The Best of the Rest

DeCosta Ozzie

The last 24 hours have brought about so many changes to NFL rosters that it’s been hard to keep up with, even for the most anxious fan.

DeMarcus Ware was released by the Cowboys but then signed a three-year, $30 million deal ($20 million guaranteed) with the Broncos. Steve Smith of the Panthers, although not officially gone, won’t be playing for Carolina next season, according to his agent Derrick Fox.

Ware (nine seasons) and Smith (13 seasons) are leaving the only team they’ve ever played for. For whatever reason(s) the Cowboys and Panthers are not only getting rid of franchise greats but all-time greats. Ware ranks 18th all-time in sacks (117.0) and Smith ranks 19th all-time in receiving yards (12,197).

My point is that no matter how good a player is or how much you think a player means to a franchise, free agency prompts front offices league-wide to act quickly in their attempt to assemble the best possible roster.

The Ravens are an exception. Ozzie Newsome should patent whatever his personnel philosophies are because he always seems to get the player he wants at the price he wants (or even at a lower price), all without being hasty.

Preparation and an exceptional staff go a long way, but the instinct and conviction with which Newsome operates is unparalleled. Since the Ravens’ inception in 1996, no team has drafted more All-Pro players than Baltimore (13).

We know Newsome can select the best of the best, but who does he consider to be the best of the rest?

On Tuesday the Ravens locked up their left tackle of the future, signing Eugene Monroe for five more years to the tune of $37.5 million (per Aaron Wilson). I consider that to mean the Ravens got a very good player at a great price. To sign a very good left tackle in his prime to a five-year contract that won’t carry a yearly cap hit higher than $8.95 million is quite an accomplishment.

On Wednesday Baltimore also secured their ace returner, Jacoby Jones, for four more years. His deal is worth $14 million, but the cap numbers have not been released as of yet.

According to Brian McFarland, the Ravens are now $15,812,852 under the cap (not counting the Jones deal). How will they spend it?

They still need a center, wide receiver and free safety, which is what they needed when free agency started. I don’t think the plan has changed much and I still think they will make multiple moves that will impact their 2014 roster in a positive way.

Alex Mack is the prize center of the 2014 free agency class, but the Browns applied the transition tag to the anchor of their offensive line. That means Mack will make $10.039 million next year in Cleveland unless he accepts an offer from another team that the Browns don’t match.

Cleveland will get the opportunity to match any offer, but as Mack’s agent told Peter King, “I’m confident we can come up with a structure that would have a reasonable likelihood to not be matched by the Browns — and would be in full compliance with the collective bargaining agreement.”

Mack is 28 but is only four years into his NFL career. If the Ravens can make this deal work and the Browns don’t match it, Baltimore’s offensive line (pending a healthy Kelechi Osemele) is suddenly on the up and up.

As far as the free agent free safeties go, the three I thought would help the Ravens have all signed with other teams. Not to worry though, because Baltimore will likely have their pick of either Calvin Pryor (Louisville) or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) in the upcoming draft. Both of those players are top-tier free safeties.

When you look at the remaining wide receivers on the market, the one that I think would fit really well in Baltimore is Julian Edelman. He’s just what the Ravens are looking for (a chain-mover). Baltimore has plenty of speed in Jones and Torrey Smith, but when those two clear out the pass defenders, Edelman could beat linebackers in multiple ways. Shallow routes, option routes, rub routes, you name it and Edelman will run it.

Yes he had Tom Brady as his quarterback last year, but defenses knew Edelman was the primary option on passing plays and he still caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards.

The more I think about Baltimore’s navigation of free agency, the more it reminds me of last year’s class. In 2013, Baltimore signed some big names for not that much money, and although the season wasn’t a success the Ravens didn’t suffer financially.

This year, the Ravens seem to be on the verge of signing more big names for not that much money. The difference now is that the players the Ravens have signed or will sign all figure to be in their mid-to-late 20′s.

Young, sustainable talent at a reasonable price gives you the best chance to win. Newsome and his staff know that and are setting the Ravens up for another playoff run.

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About Mike Fast

Mike Fast
I was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, I transferred to Towson University. At York and Towson, I hosted various radio shows, wrote for the school paper, spoke on a panel RE: college game day presentation at IBS conference in Manhattan and...more

10 Raves on “The Best of the Rest

  1. TRUTH on said:

    I was all for Calvin Pryor in the 1st round until I put some deeper thought into it. Down the road when it’s time to pay up, we would have two first round safeties a year apart seeking long term contracts (because hopefully they’re both pro bowlers at that point or the picks were busts) Would you really spend heavy on 2 safeties at that point? Probably not. So you’d probably let one walk, which isn’t what you want from a 1st round pick after 4 years. 1st round picks should be 10 year players and anything less (barring injury) is a bust. No, I think we diversify our portfolio some more. So let’s go down the list and check off positions:

    Quarterback? Check. (Flacco)
    Left Tackle? Check. (Monroe)
    Tight End? Check. (Pitta)
    Corner Back? Check. (Smith)
    Safety? Check. (Elam)

    What other cornerstone positions would you draft in round 1 that’s of pressing need and worth paying down the road?

    ILB? No! Wait for a deeper LB draft to find the franchise guy.
    Nose Tackle? No! There aren’t any Haloti Ngata’s in this draft.
    OLB? No! Roster is loaded there already.
    RB? No! They’re a dime a dozen.
    Center? No! This draft doesn’t have a 1st round center prospect.
    Guard? No! 17 is too high for a 2nd tier Guard.

    That leaves: WR, DT/3-4 DE, and RT. Ok..

    WR options at 17 could possibly be: Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham, Brandon Cooks
    Right Tackle options at 17 could possibly be: Zack Martin and Taylor Lewan
    DT/3-4 DE options at 17 could possibly be: Timmy Jernigan, Aaron Donald, Kony Ealy, Ra’Shede Hageman, Stephen Tuit


    I think for the most part they’re all equally rated. Mike Evans isn’t going to be there at 17 and Taylor Lewan would be the only pick I’d stick around for at 17 to draft. I’m either trading up and drafting Mike Evans to be my franchise #1 WR for the next 10 years or I’m trading back and loading up on draft picks. 1 of the 3 wideouts (Beckham, Lee, Cooks) should still be around if we trade back in the 1st. What to do, what to do?

    I got it! Target Mike Evans!! He’s the only player from that group worth franchising long term. Trade up, craft a slick Ozzie Newsome deal and hustle the sugar water out of a dumb GM. Maybe give Caldwell a ring. The Lions are always looking for new ways to set their franchise back. Tell em we’ll give them Deonte Thompson, Jah Reed, and Ray Rice to swap picks :D

    Do what has to be done to keep Mike Evans from being a Steeler!

    • Mike FastMike Fast on said:

      Well said. I hear you about having to pay the safeties, but I think these two guys can start Week 1. However, I do like Odell Beckham a lot, even though I can’t stand LSU. He was a monster in Baton Rouge. Also with losing Arthur Jones, picking up Jernigan or Donald would not upset me.

  2. Sarcasticfury on said:

    Here’s Baltimore’s method of keeping it’s guys: You can either take the money with Cleveland/Miami/Oakland/ Jets and wallow in the dregs of the league, or you can take a reasonable deal and have a chance to win a ring.

  3. John P on said:

    I don’t get it.

    We have ~12m to spend after Jacoby (give or take 1m depending on how the deal is structured). And somehow you are suggesting that Ozzie will sign Mack (set to make 10m this year himself), AND Julian Edleman?

    Lest you forget that we still need to sign our draft class. And Daryl Smith. And anyone else the team needs.

    Barring additional cuts (and none have been widely predicted, and none would provide us that much cap relief anyway), I fail to see any validity to this article.

  4. scott on said:

    Truth, Ozzie is not trading up in this deep draft. If anything, we’re trading back for more picks. If we get Steve Smith and Alex Mack this off-season, and some of the top talent in this deep draft, then forget about the Ray Lewis statue next to Unitas. BUILD AN OZZIE STATUTE NOW.

  5. Mike on said:

    I wouldn’t classify Pryor or Clinton-Dix as “top-tier free safeties”. Both are passable, but have flaws that make them quality starters but not elite. Pryor is more of a hybrid, not a true free safety. He is a very instinctive player, but better against the run and a big hitter, not a ball-hawk. Clinton-Dix is more of a free safety, but has been inconsistent as a “center fielder”. The Ravens should see what they have in Omar Brown, who has shown in the pre-season that he has playmaking ability, but has been stuck down the depth chart for 2 years.

    They need to go with the best player available at #17, if they don’t trade down to acquire more picks.

  6. BmoreB on said:

    I tend to agree with Truth, move up and get Mike Evans.

    It’s a gamble but all picks are gambles really. When I started looking at mock drafts a month ago or so, there was a trend of Pittsburgh & Baltimore being linked to Evans. Get this guy so that we have a #1 and equally as important keep him from lighting us up while wearing the yellow and black.

  7. Steve on said:

    No way we, or any other team, is getting Mack in my opinion. Browns have tons of cap room and can match any offer. Why wouldn’t they match. Agent is trying to bump up the market.

    • John P on said:

      IMO, Mack is probably too expensive for us.

      But I could see someone taking him using a poison pill. The precedent has been set so don’t rule it out.

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