The Best of the Rest

Street Talk The Best of the Rest

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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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Mike Fast

About Mike Fast

Mike was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, transferred to Towson University. At York he hosted various radio shows and wrote for The Spartan (the school’s newspaper). In 2005, he spoke on a panel at the 2005 IBS conference in Manhattan regarding college game day presentation. At Towson, Mike was a public address announcer for multiple sports and majored in Mass Communication, with a focus in sports broadcasting. From 2012-13, he’s covered Ravens training camp, and since 2012, he’s been the social media coordinator for Johns Hopkins during their home men’s lacrosse games. Mike got live a life-long dream when he attended Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and witness the Ravens become world champions! If you choose to do so, follow Mike Fast on twitter: @MikeFastNFL

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