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.
Young Producers (6): Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, Lamar Jackson, Ronnie Stanley
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 Ravens finished 2018 with 4 rookies making a significant contribution. That bodes well for the next 3 seasons and Hayden Hurst may join this group early in 2019. Alex Collins was the significant drop to developmental.
Patrick Ricard finished the year on a long hiatus and was evaluated with the defense.
Developmental (8): Bradley Bozeman, Alex Collins (RFA), Jermaine Eluemunor, Hayden Hurst, Jordan Lasley, Chris Moore, Greg Senat, Matt Skura
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 critical, 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:
— Bozeman: He played well in 230 snaps as a rookie, despite the poor finale against the Chargers. I expect he’ll compete for a starting guard or tackle spot next season.
— Collins: He led the team with 7 rushing TDs despite being shut down early. His style isn’t an ideal fit with Jackson, but it still wouldn’t shock me to see him come back and lead the team in rushing in 2019.
— Eluemunor: He played better than expected as a stopgap LT. I expect the Ravens to both draft a lineman and expand the linemen retained on the roster to nine. Only 1 of the young developmental linemen (Bozeman, Eluemunor, Lewis, and Skura) plus a draft pick are likely to have starting roles in 2019. Until then, I can’t project any as Young Producers.
— Hayden Hurst: The TE group will probably thin by 1 prior to camp, which should provide him more snaps in 2019. He needs to prove himself as a receiver to move up, but he’ll also be asked to do more as a blocker.
— Lasley: He has yet to be activated for a game, but prior to the 2019 draft it looks like he’ll receive a long look in camp due to the Ravens’ unsettled WR corps.
— Moore: He continues to make plays when his number is called on offense and remains a contributor on special teams. A breakout season in 2019 is not hard to imagine considering his catch rate skyrocketed from under 50% to 76% (19 of 25) in 2018. I’ve never seen any indication motivation is an issue, but he’ll be in his contract year in 2019.
— Senat: Greg will be back in 2019 with a good chance to make the roster at tackle. Since he’s a pure LT by size and feet, he brings an element no others currently on the roster can in terms of backing up Ronnie Stanley. Assuming he looks OK in camp, he’s a good reason why the Ravens will carry 9 OL.
— Skura: He would have been in the Young Producer category 4 weeks ago, but he didn’t finish strong and he’ll have to re-win his position in 2019. I don’t see any chance his roster spot is in jeopardy given decent play at both C and G, but he could be without a starting spot.
Veterans Playing for Market Value (10): Nick Boyle* (70%), John Brown* (40%), Robert Griffin III* (70%), Morgan Cox, Sam Koch, Ty Montgomery* (30%), Willie Snead, Justin Tucker, Maxx Williams* (60%), Marshal Yanda
A large chunk of the 2019 cap will be spent here on both these players and other signed in free agency. The Ravens have several UFAs in this group who may be back, but if so will be playing for market value. For each of the UFAs, I’ve put in a percentage chance they will be on the team in 2019(*).
Boyle and Williams are an interesting pair. They both have some blocking skills that complement both the run and pass game to go with some receiving skills. Every team needs such players and the Ravens would do better to sign one (or both) of these guys than take a hit in the comp formula by signing a blocker/receiver from another team.
The notion that Yanda may be cut is absurd to me, even though 2019 is his last year under contract. He remains among the best guards in football and despite a significant cap savings of $7 million, the Ravens should be trying to negotiate an extension whereby Yanda can finish his career in Baltimore and strengthen his case for the HoF.
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns (3): Michael Crabtree, Joe Flacco, James Hurst
Crabtree had a career-low 54% catch rate and only 3 TDs during the regular season. Some will point to drops, but the primary reason was a lack of separation creating more contested throws. If the Ravens decide to cut him, they’ll do so to avoid a $2 million roster bonus due on the 5th day of the league year (March 17th).
Flacco won’t be a Raven in 2019, but the team still needs to determine how to maximize the trade value of their outgoing franchise QB. They are incented to wait to cut him well into camp. Trade opportunities may emerge due to camp injuries and the Ravens will need 2 (or more) teams bidding to maximize the return.
James Hurst had an inverted year where bucked his career trends by position. He played solidly at tackle for the first 6 games, but then moved to guard where he played poorly for the last 5 weeks. Hurst signed a 4-year contract prior to 2018, but the contract still has $1 million in cap savings if he is cut (I am assuming 2019 injury guarantees would not be in force, because he was active at season’s end). His roster spot is in jeopardy in part because of his play at guard, but also because Jermaine Eluemunor played well in limited duty at LT.
Transitional (5): Quincy Adeboyejo, Buck Allen*, Alex Lewis, Jaleel Scott, Kaare Vedvik
This group had a staggering 11 players at the end of last season and every one of them is now gone.
It’s difficult to project anyone from this transitional category could elevate his play to be a young producer or veteran playing for market value. Alex Lewis may have the talent, but he’s been injured for the bulk of his career, entering his 4th season, and may be on the bubble in training camp. Jaleel Scott cratered in the 2018 preseason. Kaare Vedvik may spend another camp as the developmental kicker/punter and net a low-round selection prior to the 2019 regular season.
Special thanks to Brian McFarland, to whose contract details I referred frequently while writing these pieces.