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Late for Work 3/12: Why Didn't Ozzie Trade for Landry? Focus Shifts to Robinson & Moncrief

Posted Mar 12, 2018

When will Baltimore create salary-cap space? The Ravens are playing catch-up in AFC North at wide receiver; urgency is needed. Jensen has a chance at a record contract, Campanaro will have suitors and Gillmore could return. The Eagles trading Torrey kills talk of a Ravens reunion.

Why Didn’t Ozzie Newsome Make the Jarvis Landry Trade?

This one stung for many Baltimore fans.

Not only did the Ravens miss out on a trade for wide receiver Jarvis Landry, but they watched the prolific pass catcher join an AFC North rival.

The Cleveland Browns reportedly sent (or will send when trades can be made official Wednesday) a 2018 fourth-round draft pick and 2019 seventh-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for Landry.

While the Browns’ fourth-rounder is nothing to yawn at, the price tag seemed reasonable. Many Ravens fans asked via social media why General Manager Ozzie Newsome wasn’t willing to part ways with similar picks.

Well, we don’t know that he wasn’t willing. For all we know, he may have been prepared to outbid the Browns. That said, there was always two parts to luring Landry to Baltimore. First, a trade with the Dolphins. Second, a new multi-year contract for Landry.

It’s the second part that seemed to be the bigger hang up, according to reports.

The hope to get Landry always hinged on the 25-year-old receiver agreeing to a long-term deal. That way, the cash-strapped Ravens could structure a contract with a low first-year cap hit. With about $5 million in cap space, that was a necessity.

But the Browns didn’t have to worry about striking a long-term deal before bringing in Landry because they had more than $114 million in cap space heading into the weekend. As such, they easily absorbed his $16 million franchise figure.

$114 million > $5 million

The Ravens simply couldn’t compete.

“Cleveland did what other teams wouldn’t do Friday, which was to ensure [quarterback Tyrod] Taylor and wideout Jarvis Landry that they would both make $16 million in 2018,” wrote The Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King. “The Browns sent a third-round pick to Buffalo for Taylor, and fourth- and seventh-round picks to Miami for Landry. Steep, if you consider 2018 is a one-year trial for each player.”

How close were the Ravens to actually bringing Landry to Baltimore?

While the details aren’t known, ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio reported the Ravens were “the only other serious suitor.”

“Landry seems like a perfect AFC North receiver — a hard-nosed, grind-it-out pass-catcher who will thrive in the elements and make big plays in key spots,” Florio added.

Ravens Have ‘Some Interest’ in Allen Robinson, ‘Real Shot’ at Landing Donte Moncrief

So, what’s next for the Ravens now that Landry isn’t an option?

The focus shifts to the top tier of pending free-agent wide receivers, which includes the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Robinson and L.A. Rams’ Sammy Watkins.

There’s going to be “ample competition” for Robinson, according to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora, with the Chicago Bears ($65 million in cap space) and Browns among those “hot after him.” (Really, Cleveland?! Can you give it a rest?) The San Francisco 49ers ($62 million) are in the mix as well.

What about Baltimore?

“Teams like the Ravens and [Carolina] Panthers have some interest [in Robinson] but have cap constraints they are fighting against,” wrote La Canfora.

Despite missing all but one game last year with a torn ACL, Robinson is still a highly sought-after receiver because he’s young (24), two years removed from a 1,400-yard season and a playmaker with a coveted 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame.

“Yes, it's most likely he ends up signing a one- or two-year deal that will allow him to relaunch into free agency at a time when he's not rehabbing an injury, but don't be surprised if he ends up landing $14M a year on that pact,” wrote La Canfora. “Sure, he might not get that $16-plus million that would have come with the franchise tag, but he won't miss out by much.”

La Canfora says Watkins could also do a bridge contact like Robinson but isn’t sure he’ll reach the $14 million threshold because his injury history gives teams pause.

The Ravens likely wouldn’t be in the market for a bridge contract. They need a long-term deal with more expensive receivers to bring down the cap hit in Year 1. Or they need to look at the second tier of free-agent wide receivers that wouldn’t break the bank.

Cue Indianapolis Colts receiver Donte Moncrief.

“The Ravens have been linked to several expensive receivers who, frankly, they knew were going to be too rich for their situation (Jarvis Landry among them),” La Canfora wrote. “But one young receiver they remain focused on is Donte Moncrief.

“He is young with a good frame and two years removed from looking like a breakout player for the Colts. They have a very real shot at landing him, though other clubs are also involved.”

Even though Moncrief was on the field for at least 70 percent of the snaps in the 12 games he played last season, he totaled a career-low 26 receptions, according to ProFootballTalk.com. The Colts started Kamar Aiken in place of Moncrief at one point.

Moncrief has missed 11 games the last two seasons due to injuries, but played in 32 straight prior to that.

“Despite his 152 catches for 1,875 yards in four seasons, Moncrief looks the part,” wrote PFT’s Charean Williams. “He also has 18 career touchdowns. Add in his age [24], and some team likely gives Moncrief a nice contract.”

When Will Ravens Create Salary-Cap Space?

The Ravens are still expected to cut players and restructure deals to create more cap space.

But to be clear, waiting hasn’t prohibited them from signing or trading for players.

Two main factors often spark cuts. One is letting veteran free agents hit the market when it opens so they have ample time to get a new quality deal. Two is creating space just before an agreed upon deal with another player.

Frankly, the Ravens are in no rush.

Ravens Playing Catch-Up in AFC North at Wide Receiver; Urgency Needed

As you look around the AFC North, it’s easy to become envious of rivals’ riches at wide receiver.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have Antonio Brown. The Cincinnati Bengals have A.J. Green. And now the Browns have Landry.

“What do the Baltimore Ravens have? A lot of catching up to do in the AFC North as far as wide receivers,” wrote ESPN.

“Wide receiver is easily the weakest position for the Ravens. The Ravens' five wide receivers under contract are: Jeremy MaclinBreshad PerrimanChris MooreDeVier Posey and Tim White. They combined for 765 receiving yards last season, which is less than what Brown, Green and JuJu Smith-Schuster produced individually.”

The standard has been set in the division. And it’s high.

The Ravens know they need to undergo big changes at wide receiver; Newsome said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he’s looking to revamp the room.

“There's a sense of urgency within the organization even though the team has yet to make a move to address the offense,” ESPN added. “If Baltimore wants to make over its receiving corps, it could require signing multiple free-agent wide receivers and selecting a couple more in the draft.

“The Ravens' top three receivers could eventually be Robinson, [Danny] Amendola and Calvin Ridley. Or Moncrief, Paul Richardson and D.J. Moore. Or Jordy Nelson (if he's cut by the Packers), Marqise Lee and Courtland Sutton. Or maybe it's a combination no one has even considered yet.”

Jensen Has Chance at Record Contract, Campanaro Will Have Suitors, Gillmore Could Return

The Ravens have two days before their pending free agents become actual free agents.

That means they better get busy signing anyone they don’t want to leave (although the legal “tampering” period begins today).

The Ravens’ top free agent appears unlikely to return, per reports.

Ryan Jensen “has a chance” of beating the record $10.34 million average for a center, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. Baltimore would like its 2013 sixth-round pick to return after developing him and seeing him start all 16 games for the first time last year. But if he can get a record contract in free agency, the chances appear slim.

“Everybody I spoke to at the Combine last year said the Ravens had [virtually] no chance to re-sign defensive tackle Brandon Williams and we saw how that one ended up,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. “I hesitate to make any declarations about Jensen, but he won’t come cheap.”

Meanwhile, Zrebiec reports the Ravens have interest in re-signing wide receiver/punt returner Michael Campanaro, who led the led AFC in punt return yards average last year and “did well in opportunities he got offensively.” It might not be easy, however, as Zrebiec says Campanaro will have suitors.

Finally, the Ravens have spoken to Crockett Gillmore, who is undergoing a transformation from tight end to offensive lineman.

“They'd just have to be comfortable about where he's at physically, but he appears the most likely of their UFAs to return,” wrote Zrebiec.

Why So Many Trades This Year?

The NFL got so much more exciting this offseason with a spate of trades preceding the new league year.

There have been 11 trades in the last two weeks. Usually, there’s zero.

King spoke with general managers and other front-office executives around the league, and they gave three reasons for the massive uptick.

1. The paranoia to trade is gone. 
“A few of the more conservative team czars have faded away — Ted Thompson, Trent Baalke, Jerry Reese — and the ethos of mega-value for draft choices has lessened. As one club official told me over the weekend, it used to be that second- and third-round picks were solid gold, and now if you really need to use them, you figure you can recoup them if you’re imaginative,” King wrote.

2. Familiarity among GMs. 
“I think we all feel we want trades to be win-win,” Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman told King. “It’s not a case of trying get over on someone. This is a fraternity. We don’t want to see our friends in the business lose their jobs.”

3. Texting. 
“The ability to text is huge,” Rams GM Les Snead told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “You can shoot off a proposal, an idea, to 10 or 15 general managers in less than two minutes.”

Eagles Trading Torrey Smith Kills Talk of a Ravens Reunion

There’s been talk ever since the season ended that the Eagles could part ways with wide receiver Torrey Smith because they’re over the salary-cap limit and he carried a $5 million cap hit.

Along with that talk was speculation that Smith could return to Baltimore. Smith told “The Lounge” podcast that he’d like to be a Raven again in the future, but the timing would have to work out.

Well, that timing will not be this year.

The Eagles indeed parted ways with Smith, but instead of making him a cap casualty, they traded him to the Panthers in exchange for cornerback Daryl Worley.

Smith, 29, now joins his third team in four years.

True to Smith’s personality, he took the news in stride and published a long post thanking everyone in the Eagles organization from the owner to the janitors.

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