With training camp only a month away, the big-name free agents have all signed, and big splashes are very unlikely.
At this point in free agency, teams are just looking for low-cost veterans who could outplay their salary and provide their team with a bargain.
For the Baltimore Ravens, they accomplished just that last season, giving veteran linebacker Daryl Smith just over $1 million on a one-year deal, but ultimately getting a full-time defender and dependable coverage option.
It’s unlikely the Ravens can find a steal of Smith’s caliber every offseason, but if they can find a roster-caliber player and contributor on a minimal deal after June 1, it’s still a bargain.
There are still plenty of free agents who could fit the bill. Which ones may pique Baltimore’s interest?
David Stewart, RT
The starting right tackle battle hasn’t taken any surprise turns, yet. So far, while just practicing without pads, it appears that second-year linemen Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jensen have done enough to earn the confidence of the coaching staff that they are true contenders for the job heading into training camp.
But, a little competition never hurt anyone, and if Wagner or Jensen are legitimate options, why not have them prove themselves against an experienced player at the position? The current free agent tackle market doesn’t offer a myriad of intriguing options, but one proven veteran with plenty of experience is former Tennessee Titans tackle David Stewart.
He was released by the Titans as the organization went with a youth movement at the position, and he has expressed a willingness to retire, so whether he would accept a fairly small deal remains to be seen. He does have 116 career starts at his position, and was a reliable staple in Tennessee’s offense in recent years. He still has starting ability, which would heat up the right tackle competition.
Steve Gregory, S
The position with the least top-to-bottom talent on Baltimore’s roster is safety, where second-year player Matt Elam is the only guaranteed starter, while rookie Terrence Brooks will battle veteran Darian Stewart for the free safety job. There is no notable quality depth – Jeromy Miles, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine – behind those three, and that’s not to say the top three on the depth chart are above average players at this stage in their respective careers.
Ideally, adding another talented veteran safety to the bunch would provide more reassurance heading into the season, while also adding the much-needed depth at the position that the team simply didn’t have in 2013 (Elam and Ihedigbo each had over 1,000 snaps).
Enter Steve Gregory? Among the mid-to-low level options still available at safety in the free agent market, Gregory may make the most sense. He is a two-way safety who could step in as a backup at either position and has experience on special teams. Playing for New England, Gregory intercepted three passes in 2012, recorded a sack in 2013 and was on the field for 849 snaps last season.
In terms of backup talent, Gregory is a more proven player than Stewart, and a safety depth chart of Elam, Brooks, Gregory and Stewart would help bolster a thin position on the roster.
James Harrison, LB
Before signing outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil last offseason, the Ravens expressed interest in adding James Harrison, so perhaps they may have interest again?
Not many outside linebackers still manage to play in the NFL at the age of 36, but Harrison proved he can still play, and play well, with the Cincinnati Bengals last season. As a strongside linebacker in Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense, Harrison’s pass rushing role was limited, but he still made an impact as a run defender.
If forced to switch back to a 3-4 defense such as Baltimore’s, Harrison could put his pass rushing ability on display more, but ideally at this point in his career, giving him a run-stopping role would be the best utilization of his skill set.
Baltimore’s defense desperately struggled to get off the field late in games in 2013, which was ultimately one of the main reasons why the team failed to make the playoffs. Much of that can be chalked up to lack of fourth quarter run-stopping ability, and adding another enforcer in that department would be a good tool to have to help round out the Ravens’ improved defense.
Ryan Harris, RT
OK, there has to be at least one Gary Kubiak connection in this article, right? The original Kubiak connection was Eric Winston, but the Ravens have shown no public interest in the president of the NFLPA during the post-June 1 signing period, so maybe there truly is no substance to the Winston-Ravens connection.
But what about another former right tackle in Kubiak’s offense? Ryan Harris, 29, played both left and right tackle for the Houston Texans last season. He played in all 32 regular season games over the past two seasons, rotating between starter and backup.
If a player such as Ricky Wagner wins the starting right tackle job, the Ravens may be in need of some outside help to improve the depth at both tackle positions. Harris’ experience at each position and in Kubiak’s offense makes him a logical fit.
Santonio Holmes, WR
The top-end depth of Baltimore’s wide receiver corps isn’t one to complain about, but if the team has interest in adding another potential contributor before the season begins, Santonio Holmes is one of the lone options remaining in a bleak group of available free agent wide receivers.
Now 30 years old and battling injuries in recent years, Holmes’ career is a far cry from the game-changing ability he possessed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and during the early stages of his career with the New York Jets. Despite that, Holmes is still a viable pass catcher, and while he only caught 23 passes in 2013, he managed to post a career high in yards per reception at 19.8.
When healthy, Holmes still poses a threat to defenses as a playmaker after the catch, and with little interest from teams this offseason, Holmes wouldn’t likely come at a high cost.
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