If you saw the article on the defense, these categories won’t be a surprise to you, but if not, please take a look to understand this division.
These are players on their first contract who are already starting (or should be) and are playing well. A team needs as many of these players as possible to continually outperform the salary cap.
The defense has 5 such players and all of them have at least 2 years of team control remaining. In contrast, the offense has a pair of 4th-year linemen who are inexpensive now, but will be UFAs at season’s end. Alex Collins is now the running back with the most promise. Ronnie Stanley remains the young anchor of the offensive line. I believe the club will try to sign Jensen to a long-term deal. While Hurst has played well at his new spot, I don’t expect the Ravens to be able to afford both James & Jensen.
These players are all still on their rookie deal, but something is holding them back from consistent performance, a starting role, or both. We hope that most, if not all, of these players will emerge to be young producers quickly. In truth, some are running out of time to do so. Since this group is both critical and crowded, let’s take a look individually to see why I have tagged them as I have and what each needs to do to move up:
— Allen: He’s played better and more this season, but is still short on the performance end with low yards-per-touch figures (3.6 YPC, 4.8 YPR). He’s improved as a pass blocker, but to move up he needs to be more explosive as a runner and receiver.
— Boyle: A number of Nick’s catches have come as the underneath receiver on play-action boots, which has led to an 18-catch season with no reception longer than 14 yards. He’s also had a limited year as a blocker and has been flagged 4 times, including 2 that stalled drives. As a 3rd-year player with a history of PED violations, I don’t expect the Ravens to sign him to a multi-year deal this offseason.
— Eluemunor: He flashed some ability in his first NFL start versus the Bears, but has an aggregate raw score of .67 on 188 graded snaps, which is just above the replacement level.
— Moore: He’s been an outstanding special teams player, but has been inconsistent as a receiver. His opportunity is now.
— Perriman: You might ask why Perriman is not in the “Transitional” category below. After all, I put Correa there. There is a big difference between those players, however. Perriman is currently forced into a regular offensive role despite playing poorly. He still has the physical tools to play. Correa has failed at 2 different positions. The Ravens won’t pick up his 5th-year option this offseason, but he will continue to receive opportunities for this season and probably for his 4th NFL season in 2018.
— Skura: He’s been a pleasant surprise as he went from perhaps the 10th lineman at the start of camp to starting RG in Week 3. He’s performed at a strong C level in his 5 starts with relatively little variance. Going forward, Skura appears to me a good 8th or 9th lineman, but is not likely a 2018 starter with Siragusa, Yanda, Eluemunor, and Lewis all returning. His best chance to break through would be to have Jensen leave in free agency.
— Williams: Maxx needs to stay on the field more and continue with the success he’s had as a blocker this season. He’s in his 3rd season, so time is running out for the Ravens to harvest value on his rookie deal.
— Dixon: He needs to get back on the field and make sure he never has another program event. He’ll have 2 years to avoid trouble and demonstrate value.
— Lewis: It will be interesting to see where Alex returns next season. He, like Hurst, played much better at guard than at tackle, but the Ravens (and the NFL as a whole) have many guards and few tackles. A best-case scenario would include a return as the starting left guard with the ability to fill in at tackle.
— Ricard: I could have included him on either side, but he hasn’t played a defensive snap (27 offensive snaps) in the last 3 weeks and the Ravens seem to like having an enormous fullback. His upside at the position is limited by the size of the role and he’s a player that needs to be able to provide significant defensive and special teams value. It would be interesting to see who the Ravens would play if they were ever reduced to 4 offensive linemen in a game, but I think Ricard could be the guy on the current roster.
— Siragusa: He’ll return in 2018 with an excellent chance to make the roster.
The offense has 11 such players and the defense 10. However, I assert the quality and youth of the developmental defensive players is better.
Veterans Playing for Market Value
A large chunk of the cap is (or will be) spent here and these players are the ones who are earning it.
One could make a case that 2017 will be the last season for any of these players.
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns
I expect the Ravens will make a number of dead-money moves in the year they part ways with Flacco, but I don’t believe that will occur this offseason.
This is the heart of the problem with the Ravens offense. They have far too many players with no obvious future with the team. The defense had only 5 players I tagged in this manner. Of this group, there might be 1 player (perhaps White or Nembot) who will move to the young producer group in the future. Most have already played their last snap of their rookie deals.
I have no real respect for the “burn everything” torch-and-pitchfork routine. That’s not a plan…it’s the absence of a plan. The biggest decision the Ravens need to make is when they move on from Flacco. In the year they do so, they’ll be incented to make other complementary changes that should create cap for a future run. However, that’s an enormous organizational decision which ideally will require positioning of a young backup or top-5 draft pick.