A Comprehensive Ravens Free Agency Preview
There have been a lot of recent articles about the Ravens’ 11 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) and 6 Restricted Free Agents (RFA) and the prospects of their return. At Russell Street Report, we’ve decided to pool our resources and our different areas of expertise to provide a comprehensive free agency preview, with detailed player analysis and a thorough look at the Salary Cap implications.
WR Kamar Aiken (UFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games, 6 starts; 29 receptions, 50 targets, 328 yards, 1 TD; 52.5% of Off Snaps
2015 Stats: 16 games, 14 starts; 75 receptions, 127 targets, 944 yards, 5 TDs; 82.6% Off Snaps
(Ken McKusick): He had a connection with Flacco (and 3 backup QBs) in 2015, so he may be able to provide more in a thinner receiving field. However, the drop from 75 to 29 receptions has created a rift with the team and I don’t believe he’ll be happy without a fresh start with a team more desperate for receiving help.
(Dev Panchwagh): Aiken is still capable of being a 50-60 catch guy in the right system, and that could even be here in Baltimore. Last year he suffered from being in a rotation with Senior and Wallace. Aiken needs reps to be effective. The team put him in a lot of tough spots to come in on specific money downs to make key catches, and he didn’t always come through. Whether the front office wants to keep Aiken really comes down to how they view him compared to the other free agent vets who are out there. If he’s being viewed as just a slot guy, it makes sense to give those reps to someone else (Campanaro, Chris Moore).
Cap Implications/Costs (Brian McFarland)
Coming off of a 944-yard season, Aiken played the 2016 season under a 2nd Round FA tender ($2.553M). It could not have turned out much worse for Aiken, though, as the return to health of Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman and the signing Mike Wallace, turned Aiken into an afterthought. It will be interesting to how the market for Aiken will play out and what kind of offers he receives. There does appear to be a place for Aiken here in Baltimore if he were to re-sign, but Aiken’s own end of season comments make it appear that that ship may have sailed.
Tony’s Take (Tony Lombardi)
I once viewed Aiken as a poor man’s Anquan Boldin. He fearlessly navigated between the hash marks and made tough catches. He even adjusted well to underthrown passes which can be an asset if the Ravens employed more back shoulder throws in their offensive scheme. That ability translates well in his role as a gunner on special teams when trying to pin opponents deep in their territory.
All that said, the Ravens need to develop their younger players. If they bring back Campanaro, that’s your specialty slot guy. If they bring back Wallace to pair up with Perriman, that’s another two WR spots. If they add the complementary receiver that Ozzie Newsome mentioned during the State of the Ravens, that’s a fourth WR. Chris Moore will return and needs reps and has proven himself on special teams, and the team will likely draft another WR who might have some kick return potential. So that’s six and unfortunately for Aiken, six is enough.
WR Michael Campanaro (RFA?)
2016 Stats: 3 games, 0 starts; 0 receptions, 1 target, 0 yards; 3 carries, 72 yards, 0 TDs; 1.5% of Off Snaps
Ken: Michael finally emerged as a slash threat with 3 runs for 72 yards in the final weeks, but he was targeted just once as a receiver (0 catches). Watching all of the PR/KR suspects in camp, Michael was head and shoulders better both at getting in position to receive the kick and exploding into the return. However, returner is not a place where the Ravens should invest significant cap space, so I expect he’ll return with either a low tender or on a 2-year deal with a minimal signing bonus.
Dev: Campanaro continues to be perhaps the team’s most frustrating prospect. When he plays, he flashes the ability to be a dynamic slot receiver who can gain separation in tight spaces — a trait that no other receiver on the roster possesses. The Ravens also got plenty of mileage from Camp as a jet sweep and reverse runner in the open field at the end of the season. This is a make or break year for Campanaro. If he has any shot whatsoever to earn playing time as a slot receiver (assuming he doesn’t have to break through another veteran logjam), he needs to make it happen. But as always, it all comes down to his ability to stay healthy. Is anyone else having flashbacks to Brandon Stokley? (Although Stokley did accomplish more as a Raven but the injury black cloud also hung over him for some time before he flourished in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning.)
Brian: There’s a bit of confusion about Campanaro’s status as either a RFA or an ERFA. The Ravens website lists Campanaro as a RFA, but the NFLPA does not (meaning they have him as a ERFA). The determining factor will be whether the 5 weeks of his injury settlement count towards the 6 weeks needed to earn an accrued season towards free agency. If the injury settlement weeks do count, then Campanaro will be a RFA. If they do not (which has always seemed to be the case), he will fall short of the needed 6 weeks and will be a ERFA. If Campanaro is a RFA, the Ravens will likely give him the low tender (est: $1.808M), which would allow the Ravens to match any RFA offer sheet signed by Campanaro or receive a 6th round pick if the Ravens were to decide to not match. However, if, as they have done often recently, the Ravens feel that $1.808M is too much for Campanaro, they could attempt to sign him to a 1- or 2-year deal for a lesser amount instead of using an RFA tender.
Campanaro brings a dimension that the Ravens lack. He’s a potential chain mover and a guy who has a burst and explosiveness in short space to add YAC. He’s ideally suited for an accurate passer who can hit receivers on the run. Joe Flacco is consistently inconsistent in that area. But as Brian suggests, the Ravens should be able to bring Camp back into the fold inexpensively, and even with his history of injuries, his unique skill set is worth the modest gamble.
G Vlad Ducasse (UFA)
2016 Stats: 10 games, 8 starts; 48.9% of Off Snaps
Ken: His trend line to end the season was terrible (see Jensen below), so I don’t think the Ravens should resign him, but he’s slightly above the replacement level guard and as such, should have a backup role at most. He’ll be 30 in October, so the mounting injury risks may be too great.
Dev: There really isn’t anything to see here. Ducasse had his moments as an effective run blocker, in particular he had a decent game against Dallas. But he was also a liability in blitz-pickup situations and is limited as a spot starter. The team should be able to find a more effective backup through the draft or free agency.
Brian: Ducasse was signed to a veteran minimum deal in 2016 to provide veteran depth along the offensive line and ended up starting 8 games. Even though Ducasse’s play was marginal, at best, the Ravens still preferred him over Jensen and Urschel, which wasn’t particularly reassuring. The Ravens certainly won’t break the bank to re-sign him, but bringing back Ducasse on another veteran minimum deal is always a possibility.
If Ducasse returns, then the Ravens failed to achieve one of their offseason goals which was and still is to improve the offensive line. I’m on board with a veteran minimum deal to keep him around as a mediocre insurance policy, invite him to camp (as fodder) and probably cut him before the season starts. Guys like Ducasse can be found after the season kicks off and bringing on talents like his after opening day, frees the Ravens contractually from paying substandard players like him for an entire season. Ducasse is a bit like those spare tires you get with new cars these days. Both have very limited value.
S Matt Elam (UFA)
2016 Stats: 9 games, 0 starts; 1 tackle, many missed; 5.1% of Def Snaps; Drug Arrest
Ken: He was unfairly blamed for Webb’s alignment error on the game-losing TD to Hogan at New England, but 2016 was another lost year for Elam. His original draft position is now completely irrelevant. The Ravens simply need to determine if he can help them as a deep safety or dime and make a fair offer if they want him back. He’ll still be just 25 on opening day, but injuries have cost him nearly 2 full seasons and inconsistency/poor tackling another. I don’t think there will be many suitors, but some team may offer him 2 seasons for $3+ million and I’m guessing the Ravens will find that too steep a price.
Dev: It’s unfortunate how badly the Ravens missed on Elam. It isn’t all his fault. The coaches — Dean Pees in particular — deserve blame for using him as a one-on-one defender in their dime and nickel packages. That’s not his game, yet that’s where he found himself again last season. They haven’t figured out how to best utilize him in their system, and in turn, his missed assignments and tackling woes have been back-breaking problems for the secondary.
Brian: It really doesn’t matter. Last offseason, the Ravens declined Elam’s 5th year option and it appears that they already had no intentions to bring him back for 2017. Then, Elam got arrested over the weekend in Florida for drug possession and distribution. The Ravens brief, terse statement about the arrest was clear – he gone.
It’s time to add “The End” to the tragic story of the Ravens biggest draft day bust in their 21-year history. He’s unlikely to play in the NFL in 2017 given the pending drug allegations and past substance abuse transgressions. I do hope he changes his life around because his teammates clearly see good in a man that they voted in as their 2017 Ed Block Courage Award recipient.
DE Lawrence Guy (UFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games, 10 starts; 1 Sack; 46.3% of Def Snaps
Ken: He played a much more significant role for in 2016, rising to 46.3% of snaps, 3rd among defensive linemen (Williams 61.1%, Jernigan 60.9%). During the second half, he was frequently used as the team’s only down lineman on passing downs (spelling Jernigan in that role) and provided better individual pass rush than Timmy. For the season, the Ravens sacked opposing QBs 3.3% of pass plays with Guy in and 5.7% with Jernigan. Some of that is a function of situation, scheme, and linemates, but the Ravens delivered more pass rush with Jernigan.
Guy is a solid player cast in a large role, but I think the Ravens will be careful in terms of how much cap they allocate to him. This will likely be Guy’s only chance to cash in on his football career, so like Bannan and Edwards, I expect him to leave a comfortable situation here for dollars and he probably will not play as well if he does so.
Dev: In light of the inconsistencies the team has experienced from its draft choices — Jernigan, Carl Davis, Brent Urban — Guy has been a savior in many ways. He’s a lunchpail d-linemen who plays with effort, leverage, and gap integrity. As a run defender, Guy is tough to root out and has been active getting off blocks. He also maximized his pass-rush reps last year, showing the burst and power to get a push in third-down situations. All in all, Guy is an unsung starter, the type of guy who does the dirty work and helps the other players around him cash in through bigger splash plays.
Brian: Guy is a free agent after completing his 2-year, $2.3M contract. Guy, a solid, rotational player, is likely to see some interest on the market and is likely to see a raise, but still won’t be overly expensive. He’s the type of player the Ravens have often let move on and there is some young depth at the position that the team may decide needs to step up.
Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” comes to mind when I think of Guy. The Ravens will want Guy back but it’s his turn to cash in based upon his production — production that the Ravens won’t pay enough for. The Ravens will ask guys (no pun intended) like Carl Davis, Willie Henry and Bronson Kaufusi to step up in Guy’s stead. It’s tough to say goodbye to a blue collar work ethic like the one embraced by this 2011 7th round pick of the Packers, but unfortunately he’ll be packing up and heading out of Baltimore.
S Marqueston Huff (RFA)
2016 Stats: 11 games, 0 starts; 3.1% of Def Snaps; 48.4% of ST Snaps
Ken: He played 27 defensive snaps in addition to ST responsibilities in 11 activations during 2016. If the Ravens believe he is a core ST player, he could be back on a 1 or 2-year deal with a small signing bonus, but I doubt the Ravens will tender him.
Dev: As a reserve safety and a special teams player, Huff brings some value, and he’s young enough to develop into a more prominent contributor on defense in the future.
Brian: Huff is set to be a RFA after signing with the Ravens in October. If the Ravens would like to retain Huff, it seems unlikely that they will tender him with a RFA tender since $1.808M is a steep price to pay for a reserve Safety. Instead, Huff would seem like an ideal candidate to be signed to a lesser 1-year or 2-year deal (with a small bonus) to replace his RFA status.
Huff has some talent but the Ravens coaching staff has to determine if they can harness it. In the past they’ve been able to develop lower round safeties like Dawan Landry or even UDFA’s like Will Demps and Jim Leonhard. But those guys benefitted from playing beside Ed Reed. Similarly, playing beside Eric Weddle could accelerate Huff’s development. Huff is a former 4th round pick and will only be 25 when he takes the field in 2017. If Jerry Rosburg sees him as a contributor on teams, he could be a relative bargain provided he accepts something below the RFA tender of $1.808M, as my compadres have suggested above. Perhaps a deal similar to that which Anthony Levine signed a couple of seasons ago could work.
OL James Hurst (RFA)
2016 Stats: 15 games, 3 starts; 26.6% of Off Snaps
Ken: James is regularly criticized (much of that coming from me), but his 2016 season actually may have been his best. He did not register an F (2 low Ds) and had a solid game in relief of Wagner at Pittsburgh which included a highlight block on Juice’s TD. I expect he’ll play somewhere in the NFL this season and if the dearth of tackle talent in this year’s draft is as significant as advertised, he could be back with the Ravens. I do not expect the Ravens to tender him, but I won’t be shocked if he returns as a backup swingman.
Dev: It’s true that Hurst didn’t kill the team last year as he has in previous opportunities, but that’s not saying much. Hurst has entered Jah Reid territory. Every time he enters a game, you’re ecstatic if Flacco makes it out alive. The fact that the team hasn’t been able to find a more viable backup Tackle to this point really is inexcusable. Even when Hurst has been used as an extra linemen to anchor in the running game, he’s had alarming moments of futility.
Brian: Hurst is also a RFA and it will be interesting to see if the Ravens offer him the low RFA tender. As a potential RFA, the low tender ($1.808M) for Hurst would give the Ravens the opportunity to match any offer sheet for Hurst, but since he was an undrafted free agent, there would be no compensation if they declined to match. Hurst may also be a candidate to be re-signed to a lesser deal or simply non-tendered (making him a free agent).
Given the Ravens lack of depth along the offensive line, and despite Hurst’s many shortcomings, it would not surprise me to see them work out a deal for less than the low tender with little to no guarantees. But as Ken points out, available talent at the position is scarce and that keeps guys like Hurst employed. It’s why the Ravens kept him around last year. Some have suggested moving him to guard and he’s seen his fair share of reps at the position during training camp. While observing such reps I often check to see if his cleats are tied together. He spends a lot of time on the ground. Like Ducasse, if Hurst is still around, the Ravens failed to get better at the position.
G Ryan Jensen (RFA)
2016 Stats: 7 games, 3 starts; 24% of Off Snaps
Ken: Jensen played well enough in 3 games at RG where he filled in when Yanda first moved to RT, then sat out (weeks 5-7). However, when Yanda moved to LG in week 11, it was Vlad Ducasse, and not Ryan who received the opportunity. Ducasse’s raw score at RG was .70 per block and Jensen’s was .78. That’s a substantial difference in terms of a blocking success rate and the trend lines were headed in opposite directions with Ducasse finishing D, D, F, A, F over the last 5 weeks.
He spent the preseason primarily at center and is the only current Raven who might have the size to contend with the AFC North’s behemoth DTs (Shelton, Hargrave, Atkins). Simply put, neither Zuttah or Urschel is stout enough to do so. The Ravens will likely tender Jensen and look to free agency or the draft for a new center. If Wagner is lost to free agency, it’s also possible Jensen will have another chance to play LG, but he’s quality depth at a minimum.
Dev: Jensen had a strong preseason and seemed to be a real contender for the LG starting job before the season started. Despite logging quality reps as a starter the year before, Jensen lost out to rookie Alex Lewis, and his season wasn’t quite the same again. Overall, Jensen is someone who has shown enough the ability to be a rugged, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point of attack. The problem is his aggressiveness can get the best of him, and in those instances, he’ll lose his balance and technique. He’s also been a liability reading and reacting to line games and interior blitzes.
Brian: Jensen is another pending RFA and is likely going to be the team’s toughest call as far as RFA tenders. Just as it is with the above players, the question will be whether $1.808M is too much for a reserve player? In Jensen’s case, given that he’s started some games over the last couple of year and provides some valuable depth, the Ravens may consider him valuable enough to use the $1.808M tender. In not, he would be a strong “re-sign to a lesser deal” candidate.
I like Jensen’s aggressiveness and bulk. I like that fact that he not only enjoys contact, he seeks it. Unfortunately he continues to seek it after the whistle and his temper gets the best of him at times, leading to poor technique and unnecessary penalties. That doesn’t go far when you’re trying to build trust with the other linemen and your O-Line coach. It can be a one-way ticket to Harb’s doghouse. Maybe Greg Roman will see something in Jensen that he can build upon and if so, I think the team will extend the $1.808 RFA offer to Jensen, who clearly likes football better than the team’s resident PHD.
FB Kyle Juszczyk (UFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games; 7 starts; 5 carries, 22 yards; 37 receptions, 266 yards, 1 TDs; 40.8% of Off Snaps; 69.8% of ST Snaps
Ken: Juice was the most flexible Ravens offensive player in 2016. He can contribute lining up at TE, FB, single RB on passing downs, and on the outside, even when they don’t motion him back into the backfield. He improved his receiving value in 2016 and the fumbling appears to have stopped with 0 in 85 touches over the last 2 seasons following 3 in 2014. The Ravens are more likely to keep him because there aren’t too many teams using a FB, but with Wagner and Williams as UFAs, he’s be lower on the priority list and I expect some team will be willing to pay him more.
Dev: The Juice we thought we’d see in Gary Kubiak’s offense emerged last season. He was arguably the biggest benefactor of the dink-and-dunk regime under Trestman and Mornhinweg. Juszczyk was a true playmaker at times for the team, especially in the open field, as he converted would-be short-yardage plays into large chunks. I’ll admit that I had little excitement to see him as the third-down back, but Juice really came through in the role both as a blocker and receiver, and towards the end of the season, even as a runner (a role he’s never really been adept at pulling off). Can Juice continue to evolve into the Ravens’ version of Danny Woodhead? If that’s how the coaches view him, they need to find a way to keep him, especially because those types of players present an assortment of matchup problems against linebackers in space.
Brian: This one is tough to value because the fullback position isn’t in great demand and, with so few teams using a fullback, there may not be many open spots for Juszczyk to land. The highest paid fullbacks only average around $2M/year, so they’re not terribly expensive, but most don’t have Juszczyk’s versatility.
Still, he’s probably the most likely of the “big 3” (Williams, Wagner, Juszczyk) to return. Whether he returns or not will largely depend on whether or not the Ravens think they need a pass catching fullback in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense or if they feel they there may be other, cheaper options that better suits what they want/need in their offense?
One of the things that new offensive assistant Greg Roman is known for is varying his offensive sets and formations in order to create deception. In other words, the same formations don’t always guarantee the same types of plays. Slight-of-hand is vital to Roman’s success. His goal is to create hesitation on the part of the opposing defense and when that happens, opportunity arises. But for the approach to be successful, he needs players that are versatile. Juice embodies versatility. I expect him back on a modest 3-year deal.
S Anthony Levine (UFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games, 0 starts; 1 PD; 10.4% of Def Snaps; 78.5% of ST snaps
Ken: Levine is a fascinating case. His versatility (he’s played outside corner, nickel, dime, and safety for the Ravens) and special teams contributions are significant, but he seemed headed for a bigger role in 2016 when he began camp practicing with the LBs. He then shined at multiple positions in the preseason when he was the team’s MVP. The season then began and Pees continued to use Orr, Mosley, and a 4-man front in the nickel as the Ravens only alignment in pass defense. Levine played 49 snaps of dime for the season (among 104 total snaps), but 47 of those came when Mosley was hurt and there was no other real choice on passing downs.
He’s a player who is more valuable to the Ravens because of his knowledge of their scheme and special teams and I hope he returns at the right price and in a more significant role.
Dev: Like Jensen, it seemed like Levine was in-line for a much bigger role before the season started. His shift to ILB pointed to a Deone Bucannon type transition. It would have been interesting to see him get more reps in early-down situations, let alone as the dime backer (a role he was woefully underutilized in). Levine had his moments as a joker type of defender who could cover tight ends one-on-one or play the spy role against mobile quarterbacks. The problem is, Levine really can’t make his presence felt in Dean Pees’ LB heavy packages. With the loss of Zachary Orr, the Levine experiment at LB might need to be revisited, especially if that role is going to be more of a committee approach vs. an every-down starter.
Brian: Levine is a pending free agent after having completed his 2-year, $2.4M contract. The Ravens clearly value Levine’s contributions, especially on Special Teams, but given his lack of play on defense, he’s likely to only command a contract for a little more than his last deal with the Ravens.
Levine to the Ravens secondary is a bit like Albert McClellan to the team’s linebacking corps. And their respective pay scales seem to track the same way. I expect Levine back with a slight bump in pay. He does a lot of the little things coaches appreciate yet they are things that are valued more by the incumbent team than a prospective new employer. And that should help keep the demand for his services down, enabling the Ravens to strike a fair deal.
CB Chris Lewis-Harris (UFA)
2016 Stats: 14 games (7 with Ravens), 0 starts; 1.5% Def Snaps with Ravens
Ken: He’s possible 2017 depth, but he played just 15 snaps in 2016 despite opportunity created by injury. The Ravens need to get younger in the secondary, and players like Price and Canady have option value remaining on their rookie deals. I think we’d know by now if the Ravens wanted him for 2017.
Dev: Lewis-Harris was brought onto the roster because of his special teams ability. As a depth guy who might have to handle spot duties at cornerback, the Ravens can certainly do better here.
Brian: Lewis-Harris made it into 7 games with the Ravens after being claimed on waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. As an end of the roster player, re-signing Lewis-Harris, if the Ravens are so inclined, should not be expensive and would likely only be a minimum salary deal.
I thought Lewis-Harris was an explorer. They had some famous expedition many years ago, right? All kidding aside, I’m not going to miss 1 special teams assisted tackle in 7 games, are you?
QB Ryan Mallett (UFA)
2016 Stats: Limited snaps in 4 games.
Ken: I expect the Ravens to look elsewhere. Backup QBs can be difficult to find, but there isn’t anything from Mallett’s limited game play, practice, and demeanor which screams for a resigning.
Dev: With Flacco returning to the lineup, Mallett didn’t see the field. It’s still unclear how effective Mallett can be as a dedicated backup QB. His temperament is certainly better than anyone could have anticipated when he came to the team from Houston, and he seems to have embraced the backup role. But does anyone really have faith in Mallett if he has to play for an extended time to fill in for Flacco? He has the arm strength to make tight window throws but his accuracy can be wild, and he doesn’t have the patience to take what the defense gives him.
Brian: In 2016, Mallett made $1.5M to hold a clipboard and step in for Joe Flacco if he ever got hurt. While Flacco did struggle this past season, Mallett thankfully never saw meaningful playing time. Mallett’s $1.5M salary was on the low end of what veteran backup QBs make and it remains to be seen whether he would want to look elsewhere for a better opportunity with more of a chance to start. If Mallett stays in Baltimore, he would likely receive just a mild salary bump.
The Ravens have carried only 2 quarterbacks on their 53-man roster dating back to 2010 when Marc Bulger was Joe Flacco’s backup. In 2011 Tyrod Taylor was the backup. Obviously, the Ravens had confidence in Joe Flacco then, so much so that they were willing to bring on a rookie as a backup QB in the form of Taylor, whose skill set was nearly the polar opposite of the starter’s. It’s time for the Ravens to find a QB to groom in the event that Flacco continues to fail to play to his pay — someone who could be ready to take the reins as early as 2019. I think the Ravens take a pass on Mallett and go with a rookie sometime before Round 5 rolls around. Just remember, the Patriots spent a second round pick on Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014 when they didn’t need one.
CB Jerraud Powers (UFA)
2016 Stats: 13 games, 6 starts; 2 INTs, 5 PDs, 1 Sack; 48.6% of Def Snaps
Ken: Powers played 475 snaps, primarily as the slot corner, with mixed results. He made some nice plays on the ball, particularly against Pittsburgh in the Ravens home win in week 9. However, he missed significant time due to injury and played so poorly against Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd that Webb had to be shifted to SCB. The Ravens need to get younger in the secondary (is there an echo in here?), and the combination of Powers and 2 (or 3) ILBs leaves the Ravens vulnerable to underneath routes. Ideally the Ravens can use Young in a hybrid LCB/SCB role this season where he moves back inside on passing downs. That means the Ravens will need one of their young outside corners or a draft pick to step up.
Dev: When Tavon Young took Shareece Wright’s spot in the lineup, Powers seemed to thrive as the slot corner. Although Powers has the versatility to play the slot or play outside, the slot seemed like a more natural fit because he’s physical, aggressive playing the ball, and a willing tackler. But as the season progressed, Powers was exposed badly in coverage when he had to turn and run to open space from the slot position. He was guilty of taking some false steps and would let receivers get behind him downfield. His career trajectory is firmly moving downward.
Brian: Powers signed a one-year, $1.75M deal in May and ended up seeing valuable playing time for the Ravens. If the Ravens would like to bring Powers back, they could look to do another one-year deal or perhaps a shorter multi-year deal. Powers would likely not command much more than $2-3M per year on any new deal.
Powers was inconsistent and regularly a step behind. If the Ravens are to improve in the secondary they need to find a corner who can play opposite Jimmy Smith so that they can move Tavon Young inside where he’s ideally suited as a productive nickel corner. There’s no need to spend north of $2M per year for an inconsistent backup. Hopefully the Ravens learned a lesson with the Shareece Wright contract from 2016. A Jerraud Powers sequel could be worse than one from Austin Powers. Yeah baby!
CB Jumal Rolle (RFA)
2016 Stats: Spent entire 2016 season on Injured Reserve.
Ken: He missed the entire season and I think it’s unlikely he’ll be back. Last year, the Ravens loaded up on younger corners in hopes of finding one, and I expect them to do the same in 2017.
Dev: Frankly, there was a lot of promise surrounding Rolle. His injury was a setback not only from a depth standpoint, but more prominently for special teams. He should be in the mix to come back and make the team, health permitting.
Brian: Another potential RFA, Rolle – who the coaching staff did think had some promise – spent the entire season on IR after tearing his Achilles during OTAs in May. Rolle will likely be non-tendered and perhaps re-signed later in the Spring once he’s fully recovered from his injury.
Time to Rolle with the changes. Hey, anyone heard from Samari lately?
OT Rick Wagner (UFA)
2016 Stats: 15 games, 14 starts; 81.5% of Off Snaps
Ken: I think Rick is the Ravens most important free agent, because he impacts the entire line. If he leaves, the Ravens either must find a tackle in a draft class that is reportedly thin or they may well move Alex Lewis to RT. Lewis was good at guard, but very poor in his 3 games at LT (average high F). Take it another step and the Ravens may thin the field at center if Jensen moves to LG rather than competing for the center spot or providing depth.
Wagner had his most consistent season in 2017, finishing with 7 straight games between a B- and a B+ and a .75 raw score at tackle. Stanley’s fine rookie year averaged .73 (although his last 8 weeks were outstanding). If the Ravens resign Wagner, they will have one of the best sets f bookends in the NFL.
Dev: Perhaps one of the most underappreciated aspects of Wagner’s game is that the team often left him on an island and he responded against some of the game’s best rushers — Cameron Wake and Khalil Mack come to mind immediately. Wagner is the perfect example of a player who the Ravens invested in from a player development standpoint, and they have reaped the benefits. As much as he was billed as a high-upside run blocking prospect coming out of college, Wagner is really at his best as a pass blocker. It’s not easy to find a right tackle who can pass block with Wagner’s level of effectiveness. At his best (and last year was just that), he’s a top 10 RT in a league in which the RT position is largely a revolving door.
Brian: This is not a strong free agent class and there are a number of teams with absurd amounts of Cap space to burn – and Wagner will be the top right tackle on the market. So, whether he re-signs with the Ravens or ends up signing elsewhere, Wagner is going to become the highest paid RT in the game (not named Lane Johnson, since he’s also being paid as the Eagles heir apparent at LT too).
He’s the Ravens’ most important UFA and the one most likely to leave. Would love for him to stay but the bet here is that he’ll be an ex-Raven within hours of the start of the new league year. I admire a player who continually works to refine his game. Where he started from as a rookie and where he is today are light years apart. The man deserves to be paid. My most optimistic hope for Wagner as free agency approaches, from a selfish perspective, is that he doesn’t land somewhere in the AFC North.
DT Brandon Williams (UFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 60.8% of Def Snaps
Ken: Brandon played 61% of the defensive snaps in 2016, an iron-man load on the interior DL, particularly for a rotational team. Pierce was an outstanding UDFA find, but I have doubts he’ll be able to shoulder Brandon’s workload and Carl Davis will be rebooting his career in year 3. The DL was rock solid in 2016, with just 5 players sharing all of the snaps. Davis was not missed, and rookie Willie Henry could not even play a single snap. However, the Ravens averaged just 2.17 defensive linemen per play, which is primarily due to Pees’ 5-LB nickel where only Jernigan or Guy was used as an interior down lineman.
So another way to look at Williams contribution is that he played 28.2% of all of the interior DL snaps. That’s a big man to replace.
Williams has provided some pocket compression, but even with a number of his snaps coming as a 3-tech (when on with Pierce), Brandon has underwhelmed as a pass rusher. Nonetheless, BWill is one of the most effective run defenders in the game and I am concerned the Ravens DL will not be able to maintain the same consistency without him.
To point out 1 more reason to keep Williams…Mosley has proven to be injury prone, but defends the run well when allowed to roam and has solid ability to read the QB. Additional snaps with 2 behemoths on the field should help keep CJ unengaged, fresh, and free to gamble. These are much the same conditions that helped Lewis excel with Adams and Siragusa.
Based on his apparent market value, I think the Ravens are less than 50% to re-sign him at this point.
Dev: Williams had a dominant stretch for most of the season, leading the Ravens to a resurgent run defense in 2016. Although his play dipped toward the end of the season (maybe because of wear and tear?), you can’t argue with the production Williams had, and he could have easily made the case for being the team’s best defender last season. At this point in his career, he’s mastered the leverage game. Williams was a key catalyst for run plays being blown up in the backfield either by simply overpowering his guy or by attracting enough blockers to free up room for other players along the front. There is no disputing Williams’ game when it comes to evaluating his place on the team; this comes down to dollars and cents.
Brian: Williams is also set to be the top player at his position in a market that is going to go crazy. The starting point is likely Damon Harrison’s 5-year, $46.25M deal signed last offseason and is likely to go up substantially from there.
Williams is another example of a player the Ravens want to keep and knew they wanted to keep in 2015, yet couldn’t get a deal done before he hit the open market. Other than Ray Lewis and Bart Scott, I can’t think of another core defender that tested the market and returned. Williams is as good as gone. Fortunately for the Ravens, they have shown the ability to find behemoth types to plug in at defensive tackle in the past. Hopefully that ability didn’t escape following the unfortunate passing of D-Line Coach Clarence Brooks.
RB Terrance West (RFA)
2016 Stats: 16 games, 13 starts; 193 carries, 774 yards; 34 receptions, 236 yards, 6 TDs; 39.1% of Off Snaps
Ken: West had a solid year and combines hole hitting, yards after contact, and decent receiving skills. I don’t think he’ll ever be the feature back for a good running team, but he can be a complement in a 2/3-back system and could be part of rebuilding the Ravens as a run-first team. He could boost his value significantly with improved pass blocking, particularly since the Ravens will probably lose Juszczyk this offseason. I’d like to see him back at the right price.
Dev: West easily could have been a 1,000 yard back if the team gave him even an average workload. He only carried the ball more than 21 times or more three times last year. There were a number of games in which he was criminally underutilized despite being highly effective (the Redskins game comes to mind). When he runs decisively and stays patient with his backside cuts, he can gobble up yards in chunks. West is not a home run hitter and he brings little value as a blocker and pass-catcher. But as a stretch runner in the zone scheme, he can help keep an offense on schedule. He was also able to find pay dirt when given the opportunities in goal-line situations.
Brian: West enjoyed a resurgent season in 2016, while playing the season as a ERFA after being signed as a free agent in late 2015. By virtue of being drafted in the 3rd round, West is likely to receive the low RFA tender of $1.808M since it is unlikely that any team would give up a 3rd round pick to sign him to an offer sheet.
The Ravens have made it clear that they want to improve the running game. Losing West would push the ground game a step back. I expect Kenneth Dixon to be the featured runner but West is a nice complement and has some versatility, although like Dixon, both need to improve in pass protection. As Brian points out, his 3rd round status makes this an easy decision. He’ll get the low tender but it would be no surprise if his role diminishes to 8-10 carries per game, particularly if the Ravens land a speedy back with explosiveness in the draft, albeit one that won’t be counted on as an every down back.