When the bell sounds signaling the start of the NFL’s hunting season – free agency, don’t be surprised if the name Lardarius Webb is bantered around quite a bit.
The Baltimore Ravens have extended a first round tender to Webb which means he will at the very least receive first round tender money of $2.742 million. That hardly qualifies as chump change but it would be very surprising if he plays for a contract that modest. Other teams are sure to come knocking on Webb’s door and his price will climb markedly.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, the rules were altered as it relates to restricted free agents. In the past teams could offer a high tender to a RFA and if that player was offered a contract by another club and the incumbent team failed to match the offer, said incumbent would receive a first and a third round draft pick from the signing club.
That has changed and now the price the signing club must make (in addition to the new contract of course) is just a first round pick.
Teams covet first round picks like Charlie Sheen covets “goddesses” but there are a few clubs that the Ravens need to be mindful of when it comes to Webb and his vulnerability as a RFA.
Clearly the Patriots need to shape up their secondary and corner is a strong need of theirs. Bill Belichick per usual, is armed with two first round picks. Do you think that he could find a player of Webb’s caliber with either the 27th or the 31st pick in this draft?
I don’t think so!
Turn to the Cincinnati Bengals and they have the draft’s 17th and 21st picks and enough cap space to address the national debt. Might they be willing to risk one for Webb while weakening a divisional rival?
Either way interest from both the Patriots and Bengals will at the very least drive up Webb’s asking price and when that happens Bill Belichick and Marvin Lewis will at lighten the amount of cap space the Ravens have to play with and that could cost the team a player like Cory Redding or Jarret Johnson or possibly a quality veteran receiver or backup running back.
And the Ravens have only themselves to blame.
Time and time again we’ve seen the Ravens fail to extend core players like Chris McAlister, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ray Rice BEFORE the end of their respective contracts and they’ve then had to use an expensive franchise tag to keep them around only to pay through the nose later.
It’s the same thing with Lardarius Webb.
In many ways their failure to be proactive with contract extensions is the team’s financial Achilles’ heel – the fly in their salary cap ointment.
Maybe Ozzie Newsome will get lucky and other clubs will find the first round price to sign Webb to be too expensive.
If not the cost to keep Webb will swell measurably and the Ravens will have only themselves to blame.