We’re officially in Ozzie Newsome’s favorite time of the year:
During his time as the GM of the Baltimore Ravens, Newsome has found a knack for turning one team’s trash into a Baltimore treasure, and I expect this year, his final as the GM of the Ravens, to be no different.
Currently, the Ravens have an estimated $8.86M in available cap space according to our own Brian McFarland, although that number could increase should they finalize a new contract with linebacker C.J. Mosley.
With that chump change in mind, along with the current cream of the crap free agents left on the market, will Ozzie find any worthy gems to polish off? Or will he simply wait until cuts start making their way through the NFL come August?
One position of focus will surely be inside linebacker, as Peanut Onwuasor didn’t live up to expectations last season, and I highly doubt Kenny Young is going to step in as a rookie and steal the vacant slot net to C.J.. I don’t think I’m stepping out on a limb in saying the Ravens truly have a need to fill here.
As such, perhaps the Ravens and Ozzie look to dumpster dive, as there’s a few serviceable ILBs with starter experience… as long as age isn’t a factor and red flags are a risk worth taking.
31-year-old Brian Cushing is still looking for a home and a second chance… or is it third? Cushing, the all-time leading tackler for the Texans (he was with them for nine seasons), was suspended back in 2010 for performance enhancing substances, then again this past season, with the latter a nice 10-game boot in the ass by the NFL.
Ultimately, the Texans parted ways with Cushing, but could he fit for the Ravens?
Cushing has the experience at both OLB and ILB, making him a multi-tiered threat, and when he’s healthy/not taking HCG? He can be a force to be reckoned with.
Of course his suspensions and injuries (ACL in ’12, broken leg in ’13) are cause for concern, but a vet min deal for a guy looking to prove himself may not be the worst thing the Ravens can do, right?
Another option, should the Ravens feel like a major roll of the character dice, is former Steelers and Fins linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
From a football standpoint, Timmons hasn’t exactly fallen off hard at age 32 – he stayed healthy all season, and recorded 58 tackles in 14 games as a starter for the Dolphins. But production is only half the battle, and the Ravens need a teammate they can rely on, not a guy who… oh, I don’t know, disappears from the team hotel in LA during Week 2, only to be found at LAX later on, trying to fly back east? The Fins suspended Timmons indefinitely, which ended up being a mere two games, and he went on to play the remainder of the season as a starter.
Again, the Ravens could weigh the crazy here and deem a fit for a vet min deal. Could Timmons be trusted? Perhaps he can be tempted with a chip on his shoulder to get after his former Steelers, an organization that started him in 120 consecutive games prior to his departure for Miami?
How about one more option for Ozzie: Navorro Bowman.
Bowman, now 31, had a long illustrious career with the San Francisco 49ers, racking up three Pro Bowl appearances, and four First Team All AP nods.
Not too shabby.
Of course, Bowman wouldn’t be a free agent if he were still that same player and once again, injuries hamper a career: Bowman suffered a torn ACL & MCL in the playoffs during the 2013 season, causing him to miss all of the 2014 season, then tore his Achilles in 2016, playing only four games that season. His other issue happens to be a Ravens issue as well – pass coverage as an inside linebacker. I’m not suggesting Bowman figured it out, but I recall Ray Lewis discussing how he was able to change his body in the final years of his career, focusing on a lean lifestyle to lighten up, and help maintain speed in coverage. Maybe Bowman could consider such a transformation to prolong his career? After all, in the pass-happy NFL, coverage is key!
For Bowman, the injuries shouldn’t be as scary as they appear to be, given his ability to bounce back so easily (he started 16 games in ’15 after ACL/MCL in ’14, then started 15 games in ’17 after Achilles in ’16). Perhaps the brazen way in which he demanded his way out of San Fran, coupled with his age, is off-putting to teams, but ultimately, this could be another Ozzie Newsome two-year stopgap kind of deal for a hungry veteran player looking to prolong his career.
Are any of these guys sure-fire starters who will make this team drastically better? Of course not! If they were, why the hell would they be floating in free agency this late in the game? But perhaps this is where Ozzie works his magic and finds another valuable asset to the Ravens, a la Jacoby Jones, Vonta Leach, or Daryl Smith.