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Late for Work 3/15: What People are Saying About Next Tier of Available Receivers

Posted Mar 15, 2018

Nelson scheduled to visit Baltimore. After Nelson, Wallace is best available wide receiver. Crabtree could be released. Ebron and Eifert are best tight ends available. Boldin becomes free agent again. Jensen takes two visits. Three big 2017 offensive Ravens' signings are gone. Hurst's contract details. Williams had surgery.


Jordy Nelson Reportedly Scheduled to Visit Baltimore … AFTER Three Others

The Ravens appear interested in former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was recently released, as they’ve reportedly scheduled a visit with the former Pro Bowler.

Nelson already had his first free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders yesterday, and hasn’t left yet. If he does leave, he’s expected to meet with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reported Baltimore would be the next visit on the list, but will he ever make it?

“Jordy Nelson won’t leave the Bay Area Wednesday night after his visit with the Raiders,” wrote The Mercury News’ Matt Schneidman. “No agreement is in place just yet between Oakland and the former Green Bay Packers wide receiver, though, and talks are still ongoing.

“[W]e’ll see if Oakland brass can close a deal so Nelson doesn’t take those [other] visits.”

At this point, it appears a long shot that Nelson makes it to Baltimore, the fourth destination on his list, with three other teams prepared to make offers.

If he somehow makes it to Baltimore, Nelson would fit the mold of past veteran receivers that Baltimore lured to town, including Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace, Derrick Mason, etc.

Here’s a pros and cons list of signing the 11-year veteran:

Cons

Pros

Age: Turns 33 in May

Ravens' history of squeezing productive years out of 30 year-olds; veteran presence in Ravens' youth movement at WR

 ACL injury in 2015

Still considered durable, missing only 8 games outside of lost 2015 season; Won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2016 (97 catches, 1,257 yards, 14 TDs)

Not as fast as in his prime years; yards-per-catch average has dropped from 15.5 to 13.0 to 9.1 over last three healthy seasons

Plenty left in the tank; still a red-zone threat, leading league in TDs in 2016; Aaron Rodgers upset by the release and posted that Nelson #stillcanplay on social media yesterday

Lowest production last year since 2009 (not counting lost 2015 season) with 53 catches and 482 yards

A quarterback's best friend. Nelson and Aaron Rodgers hold the Packers' record for most TDs (65) by a QB-WR duo. Nelson's production dropped after Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. Nelson scored 6 TDs in 7 games played by Rodgers

Eric Ebron and Tyler Eifert: Best TE Options Available

Tight end Eric Ebron, 25, was released yesterday by the Detroit Lions after they drafted him with their first-round pick (No. 10 overall) in 2014. He was selected before stars like Taylor Lewan, Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald, Zack Martin and C.J. Mosley in a deep class.

“I’ve written several times that the Ravens viewed a field-stretching tight end as every bit of a need as a wide receiver. That’s why they pursued both Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton aggressively in free agency. After missing out on both, their best options now appear to be recently released Eric Ebron, a player they really liked out of the 2014 draft, or former Cincinnati Bengal Tyler Eifert. As for Eifert, unless it’s a really inexpensive, incentive-laden deal, his injury history has to give the Ravens pause. He’s played in just 24 games over the past four seasons.” -- Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

Mike Wallace: Best WR Still Available Besides Nelson

“That there hasn’t been much buzz on Mike Wallace this week shouldn’t be taken as a sign that there isn’t interest. Some agents and teams, and the Ravens fall into this category, work hard to keep negotiations out of the media. Still, I’ve been a bit surprised there hasn’t been more talk about him. Aside from Jordy Nelson, I think Wallace is the best receiver still available.” -- Zrebiec

“If the Ravens are going to spend in free agency, why not use the limited money towards a receiver that’s familiar with the offensive system and more importantly has chemistry with Joe Flacco? It’s extremely important to pair Flacco with dynamic talent but there has to be a connection that follows. … I’m all for the Ravens taking two or three big-name receivers in the draft but they can’t just bet on their potential alone. Keeping around a proven veteran like Mike Wallace could be crucial, even if it’s only for one or two more years.” -- Joe Schiller, Ebony Bird

Michael Crabtree: Could Be Released if Raiders Sign Nelson

With the way receivers have been getting paid – even No. 2 and No. 3 receivers – the Raiders may no longer view Crabtree’s $7.7 million cap hit as too much. He’s one year removed from a 1,000-yard season and has caught 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons. That’s a lot more production than some of the receivers who’ve been paid more money this week. That said, if the Raiders sign Nelson, his arrival would spell the end of Crabtree in Oakland, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

“His release would come with no dead money against the cap. Head coach Jon Gruden has singled out Crabtree as one of the reasons he took the Raiders job in the first place.” -- Schneidman

Anquan Boldin: Oddly Becomes Free Agent Again, But Showing No Indication He Wants to Play

Here’s an interesting plot twist, although it probably won’t amount to much. The Buffalo Bills released wide receiver Anquan Boldin, 37, from their retired list Wednesday, where they stashed him when he decided to walk away from the game last year. The move makes Boldin a free agent should he decide to resume his playing career.

Boldin retired just two weeks after signing with the Bills, but then his agent reached out to team brass later in the season, asking for permission to talk with other teams about a potential trade. Nothing came from it, but it showed Boldin was still interested in playing. Is that still true nearly a year later?

“Boldin has remained busy with his humanitarian work, and there’s no indication he wants to resume his career. But if he wants to, and if some team wants a 37-year-old wideout with 1,076 career receptions, he’s available.” – Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk.com

Ryan Jensen Takes Two Free-Agent Visits

It’s looking less and less like starting center Ryan Jensen will return to Baltimore.

The four-year veteran visited with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday and is now slated to head to the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Jensen could “command double digits.” This comes off the heels of Sports Illustrated saying the Ravens’ free agent could break a record for money given to a center. The highest-paid center in terms of average salary is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Brandon Linder at $10.4 million, according to Spotrac.com.

“As of Wednesday afternoon, I was told it was still unlikely that the Ravens would be able to re-sign [Jensen],” wrote Zrebiec. “Again, I wouldn’t rule out, but it seems that the Ravens feel they have a viable and cheap replacement in Matt Skura and they just need to put the money and cap space toward other needs.”

Three Big 2017 Ravens’ Free-Agent Signings Are Already Gone

This week, the Ravens have parted ways with three of their big offensive free-agent signings from last year.

On Monday, they cut running back Danny Woodhead (who could reportedly still return) and declined the 2018 option on right tackle Austin Howard’s contract. Yesterday, they released receiver Jeremy Maclin. They invested a combined $10.25 million in signing bonuses in the three.

“In going 0 for 3, Baltimore officially struck out in trying to improve the offense in 2017,” ESPN wrote. “It shouldn't come as a surprise that Baltimore finished No. 27 in the league in offense. The only times the Ravens ranked worse offensively were 2004 (No. 31) and 2013 (No. 29).

“The Ravens already have built-in plans to replace all three players.”

Those plans include Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon at running back. The signings of Ryan Grant and John Brown (and likely more to come) fill the gap at wide receiver. The re-signing of offensive lineman James Hurst and expected returns of Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis made Howard expendable.

James Hurst’s Contract Numbers Reveal Small First-Year Cap Hit

The details of Hurst’s four-year contract have come in.

The overall value of the four-year deal is $17.5 million that includes a $5 million signing bonus. Per Spotrac, here is a full breakdown:

2018: $1 million base salary, $2.25 cap hit
2019: $3.5 million base salary, $4.75 cap hit
2020: $4 million base salary, $5.25 cap hit
2021: $4 million base salary, $5.25 cap hit

“I get that the Ravens were up against the salary cap and have to make some tough decisions,” wrote Zrebiec. “However, I still wonder whether they will regret declining right tackle Austin Howard’s 2018 option for a total of $3 million in salary cap savings. After struggling early, Howard settled in and was pretty solid. Every year, it seems the Ravens do this dance at one or two offensive line spots, and Howard would’ve seemingly brought some stability.” [The Baltimore Sun]

Brandon Williams Has Successful Eye Surgery

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams underwent surgery to address his keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition in which the corneas weaken and lead to blurry or distorted vision, according to The Sun’s Childs Walker.     

“Like many elite athletes, he had been able to count on near-perfect vision for most of his life. But seemingly overnight, he could not achieve this most basic of physical functions,” Walker wrote.

Williams described the feeling as like having sand in his eye. The condition got so bad that when he closed his right eye, he couldn’t see the details of another person’s face just a few feet away. He had to wait two years after his diagnosis to have surgery because the procedure, cross-linking, had not been approved in the United States.

“It’s your eyes,” Williams told Walker. “Usually, we get injuries to legs, arms shoulders — things like that. But this is my eyes. I’ve got to see to do what I’ve got to do on the field. It kind of freaked me out a little bit, yeah.”

Now that he’s had surgery, Williams only needs a special contact lens for his left eye.

“Other than that, he should be able to continue playing without worry,” Walker wrote. “When he bulldozes through an opposing blocker, the ball carrier on the other side won’t be an indistinguishable blob.”

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