Ravens Meanderings: More Free Agent Spending?

Lombardi's Way Ravens Meanderings: More Free Agent Spending?

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Free agents who remain on the open market at this time lose leverage and therefore money with each passing day.

Representatives for these agents have more than likely drawn proverbial lines in the sand in an attempt to set market value for their clients. Yet as the draft draws nearer, their clients’ cases grow weaker and those lines become less defined.

Of the remaining unrestricted free agents, those most frequently discussed as potential Ravens are Owen Daniels and LeGarrette Blount. Daniels on the surface would appear to be a natural fit given that tight end depth is a team need and the fact that the former Texan is familiar with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

But the price would have to be a bargain because Daniels does very little in the way of blocking. During his last full season (2012) Daniels graded out as a worse in-line blocker than Dennis Pitta according to Pro Football Focus. That season Pitta was ranked 57th as a pass blocker and 43rd as a run blocker among tight ends. Daniels ranked 59th and 50th respectively. So at this point Daniels be a luxury item — a quality receiving backup and part of the mix in certain sub packages.

Blount is an interesting prospect in that he was the workhorse for the New England Patriots last season. If he ultimately lands in Baltimore he would more than likely be a situational player and with that comes situational pay.

Blount’s position is becoming less and less respected by the league and NFL personnel execs seem willing to go with second and third day backs in the draft to fill supporting roles in the offensive backfield.

If a deal happens between Blount and the Ravens prior to the draft, it will only be because the former Duck’s representatives caved in a big way.

Another player mentioned as a possibility for the Ravens by trade is disgruntled guard Evan Mathis who is said to be next to DeSean Jackson on the Philadelphia Eagles trading block.

Two years ago the Ravens heavily pursued Mathis but he ultimately signed a 5-year, $25 million deal with Andy Reid’s Eagles that is scheduled to pay him $5.15M in 2014. Mathis is coming off an All-Pro season and according to PFF was the best guard in the NFL by a wide margin during each of the past two seasons. Here’s how he graded out in 2013…

The trouble with a raise for Mathis is that the former member of the Crimson Tide turns 32 in November. Age plus an already hefty salary for his position makes Mathis at left guard in Baltimore a very unlikely scenario.

The more we learn about new center Jeremy Zuttah the better fit he appears to be. Complementary players across the offensive front are important and from what we’re hearing he is exactly that! The Ravens have significantly upgraded the position.

For now however, Zuttah comes with a price. He occupies $4.5M of the Ravens’ 2014 cap, more than both recently re-signed veterans Eugene Monroe ($3.2M) and Dennis Pitta ($3.2M).

That drops the Ravens cap availability to $4.18M. Word is that the team is close to a restructured deal with Zuttah that will give the team more of a cushion in order to augment their roster with some complementary bargain-priced free agents and of course to sign their rookies.

Speaking of which the rookie cap is an often-misunderstood component of the salary cap. Many in the media do not fully understand the mechanics of it.

As our cap guru Brian McFarland explains, “Some [in the media] have been heard to say that it’s a totally separate pool of money that is not included in the team’s overall Cap. Others think the entire amount of the Rookie Cap is included in the team’s overall Cap, meaning that teams will need that much overall Cap space to sign their rookies.”

“Both of those characterizations are incorrect.”

The rookie cap is really a cap within a cap and is closely tied to the “Rule of 51” which has nothing to do with Daryl Smith.

The Rule of 51 from the league’s CBA essentially states that from the beginning of the league year in March up to the beginning of the season, a team’s cap number will be determined by a club’s top 51 salary cap values.

So when a rookie is signed and his cap value is more than the cap value of any of the 51 players who previously comprised the top 51 list, he will take the place of one of those players on the list. The cap will then go up by the difference between his new value and the value of the player who has fallen to No. 52.

For a complete explanation on the Rule of 51 and its relationship to the rookie cap click HERE.

For the record, McFarland estimates that the cap space required for this year’s Ravens draft class will be between $1M – $2M.

Word is that the Ravens are looking to extend Torrey Smith and Jimmy Smith. Torrey is in the final year of his contract and it is the club’s and the player’s common desire to get something done before the 2014 NFL Draft.

And while that would be nice, it would appear to be somewhat of a long shot. The Ravens historically have been a team that doesn’t really roll up its collective sleeves until a negotiating deadline closes in. There really is no deadline until Smith can become a free agent in March of 2015.

As for Jimmy, media outlets are now reporting that the Ravens will exercise an automatic “5th Year Option” that will allow the team to keep Jimmy Smith for the 2015 season. RSR reported back on January 3 that the Ravens would exercise that option which will cost them approximately $6.55M.

A team source has shared with RSR that the Ravens plan to negotiate a long-term deal with Smith prior to the 2015 option becoming effective should he continue to perform the way he did during the second half of the 2013 season.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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