to make sure they could sign Berry to a lengthy deal while still filling other needs, but adding Berry to that secondary would provide the best safety play this Ravens team has seen since Ed Reed‘s prime, and would surely help a secondary that struggled at the end of last season.
Alas, Poe and Berry may end up being pipe dreams (although we’ve seen crazier things, a la Eric Weddle & Steve Smith Sr. choosing Baltimore as a landing spot in recent years). But there’s another player Ravens really need to watch in KC.
Reports abound (coupled with common sense and coach talk) that the Chiefs absolutely want to keep Berry and Poe.
With $4.7M in cap space? I’m going to say that is a major stretch.
In short, the only way to keep one or both of their key free agents is to make cuts elsewhere. While there’s a few easy moves they could make (decline Nick Foles‘ option & cut Jamal Charles for starters) Bill Barnwell of ESPN suggests that the Chiefs consider cutting ties with their once-star receiver Jeremy Maclin.
While Maclin remains a young and talented wire receiver, he’s become more of a 3rd option in the passing game behind tight end Travis Kelce & rookie sensation Tyreek Hill (who Chiefs fans clearly & inexplicably forgave for choking out his pregnant girlfriend in college because, production! Right?!)
Paying Maclin WR1 money to be a 3rd tier option is senseless for the Chiefs. Couple that with the potential cap savings on a post-June 1st desgination of $10M and it seems to make a ton of sense for the Chiefs to pull this trigger.
In the wake of Smith’s retirement, the Ravens are looking for a sure-handed receiver to hit the intermediate routes, likely a veteran player, and a guy with a strong locker room presence.
So essentially, they want Maclin.
The added upside here for Baltimore is that Maclin, at 28, isn’t on the tail end of his career like a Smith (34), Anquan Boldin (30), Derrick Mason (32), or Mike Wallace (30) when they inked their deals in Baltimore, thus allowing for a more prolonged career in purple and black if he can keep up the pace into his 30’s.
The only tie-up here could be Maclin’s contract, which carries a cap hit of $12.4M in the upcoming season, then $13.4M in both 2018 and 2019. Perhaps the Ravens could work out an extension with Maclin, prorate some bonus money and extend two more years while stretching the cap hit out? After all, Maclin did have quite a down year, and if the team is looking at an $8M cap hit for Mike Wallace, perhaps even dipping Maclin just under $10M over five years (into his age 33 season) would be reasonable.
The front office of the Ravens may need to get creative, but of all of the veteran wideouts on the market, this one not only appears to make the most sense in Baltimore, but actually seems like a very legit possibility.