What are Ravens fans rooting for as the front office churns through the offseason making various decisions and moves?
Some fans, I’m sure, are rooting for what I call an exclamation-point development, a true whopper guaranteed to turn any buzz for the 2019 season into a roar. A trade for Antonio Brown or a Le’Veon Bell signing would fall into that category.
Many fans, I’m guessing, are also rooting for an agreement with linebacker C.J. Mosley that keeps the team’s best player under 30 in Baltimore for the foreseeable future … provided the price is right.
The draft, as always, produces a wide array of desires. Some fans are rooting for the team to take a receiver in the first round, while others are rooting for a running back, a pass rusher, an offensive lineman, etc.
There’s less buzz, no doubt, about the possibility of the Ravens signing more young players to early contract extensions along the lines of what slot cornerback Tavon Young received recently.
That’s understandable, right? I mean, those extensions are nice and all, just not as exciting as a very-big-name move.
I’m not fond of telling ticket-buying and/or purple-loving fans what they should root for because, frankly, they’re entitled to root for whatever they want. But if they want the Ravens to have significantly more salary cap flexibility and generally smoother offseasons, they should be rooting for more extensions.
They might not be high-wattage, exciting moves, but when the salary cap rules all, a run of low-wattage extensions could benefit the Ravens in the long run more than just about any other move they make in the coming months.
General Manager Eric DeCosta wants to retain more of the team’s young, homegrown players who develop into valuable puzzle pieces. The Ravens have struggled at times with that in recent years, losing a succession of starters due to a lack of cap room. When their rookie deals expire, they hit free agency and cost more than the Ravens can afford. It sets the team back, no question.
The Ravens should be better positioned to retain such players going forward because the cap ceiling is rising and they’ll also reportedly part ways with Joe Flacco and his mega-contract when free agency opens next week.
Even with more space, though, it makes great sense for them to try to replicate their move with Young and lock up their best young talent before those players become free agents. It not only helps with the cap but also bolsters roster and lineup continuity, which are kind of important.
Let’s face it, if the Ravens could have signed Mosley to an extension well before his rookie deal ended, they wouldn’t be where they are now with their defensive centerpiece, i.e., down to the deadline amid uncertainty if they can keep him.
Identifying which of your young players warrant extensions is a crucial part of the plan, of course. Some guys, like Mosley, make the decision easy. There are others.
Three years into his career, Matthew Judon has become a playmaker at outside linebacker, where the Ravens are actively seeking their NextGen guys. He would likely command a nice contract as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. The Ravens would benefit from making a move to keep him from hitting the open market.
Similar cases can be made for trying to keep offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and defensive lineman Michael Pierce. Neither would be easy to replace so, well, why not keep them if you can?
You can’t just snap your fingers and make a deal happen, of course. It can take a lot to convince a young player to give up his shot at free agency. At the same time, receiving a long-term offer can be exhilarating for a player just a few years out of college.
It’s an expensive proposition either way – Young’s deal set a record for slot corners – but players command even more as unrestricted free agents, so there usually are savings in the long run.
If enough players are interested and the right prices can be negotiated, there’s no doubt a run of early extensions would be a good thing for the Ravens. It’s worth rooting for.