Brick by Brick Ravens Build an A+ Offseason

ice-up

The Baltimore Ravens have quietly put together an A+ off-season and we haven’t even gotten to the draft yet.

In just a couple of weeks, the Ravens have given out about $44 million in guaranteed money while keeping 4 players (Eugene Monroe, Dennis Pitta, Jacoby Jones, Daryl Smith) and grabbing another (Steve Smith). Those are all players that most fans would have said the Ravens needed to get and yet Ozzie Newsome was able to get them at great prices.

According to Jamison Hensley none of them rank among the top eight highest paid at their position.

Most would have said the Ravens needed to make signing a safety a priority. Well, they did, just probably not the one you would have guessed. Actually, I felt like I was reading about the Orioles signing players, as I had to Google who it was. The Purple & Black picked up Darian Stewart from the Rams.

No, Stewart is not a huge signing, but Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo was Stewart’s head coach in St. Louis and wouldn’t let the Ravens sign him if he wasn’t a quality guy. This should help give them depth that they lost when Corey Graham signed elsewhere.

Those moves alone would have been good enough for many before the draft. Once the draft happens, more veteran cuts will happen and Ozzie will be able to complete the roster at that point.

But Ozzie pulled off a trade this weekend for a player that was being talked about by quite a few teams. He could really help the Ravens. Baltimore acquired interior offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Bucs for a mid-round 2015 draft pick.

Zuttah is 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds. He can play center, left guard, and right guard. He helped open holes for Ray Rice at Rutgers. He is so excited about coming to Baltimore that as soon as the trade became official, Zuttah and the Ravens were working on a long-term deal which would also lower his cap number for this season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Zuttah was just behind Matt Birk in 2012 at the center position. He remained consistent in his ranking in 2013, which was 13 slots higher than Gino Gradkowski.

Is he is premier center or guard in this league? No, but he’s a big man who is a definite upgrade for the Ravens. And an upgrade for a mid-round draft pick sounds like a great deal to me.

But there is something that makes me scratch my head… what exactly is a draft pick worth to NFL teams?

In 2011, the Ravens got Lee Evans for a 4th round pick. In 2013, the Ravens got a 6th round pick for Boldin from the 49ers. Earlier this month, the 49ers got Blaine Gabbert for a 6th round pick. Last week, the Raiders gave away a 6th round pick for Matt Schaub.

So, Boldin, Gabbert and Schaub are all worth the same? The Ravens are said to have given up a “mid-round pick” for Zuttah. Is that a 4th? 5th? 6th? If it’s a 5th (as reported by many), does that mean Zuttah, who was ranked 24th best at his position is more valuable than a #1 receiver in Boldin or a starting quarterback in Schaub?

I’m glad Ozzie is good at his job, because I’m not sure I understand a lot of the rationale when it comes to these deals.

But in the end, what I do know is that the Ravens have quietly filled a lot of their big holes and we haven’t even reached the NFL draft yet.

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About Joe Polek

Joe Polek
Joe Polek was born in Baltimore, MD, and was raised in Bel Air, MD. In 2001, he moved to Portland, Maine for a job in radio. In 2012, he moved to Columbia, SC for another gig in radio, where he currently resides with his wife, Nicole, and their two daughters....more

27 Raves on “Brick by Brick Ravens Build an A+ Offseason

  1. GoPoe on said:

    Part of the value of a trade is how many years the player is still on contract, so with a single year left before he could retire or move on, Boldin was only worth a sixth. Zuttah has two years left on his contract (and apparently wants to work on an extension) so he is a fifth round pick (probably).
    Having said that, I think Newsome probably got ripped off both times…

    • John on said:

      I find it hard to believe that the author can’t figure out why Boldin only got us a 6th rounder… The Ravens were lucky to get anything from him, he was due $7M (turns out completely worth it)! When comparing the draft picks recieved for all the mentioned players you aren’t comparing apples to apples. Their exisitng contracts play into how much compensation they are worth obviously.

      • Joe Polek on said:

        Listen, I know that contracts play a role in the trade value, but you can’t tell me that Blaine Gabbert as a back-up QB is worth the same as Matt Schaub as a starter… contract or no contract. But yet they both got 6th round picks. That’s all I’m saying.

        • yogi on said:

          That’s exactly the case. Schaub’s cap hit is HUGE… the Texans didn’t want anything to do with him. Any draft pick is better than just cutting him.

          • Jerry on said:

            Yeah, a medicore qb with a $12 million cap hit (not saying that’s Schaub’s) can hurt his team more than a crap QB with a $2 million cap hit (not saying that’s Gabbert’s). It’s not particularly complicated to understand. And, Zuttah is more likely to get a pay cut than an extension, given that he’s a mediocre 28-year-old starting interior lineman with a base salary >$4 million and 2 years remaining on his contract. If he gets an extension, it will be a 1-2 year extension that significantly lowers his AAV, aka a paycut dressed up in a nice pink dress. Basically, we traded a fifth-round pick to ensure that he’d be available and that we’d get the only chance to negotiate. He’s not guaranteed any of the money from the Ravens, all guaranteed portions of his cap hit from bonuses (if there were any remaining) accelerate onto the Bucs’ 2014 cap.

  2. Dmar on said:

    How is this an A+? They signed a bunch of their own players from a terrible 8-8 season, then they signed a center from one of the worst teams in the NFL and spent a pick on him. Not to mention everyone they have paid, is way over-paid. Ray Rice is still on the roster and is a woman beater and there have been 2 other players arrested. Terrible off season in my opinion, but hey keep being a fanboy Jamison.

  3. Andrew on said:

    Ripped off? Boldin was going to be cut which every front office knew when the Ravens started shopping him, so getting anything for Boldin was a good deal. Regarding Zuttah, sure, he’s a middling center/guard but at least he can start. How many 5th round picks are even on an NFL roster 2 years after being drafted?

    I agree with the author about the overall success of the offseason, but am I the only one who thinks the Ravens should have prioritized Art Jones over Pitta? He was essentially written off as too expensive, but he only got 5 years 30 million which is essentially what Pitta got. I like Pitta, but even his defenders will acknowledge that he is fairly useless as a blocker, where as Art was our best DL last year. Position depth obviously was a factor in prioritizing TE, but assuming we kept Art and Williams has a good year, then we would have significant leverage over Ngata next offseason when negotiating an extension. Canty will be gone after next year so without Art, who could replace Ngata if he isn’t willing to come down to the 5 or 6 million range?

    • Anonymous on said:

      Ngata plays nose and Jones is a DE, so thinking about replacing one with another dpesn’t make any sense. Also, as you said, we have depth at DE with Deangelo, canty, Lewis-Moore and Williams, so we can replace Jones and I doubt that Furstenburg is able to relace Pitta.

      • Jerry on said:

        ngata can play basically any spot on the interior line, but yes, we have better DLine options than TE options, so the move makes sense even if Ravens fans tend to massively overrate Dennis Pitta.

  4. King Dooley on said:

    Along with what GoPoe said, age, durability, years on contract, $ on contract, free agency market, depth in the draft at the position. All of those things factor into trade value.
    If a team wants to dump a player’s salary to create cap space (Boldin), they will be willing to trade the player for much less (6th round pick) than what he would be worth at a flat rate. The only other trade offer for him was a 7th round pick from the Vikings because teams didn’t want to pick up his $6M cap hit, but the 49ers were paying their starting QB a minimal amount, rookie contract, so they could afford to take a chance.
    Also, I would argue that Boldin was hardly a true #1 receiver at the point of the trade. He is a smart, tough, durable, move the chains receiver which is a great asset in the playoffs. But the Ravens obviously wanted to move on to developing a younger WR corps with the thought that Pitta would take over the chain-moving duties. Look at how reluctant teams are to offer the eagles anything for desean jackson, who produces like a #1 receiver and is in his prime.
    In hindsight we probably should have kept Boldin, but I feel like people need to get over it. And this comes from someone who wore their Boldin jersey on Sundays.

  5. Tmo on said:

    Personally, I see Brandon Williams in the middle for the next few years. And Pitta was only prioritized to assure we get our money’s worth out of our $120mil man. Art Jones was good, but didn’t help Flacco. This off season is about making Flacco better, and with Monroe, Pitta, Jones, and S. Smith locked down, we’re on the right track.

  6. chris on said:

    A+? no, solid offseason we hope so. Until I see our oline get a push i will be skeptical. our season hinges on how our offensive line plays

  7. Cheri on said:

    Even though I do like what the Ravens have done no way would I give it a A+ I mean as much as we all like the Ravens resigning their own these are still guys who made up an 8-8 team and a 35 year old receiver who is in decline a backup safety that most of us never heard of . A good off season pehaps but not great. I would feel so much better if they would sign or trade for a veteran F/S and have Steward be the backup SS/FS .
    I also think from everything I am reading that next years FS class is much better then this years thus a veteran could hold the fort down for a year. And this team CANNOT go with out drafting a WR within the first 2 rounds .Outside of Torry we have neglected this position in the draft way to long.

    • Steve webster on said:

      I completely disagree that we need to draft a WR early. This Draft is deep with pass catchers not to mention with Smithx2, Pitta, Jones, and Brown all looking to prob start who sits if we draft a WR early? We traded our fourth and fifth rnd pick for Monroe. I think ideally Ozzie would like to trade back and pick up some extra picks but rumors are everyone wants to trade back in this draft. Offensive line is still the biggest need on this team. Ozzie better get the most line talent he can out of this draft cause it won’t matter if Megatron is lined up wide with Flacco laying on his back and an abysmal run game.

  8. PG County Raven on said:

    Agree, very good off-season to date. Kept key veterans from an 8-8 team that was a few plays away from the playoffs and a couple of games away from winning the division. We will be able to grown some defensive players at various positions over the next couple of years and the D-line still needs shoring up to manhandling the run! Offense: Let us down last year in every area! The philosophy of signing veterans in their mid-20s with valuable starting experience to mid-level, competitive contract rates will bode well for us for the next 3-5 years on this revamp o-line! SSmith will lead the receiving corps by bringing some attitude and that group will follow him. TSmith is not that type of leader – he’s a quiet, finesse type and should go spend some time and learn from Jerry Rice. MBrown – a rough diamond who will come of age in year 3. RB- looking for RRice’s replacement is timely – he’s on the downside. Will these FA’s play Ravens football? We’ll see. The best thing Ozzie and company has shown is the willingness to part ways with players who don’t adapt to playing like Ravens and underachieve: MHuff and MSpears. A minus is we lack sheer power, explosiveness, and nastiness along both lines. All the moves may not work out and that’s just life, but if they do – BAM!!!!!! Go Ravens!

  9. Rick on said:

    This has been a very good offseason. Having Monroe for an offseason and a full season is a huge upgrade over Monroe from last year. Pitta with the ability to play is a huge upgrade over Pitta without the ability to play. Steve Smith, while no longer a #1, is a huge upgrade over Tandon Doss, whom he is replacing. Zuttah, while not Alex Mack, is a huge replacement over Gradkowski. They did loose a good player in Art Jones, but they are hoping that players currently on the roster can replace him. Something that can not be said for the above positions. Graham, while solid, was way overpaid and is very replaceable. Ditto for Oher. Bottom line is they have made upgrades where they needed to and are looking/hoping for the next Art Jones to show up. They are a better team today than they were at the end of the season and still have the draft to go.

    • Fl Raven on said:

      Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside and Smith in the slot with Pitta who is basically a wide receiver also in the slot and the up and coming young guys, not to mention the very deep upcoming draft for receivers should be more than enough for Joe to throw to if and it’s a big if, the line can give Joe time to throw and if the Ravens can produce and decent running game. Last year had no Pitta, no Smith, Jones hurt and out for six games and no running game. Big, big difference.

  10. Smitty on said:

    No our offensive line was why we lost last year they were horrid. Sure up the oline and we win 10 games, if we dont, we will be lucky to win 7… Flacco bailed us out last year we easily could have been 4-14 last year with that offensive line.

  11. Jerry on said:

    I’m the first one to rip the Ravens when they do something dumb (like choosing Sam Koch over an extra million in spending money and a rookie-veteran punter competition), but I agree that this offseason is an A+. As much as fans love to say things like “draft and develop”, “stockpile picks” and “best player available”, it doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of 5th rounders have zero impact in the league. I’ll happily trade one for a guy who can play all three interior line spots capably, given that you’re getting him on a two-year deal with nothing guaranteed. Maybe they can’t work something out to lower his salary and end up having to cut him- very unlikely, as the Ravens now have leverage.

    Moving on, Steve Smith at that price is excellent. Sure, he’s not a No. 1 anymore. Guess what? He’s being paid like a No. 3.

    Pitta for 5/32.5 i don’t love but it’s a very fair deal and a solid job by the front office.

    Locking up Monroe at a reduced AAV by giving him more guaranteed? Smart. If you’re gonna give out a higher percentage guaranteed to get a reduction in AAV, better do it with a young player who will likely be on the roster for years to come. This was perfect execution, even if it leaves the team in trouble should Monroe fall off a cliff (literally or figuratively).

    Jacoby- Meh. I didn’t like it at first because hes probably about the 60 or 70th best WR in the league, but he’s been an excellent return man and is a very capable No. 4 WR. I’d have probably moved on, but it’s not a particularly bad move.

    Stewart- Making about 1 mill and potentially a starter, or a top backup at two positions. A+

    • Point-Blank-45 on said:

      Well said the only thing I have to add is that everyone forgets about Brown, an undrafted rookie who came out and played like a pro leading our recievers in TD’s last seaon ( or the lack there of ) I truly see this young stud filling Steve Smiths shoes once he is gone. Look at him 6 ‘ 4″ 206 in a few years he is Smith and Boldin in their prime

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