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Late For Work 2/14: Interest In Tony Jefferson. Rick Wagner Rebuffed Offer. How About Victor Cruz?

Posted Feb 14, 2017

Would the Ravens sign a top-notch free agent safety for the second consecutive year? The Ravens’ initial offer to Rick Wagner was reportedly rejected. Brandon Williams would be fine playing under the franchise tag. Should Victor Cruz’s injury history be a concern?


Ravens Could Be Interested In Free Agent Safety Tony Jefferson

Diving into the free agent safety pool last offseason proved quite beneficial to the Ravens, as veteran Eric Weddle became an instant leader and impact player.

Maybe that method could work again this year.

Keep an eye on Arizona strong safety Tony Jefferson, who is going to do quite well next month,” wrote CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora.

“Baltimore wouldn't mind pairing him with Eric Weddle, a savvy signing a year ago, in 2017 (if they were able to do that, [it] would spell the end of long-time favorite Lardarius Webb, whose release could free up $5.5 million in cap savings).”

If the Ravens really are interested in Jefferson, they will have plenty of competition after he enjoyed the best season of his four-year career (which had been solid overall). Last season, Jefferson notched 96 tackles, two sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Jefferson, 25, the 19th best free agent expected to hit the market in March. To put that in perspective, that is only one spot lower than Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Spotrac.com’s calculated market value for Jefferson is four years for $23.1 million, or $5.7 million per year.

Jefferson is not the ball-hawking safety Baltimore has been seeking since Ed Reed left, but he was the sixth-ranked overall safety by PFF last season (Weddle was No. 1 and Webb was No. 16), and is heading into his prime. He would count against the compensatory pick formula.

“A former undrafted free agent, Tony Jefferson has developed into an excellent strong safety and box defender for the Cardinals, and this past season, he earned a PFF run-defense grade 98.0,” wrote Sam Monson. “Jefferson recorded 35 defensive stops, third among all safeties, and missed only five tackles, less than half the figure of either of the players to better him in defensive stops. Jefferson has been solid in coverage close to the line of scrimmage, and would be a solid upgrade for teams looking for an upgrade at the position.”

La Canfora: Rick Wagner Rebuffed Ravens’ Initial Offer

If the Ravens want to re-sign right tackle Rick Wagner, they may have to come back with a higher second offer because the first one was rejected, according to La Canfora.

La Canfora didn’t give any details on what the initial offer looked like, but Wagner’s reported rejection indicates he’d like to see if he can get more on the open market in a few weeks. Spotrac.com projects Wagner’s worth to be about $6.9 million per year for four years. NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal believes he could get close to $10 million annually.

One potential suitor for Wagner, 27, is Minnesota, where rumors are swirling about the Vikings’ interest in the 2013 fifth-round draft pick.

A fan recently asked The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec why Williams seems like a bigger priority than Wagner.

In a perfect world with no salary cap restraints, the Ravens would re-sign [Wagner], too,” Zrebiec replied. “However, there seems to be a confidence level among team officials that they’ll be able to find a serviceable and cheaper replacement for Wagner if he bolts, while it would be much harder to find a nose tackle of Williams’ ilk.”    


Brandon Williams Would Be Fine Playing Under Franchise Tag

We’ve heard from Williams before about whether he will stay in Baltimore by signing a long-term deal. His overall sentiment hasn’t changed, and he reiterated his stance yesterday.

“If it so happens where I just feel like, 'You know what, Baltimore is the best place for me,' then I’ll stay and we’ll work it out from there,” Williams told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “If not and I see somewhere else and I just feel it’s right and I pray on it and it just seems right [and] that’s where I need to be, then that’s where I’ll be. But right now it’s just up in the air.”

But what we hadn’t heard from Williams is how he would feel if the Ravens used the franchise tag to keep him off the market and in Baltimore for another year.

The tag for defensive tackles is projected to be close to $14 million, which would make Williams the highest-paid defensive tackle when looking purely at base salaries. That’s higher than the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Malik Jackson ($13.5 million), Tampa Bay Bucs’ Gerald McCoy ($13.2 million) and Miami Dolphins’ Ndamukong Suh ($9.98), per Spotrac.com.

Williams wouldn't complain about getting that type of salary.

“I know the numbers of a franchise tag; that's not a bad amount of money for one year," he said. “It is what it is. If it happens, it happens. Pretty much, I would just be able to be with my team again for another year.”

As noted yesterday, Zrebiec thinks Baltimore using the tag on Williams is highly unlikely.

Many players in Williams’ situation – playing at a high level in the final year of their rookie contract – are looking for the highest possible deal because it may be their only opportunity to get a big payday during their NFL careers.

But Williams has a different mindset.

“It’s about money obviously, but it’s not really that much about money,” he said. “It’s about where I feel the most comfortable and where I feel like my family will feel the most comfortable.”

He feels he can make “comfort” one of the deciding factors because he believes he can command more than one contract during his career.

“I don’t know if it’s really cashing in on that one big contract,” Williams said. “We do have a little amount of time to make as much money as we possibly can to set us up for life. … I’m not done with learning or getting better. I’m still working my butt off every day just to continue to peak. I haven’t even peaked yet, so I’m going to continue to work and continue to grind. I feel like, yeah, I’m going to get a third [contract] because that’s how my mentality is. God willing, I stay healthy and everything, that that’s what’s going to happen.”             

Would Ravens Be Interested In WR Victor Cruz?

The New York Giants announced yesterday that they released their long-time beloved receiver Victor Cruz, who began as an undrafted free agent and became a Pro Bowler that caught 300 regular-season passes and scored 25 touchdowns for New York.

His release reportedly saves the Giants nearly $10 million against the salary cap.

Knowing the Ravens are interested in veteran free agent receivers to help offset the loss of retired receiver Steve Smith Sr., the questions started pouring in as to whether Cruz, 30, should be targeted by Baltimore in free agency.

As a cap casualty, Cruz would not count against the compensatory pick formula and could come at a reasonable price. He could play in the slot, where the Ravens have a need. While he put up prolific numbers in the beginning of his career, his more recent injury history is what gives pause.

“The 30-year-old veteran made an unexpected comeback in 2016 after missing 28 games over the previous two years thanks to a torn patellar tendon and calf injury in back to back years,” wrote NFL.com’s Conor Orr. “Normally a death sentence for a speed-oriented wide receiver, Cruz found a way to contribute this season, catching 39 balls for 586 yards and a touchdown.

“[T]he further Cruz gets from his injuries, the closer he will get to becoming a contributor on the field. It would not be surprising to see the Giants bring him back at a more reasonable salary or see Cruz in camp elsewhere.”

Cruz issued a statement after his release, saying he believes he has plenty of miles left on his body and will be searching for work when the time is right.

Despite his injury history, BaltimoreBeatdown.com’s Jacob Louque thinks Cruz is worth the risk.

“While it is certainly a risk to bring in an often injured, possibly over the hill talent, it makes sense for Baltimore,” Loque wrote. “While his star has certainly burned brighter than it is right now, Cruz represents the exact type of receiver the Ravens have stated they are in the market for. As such, they would be foolish not to seriously consider bringing him into a stable of receivers that could very much use a veteran presence to stabilize the situation.”

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