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Late For Work 3/13: Ravens Monitor As WR Market Heats Up

Posted Mar 13, 2014

Heavily pursue Smith. Contact Mack. Jones declined more money. Daryl a priority. Ihedigbo visits Lions.


Ravens Monitor WR Market Heats Up

The wide receiver market started to pick up steam yesterday afternoon with the signings of Jacoby Jones, Golden Tate and Eric Decker.

Just because the Ravens re-signed Jones, their big-threat receiver/returner (more interesting stuff on him below), doesn’t mean that they are done adding to the unit, says our own John Eisenberg.

Baltimore still needs to lock up a possession chain-mover who can work out of the slot. And while Ravens brass has been focused on taking care of its own key players, it has also been watching the receiver market.

So let’s cross some targets off the wish list, and look at who remains as options.

“Eric Decker's agreement with Jets leaves Hakeem Nicks, Julian Edelman, James Jones and Emmanuel Sanders among top FA WRs still available,” tweeted The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. “And of course, Steve Smith may join that group soon. Edelman and Smith are two most intriguing options for #Ravens.”

Below is Rotoworld.com’s top 20 free agent receivers list, and the latest reports (if any) for each:

Wide Receivers
1. Eric Decker (Signed five-year, $36.25M deal with NYJ)
2. Jeremy Maclin (Re-signed one-year, $5.5M deal with PHI)
3. Hakeem Nicks (UPDATE: top target to replace Steve Smith in CAR)
4. Julian Edelman (still negotiating with NE; mutual interest between Edelman and BAL; UPDATE: Browns making push)
5. Golden Tate (Signed five-year, $31M deal with DET)
6. Anquan Boldin (Re-signed two-year, $12M deal with SF)
7. Santonio Holmes
8. James Jones (Jets expressed “real” interest)
9. Andre Roberts (Signed four-year, $16M deal with WAS)
10. Emmanuel Sanders (visited with JAX Wednesday, visiting TB today; no moves but interest from BAL)
11. Riley Cooper (Re-signed five-year, $25M deal with PHI)
12. Sidney Rice
13. Jacoby Jones (Re-signed four-year, $12M deal with BAL)
14. Dexter McCluster (Signed three-year, $9M deal with TEN)
15. Brandon LaFell (visited NE Wednesday)
16. Kenny Britt (WAS made an inquiry)
17. Miles Austin
18. Damian Williams
19. Jerricho Cotchery
20. Ted Ginn

Steve Smith Won’t Be A Jag, Ravens To ‘Heavily’ Pursue

Steve Smith is still expected to be released by the Carolina Panthers, and the Ravens are still expected to “heavily pursue” him if that happens, says The Sun’s Aaron Wilson.

For Smith’s agent, Derrick Fox, it’s not a question of if the five-time Pro Bowler will be released this offseason, it’s just a question of when.

“[Steve] is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that,” Fox said told the Associated Press. “I just don’t know when that transaction is going to take place.

“Where we are disappointed is the fact he signed an extension to stay loyal to the club and complete his career as a Panther. That is why we did the long-term team deal.  Now we are at a crossroads where the Panthers don’t want him anymore.”

Smith turns 35 in May and carries a reported $7 million salary cap figure next season. It will cost the Panthers $3 million to cut him. The Ravens aren’t expected to be the only team pursuing Smith, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could also get involved, per Wilson.

“Smith, 34, could provide the physical, experienced presence the Ravens have lacked since trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers last year,” Wilson wrote. “His production dipped a bit last season as he dealt with injuries, but he's regarded as healthy now after returning for the playoffs.”

Ravens In Contact With Alex Mack

The Ravens have been in contact with Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who was slapped with the transition tag prior to free agency, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

A total of four teams have also been in contact on “varying” levels, including the Indianapolis Colts, and are waiting for the frenzy to die down.

It was widely believed that the transition tag would prevent teams from taking a real look at Mack, but apparently the Ravens haven’t been completely dissuaded from at least entering into conversations.

Of course Mack’s agent believes a team could come up with a contract offer the Browns can’t match, which would be the requirement to pry Mack out of Cleveland. Even if an offer was matched, it would allow Mack’s camp to get a true gauge of his value on the market.

But do unbiased onlookers really believe the Ravens could pull off a major coup?

“[T]he Pro Bowl center is going to be extremely expensive and the Browns have the right to match any offer sheet,” wrote Wilson. “The Ravens have the salary-cap flexibility to put in a bid on Mack, but they would hate to do the Browns' negotiating work for them. One source said the report about the Ravens contemplating putting in a contract offer is untrue, another said it shouldn't be ruled out considering how much money the Ravens have available and their need at center, where Gino Gradkowski struggled last season.”

Jones Declined More Money To Stay In Baltimore

The already popular dancing Jones just got more lovable.

He surprised a few by agreeing to a deal with the Ravens WHILE he was on a visit to New York Giants headquarters. He accepted a four-year deal reportedly worth $12 million, then turned around, got on a plane and headed back to Baltimore.

Apparently that was less money than he could have gotten somewhere else.

“Thought Jacoby Jones visiting the Giants today was a leverage play. Turns out, he turned down more money elsewhere to stay in Baltimore,” tweeted Rapoport.

Jones’ cap figure for 2014 is expected to only be $1.85 million.

That's a bargain for a No.3/4 WR who has Pro Bowl return skills,” tweeted Russell Street Report.

The move to lure Jones back to the purple and black shouldn’t be underestimated, says ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

“Keeping Jones was more important than holding onto defensive tackle Arthur Jones or inside linebacker Daryl Smith,” Hensley wrote. “Yes, you read that correctly. Just hear me out.

“Jacoby Jones is a game-changer. When the ball was in his hands, he impacted more games than any other Raven over the past two years. If it was a big win, Jones usually had a hand in it. … The bottom line is the Ravens are a better team with Jones than without him. His highlight reel proves it.”

Next Priority: Daryl Smith … But Broncos Are Interested

The Ravens are 3-for-3with retaining their own players.

Dennis Pitta – check. Eugene Monroe – check. Jones – check.

Next on the priority list?

“Signing Jacoby Jones now moves Daryl Smith to the top of the Ravens in-house free agent priority list,” tweeted WBAL’s Gerry Sandusky.

Apparently, the Ravens and Smith have not been on the same page as far as price is concerned. It’s unclear if the Ravens can go 4-for-4 as the linebacker market is getting thin and the Broncos are interested in Smith, according to The Denver Post.

Jon Beason re-signed with the New York Jets, Karlos Dansby signed with the Browns and D'Qwell Jackson raised the market value for inside linebackers when he signed with the Colts for four years and $22 million.

James Ihedigbo To Visit Lions

James Ihedigbo may reunite with his secondary coach in Detroit.

The strong safety is scheduled to visit the Lions today, according to Wilson, where former Ravens Secondary Coach Teryl Austin is now the defensive coordinator.

Ihedigbo enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in Baltimore last year, but the Ravens would like to move second-year player and 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam to strong safety, his more natural position.

Filling Corey Graham Hole

With Ihedigbo unlikely to return, and cornerback Corey Graham signing a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens will have two holes to fill in the secondary.

The Ravens have to find a new nickel back, with Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as the two corners on the roster to compete for that No. 3 spot.

“Graham is an underrated defender and special teams player – even a starter for Baltimore in the Super Bowl – but you can't fault the Ravens for not matching a deal that averages $4 million per year. Good player, bad price,” wrote Hensley. 

“Right now, Chykie Brown would be the favorite, although Asa Jackson would compete for the job. Both are big question marks. No one knows if either one can succeed or fail. There's just not enough body of work to determine it. Last season, Brown played 38 snaps on defense and Jackson didn't see one play on defense.” 

The Ravens could use the draft to help replace Graham. Hensley believes a third-round pick could fill the nickel role, and if Lardarius Webb’s reported $11 million salary cap figure is too high in 2015, that pick could become a starter.

Quick Hits

  • After losing Arthur Jones and Graham to the open market …. @RussellStReport: #Ravens at 2 with comp picks for 2015. [Twitter]
  • LWebb21: Proud to announce my charity softball game this year will be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 1!! Tixx on sale soon! Stay tuned!! [Twitter]
  • @AdamSchefter: And now the Browns also have released QB Jason Campbell. So Campbell and Brandon Weeden both sent packing on same day. [Twitter]
  • After signing safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Demarcus Ware … @JasonLaCanfora: Broncos are clearly even more in Super Bowl or bust mode with these signings. though even these big deals at their core are 2-3yrs [Twitter]
  • @ProFootballTalk: In one day, Broncos have narrowed the gap with the Seahawks from 35 points to 24.5. [Twitter]
  • @TheSeventyFifth [Monroe]: It's just the beginning! [Twitter]  
  • Joe Flacco’s brother, tight end Mike Flacco, auditioned Tuesday for a dozen NFL teams during his New Haven Pro Day workout. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, registered a 9-7 broad jump, bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times, had a 4.25 short shuttle and a 7.03 three-cone drill. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • “I wish the Ravens nothing but the best. It was an awesome four years and I made a lot of great friends on that team and in the community that I’m going to have for the rest of my life,” Art Jones told Matt Vensel. “It was definitely a special place for me. I’m going to miss it. I’m definitely going to miss those crab cakes. But right now, it’s a new chapter in my life.” [The Baltimore Sun]

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