The Ravens Are Now Paying For Financial Mistakes Of The Past. A Complete Ravens Free Agency Run-Down

Sports and Bets — March 9, 2015 at 9:40 pm by

by Babes

Free agency kicks off Tuesday, and this is the time of year when many Ravens fans say, “We’re fucked!”  The Ravens have very little cap room to not only try to entice free agents, but to retain their own home grown talent.  We already know popular players Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee are bolting for greener pastures, and the losses are not over.  Right now the Ravens are about 4.5 million dollars to under the cap, with more then a few holes to fill.

Let’s first take a look at why the Ravens are constantly in this predictament.  As fans, we should be happy that the front office is always pushing the limits of the cap to keep the most competitive team on the field year in and year out.  But at the same time, there are consequences to pay for this strategy.  A few years ago it was great to extend Lardarius Webb before he got the chance to test free agency, but five years and over 50 million dollars turned out to be a vastly overblown contract that the Ravens are really feeling the brunt of now.  You can’t predict injuries, but Webb has had a bevy of them, and he has certainly not lived up to that dollar figure.  A restructure would definitely be prudent, but Webb has to play along for it to work because he holds all the cards.  If the Ravens cut him, they don’t save much against the cap, and they’re out a starting corner.  But his cap number is an outrageous 12 million dollars, so a middle ground has to be found or the Ravens are screwed.

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Of course you can’t predict when one of your marquee players punches his wife in an elevator and sets in motion a chain of events that ends with the Ravens having over 9 million dollars in dead money counting against their cap.  That’s over six percent of their salary cap in 2015 that will be accounted for the rest of the Ray Rice contract.  If you want to know why the people who say we’re fucked are right, here’s the reason.  In a year where the Ravens return a franchise quarterback, one of the league’s best offensive lines, and one the top three front sevens in football, they are totally handcuffed when it comes to adding complementary players to push them closer to the top of the conference.  The Ravens are a Super Bowl contender, but the weight of this cap issue is a major obstacle to filling out the roster.  Dead money from a low character incident is the reason for this. So to everyone who is screaming the name, “Dorial Green-Beckham,” in the first round of the draft, save your breath.  We need high character guys that don’t pull shit like this.

You know what really chaps my ass?  When I see that the fucking Patriots are able to resign Devin McCourty to a 48 million dollar deal, when they are already paying Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and multiple others.  How do they have the cap space to do this, but we don’t?  I feel the Ravens are two or three good players away from being a serious contender, yet their roster is moving backwards.  There is gonna be a huge hole at receiver, there is still a gaping hole(or maybe two) in our secondary, and the Ravens need another pass rusher.

Speaking of the pass rush, we did have the number one sack duo in the NFL last year in Suggs and Dumervil.  They will both be back, but what they won’t have the luxury of next year is the ferocious interior pass rush coming from Pernell McPhee that they had last year.  How many sacks last year can be attributed to the pressure McPhee provided inside that flushed quarterbacks right into the arms of Suggs and Dumervil?  I know the Ravens are known for developing great defensive players only to have a lot of them walk via free agency.  I know the Ravens had to let McPhee walk, hell, he’s getting 8 million a year from the Bears, but would he have been a better investment after 2013 than bringing back Suggs?  McPhee had his breakout year that year, and the signs were there that he was special.  At 26 and ascending, would he be a wiser investment then a 32 year old Suggs?  I know that wouldn’t have been a popular decision at the time, but maybe that’s why the Ravens find themselves where they are right now- in cap hell.

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I trust Ozzie, he has brought two Super Bowls to this town.  When you draft as well as the Ravens do, and develop players the way they do, you’re going to have to let great players leave.  Ozzie said it himself, you can’t pay market value for every position.  But perhaps where the organization needs to improve is in their decision making on how long they hold onto veteran players and how that relates to the cap.

Going position by position, let’s take a quick look at what holes need to be filled this offseason.  The Ravens have two quarterbacks under contract, in Joe Flacco and Keith Wenning.  Joe has never missed a start, and how many backup quarterbacks are really out there, that if Joe went down, you wouldn’t say we’re fucked?  It’s not worth spending on an experienced backup because the Ravens can’t afford it.  So if Joe goes down, the Ravens are fucked. Besides, there is always the possibility of luring a better option off the couch like the Bills did with Kyle Orton last year.  We stay put and hope Joe keeps his streak going.

At running back, the Ravens return two able bodies in Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro.  In my opinion, if a cheap third down back is available at the right price closer to training camp, then he might be worth a sign.  Otherwise the Ravens draft a third back to compete for carries.  Love Justin Forsett, but you can’t pay for him.  The Ravens don’t have the space or the need to allocate what little money they have to the running back position.

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Wide receiver is where the Ravens need to address.  As it stands, the Ravens have no speed, and certainly no deep threat.  Steve Smith will be fine contributing in a possession role, Marlon Brown provides a nice red zone target and some size, and Kamar Aiken proved his potential with some big catches down the stretch last year.  Michael Campanaro will be a contributor in the slot, and John Harbaugh likes what he has in Jeremy Butler.  But the Ravens almost have to spend their first round pick on a receiver.  They need a playmaker so badly that they may have to dedicate their first pick to attaining one.  I’m tired of constantly putting a bandaid on the receiver position.  By a bandaid, I mean a past his prime vet.  Granted, the Ravens have been highly successful in doing it, but it’s time to get Joe a bonafide, long-term number one receiver on the outside.  This is the draft to do it, even if they have to move up a few spots. This position is a major priority.  Whether it’s DeVante Parker, Sammie Coates, Devin Smith, or Jaelen Strong, the Ravens need a playmaker.

At tight end, the Ravens need to find an insurance policy in case Pitta can’t play.  With Crocket Gilmore they have a solid option, but either in free agency or the first half of the draft, the position needs to be addressed.  Bringing back Owen Daniels at the right price would be my ideal solution here.

The offensive line is the strength of the team, and doesn’t need attention.  However, if a good young lineman is staring them in the face later in the draft, you can never have enough depth there.

On the defensive line the Ravens are also in a good spot.  It’s gonna be very interesting to see how the Haloti Ngata situation plays out.  If the Ravens cut Ngata, they will lead the league in dead money.  I really hope the Ravens can find some common ground with Ngata to get his cap number down.  If they do decide to cut him, they will still be pretty solid with the likes of Brandon Williams on the nose and Timmy Jernigan at end.  They Ravens have both Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban coming back from injury, and hopefully one of them can establish themselves as a starter at the five technique defensive end.

The Ravens have the best linebacking core in the NFL in Suggs, Smith, Mosley, and Dumervil.  But they need to eventually replace both outside backers, and provide some extra pass rush punch, so a young pass rusher needs to be in the forefront of the front office’s mind come draft day.

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Everyone knows the problems the secondary had last year.  Injuries ravaged the corner position, and the Ravens had a tough time covering on the back end.  Jimmy Smith will be locking down one corner spot, as he hopefully fully recovers from his Lisfranc foot injury.  As I stated before, hopefully Webb comes back at a more reasonable price, and the Ravens can concentrate on adding depth to the position.  I feel Asa Jackson is best suited to play the slot corner spot, but a young corner needs to be added to push both him and Webb on the outside.  The secondary as a whole needs to be addressed in the middle rounds of the draft, and quantity might not be a bad approach to this issue.

At the safety position, the Ravens have to decide what they have in Matt Elam.  It’s hard to swallow when a first round pick misses, but Elam had a terrible second half of the year in 2014.  When you’re known as a box safety, and you miss tackles, that’s not good.  I don’t think Elam is beyond repair though.  I think with some tinkering in the scheme, Elam can be a productive player.  Will Hill proved to be a big signing, and he needs to be brought back as a starter.  He is a restricted free agent, and deserved a second round tender.  A play making free safety would be a nice addition, but they don’t come cheap, so that’s highly unlikely.

As far as special teams go, the Ravens need to get an extension done for Justin Tucker.  He is one of the best in the business, and they need to lock him up.  Punter Sam Koch is one of the best at his position, but is highly compensated. A restructure or extension would not be a bad idea to create a little extra cap space this season.  A return specialist is not needed as the Ravens can’t afford one.  Campanaro can return punts, and a young draftee can serve as the kick returner.  In this day and age, so many kickoffs go for touch backs that a specialized returner is going the way of the fullback- a luxury item, not a necessary position.

We can’t panic as Ravens fans, because we know they do have a plan.  With such a talented roster in place, it’s frustrating that they can’t be aggressive, but hopefully with some more prudent cap maneuvering, the Ravens will not be so cap strapped next year.

 

coverpic: fanspeak

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