Late For Work 1/13: What Is Kamar Aiken's Future In Baltimore?


What Is Aiken's Future In Baltimore?

It's tough to remember the last time a restricted free agent didn't return to Baltimore, especially one who had as big a season as wide receiver Kamar Aiken.

Perhaps that's why Aiken isn't worried about his chances of returning to the team that gave him his first real NFL opportunity. He's beyond grateful for the shot the Ravens gave him, and the third-year veteran made it abundantly clear where he wants to play next year.

Actually, he skipped right past next year and started talking career plans.

"I'm not nervous right now about free agency],” Aiken told Glenn Clark Radio. “Baltimore pretty much knows that I want be there. I don’t want to go anywhere else. [I would love to finish my career there. They've shown me love since Day 1, so I don't want to go anywhere and I'm pretty sure they know the same."

There are a couple ways the Ravens can address Aiken's contract this season.

First, they can extend a tender offer to him, but they'll have to decide which one to assign. There's a first-round, second-round or low-round tender to choose from.

Once tendered, another team could still attempt to sign Aiken by giving him an offer sheet, but the Ravens have the right of first refusal. If they choose not to match that offer, the other team would have to give Baltimore a draft pick that corresponds with the tender level originally applied (since Aiken was an undrafted rookie, Baltimore would get no compensation for a low-round tender).

The higher the tender, the more the Ravens protect against Aiken being plucked by another team, but a higher tender also means a higher cap hit for Aiken next season. A first-round tender will carry an estimated $3.58 million price tag in 2016, a second-round tender would cost $2.52 million and a low tender would cost $1.65 million.

"Earlier this year, [Aiken] seemed destined to receive the low tender, but his recent play may well force the Ravens to use the second-round tender on him," wrote Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland.

"The Ravens will have to decide whether the extra $870K for the second-round tender is worth being sure of protecting him from an offer sheet or if they are willing to risk using the low tender on Aiken and possibly losing him for no compensation."

While fans in Baltimore know Aiken well, he exploded onto the NFL map this season after injuries decimated the wide receiver corps. He put up No. 1 receiver numbers when he was elevated to that role in Week 9 after Steve Smith Sr. went down.

Aiken finished the year just short of 1,000 receiving yards, with 75 catches and five touchdowns.

He played well enough for wide receiver-needy teams to potentially extend an offer sheet, which has made some wonder whether the Ravens should use a first-round tender to protect him.

"Nah, you can get away with a second-round tender because nobody ever really moves in restricted free agency," former NFL agent Joel Corry told Clark. "The thing is, those tenders count against the cap. [The Ravens] don't have a lot of cap room. You really don't want to put a first-round tender, which is going to be over $3.5 million on him, because you need the million dollars."

The other option is to work out a long-term deal with Aiken now, and skip restricted free agency altogether. After all, Aiken seemed open to that idea when he said he wants to finish his career in Baltimore.

If he puts up big numbers for a second consecutive season, then he could command a lot of money as unrestricted free agent in 2017.

"Yeah, definitely [the Ravens] are better off trying to do a deal with him early," said Corry.

In the meantime, Aiken is excited to return to the Ravens' lineup with healthy comrades.

He wants to team up with Smith and his fellow UCF alum Breshad Perriman. He said he doesn't care if the Ravens ask him to move back inside when those two return.

"I just want to play ball," Aiken said. "I want to be a part of the offensive game plan. I want to be a guy that they can count on and just make me accountable for what I go out there and do. I don't want to sit back and just watch other guys go to work on Sunday. I want to be a part of that and be that guy as well.

"I'm looking forward to building off what I did this past season. It's definitely going towards the right direction and I'm just looking forward to the seasons to come."

Would Ravens Really Use First-Round Pick On Safety?

When General Manager Ozzie Newsome was asked last week "in an ideal world" what position would the best player available be at the No. 6 overall spot, he and Owner Steve Bisciotti agreed that it would be one of four: tackle, corner, pass rusher or safety.

Nobody was really surprised to hear the first three listed, but safety? That one raised some eyebrows.

For one, there isn't a safety prospect considered a top-20 prospect by draftniks. Second, the Ravens already have plenty on the roster.

"While Baltimore can certainly stand to upgrade at safety, the Ravens have already invested way too much into that position," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

Here's who the Ravens already have at safety:

Will Hill: signed a two-year, $7 million deal in August
Kendrick Lewis: signed a three-year, $5.4 million deal in March
Matt Elam: first-round draft pick in 2013
Terrence Brooks: third-round draft pick in 2014
Lardarius Webb: moving from cornerback to free safety next season

"That's five safeties for two spots," wrote Hensley. "This backlog shows that the Ravens either have a problem selecting the right safety to fit their scheme or they're struggling to develop prospects at that position. Either way, their history suggests it's too much of a gamble to take a safety this high in the draft."

That's not to say there isn't a need. Hensley points out the Ravens have started nine safeties since they parted ways with Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard after the Super Bowl season. Those nine starters have only totaled eight interceptions in three seasons.

"So, there's a definite need for a playmaker at safety," Hensley wrote. "It's just highly unlikely the Ravens would try to find a solution at safety that high in the draft."

When Will Ravens Travel To L.A.?

The NFL owners have voted, and a decision has been made.

After a 21-year odyssey, the Rams are moving from St. Louis and finally returning to Los Angeles. That is where the Rams spent 49 years of their existence. The team is expected to immediately begin plans on a $1.86 billion stadium project.

As for the other two applicants that wanted to move to move to L.A., the Chargers and Raiders, they have options to negotiate a partnership to join the Rams in the future. The Chargers have until January 2017 to strike a deal, and if a decision hasn't been made, then the Raiders will have an option to join the Rams.

Under the current setup, the Ravens would have to wait four seasons to play in Los Angeles. They aren't slated to play the Rams as a visitor until 2019.

Their first visit would be bumped up if the Chargers negotiated a deal to move. The Ravens would visit in 2018 under that scenario.

Could Mike Nolan Return To Baltimore?

In the midst of the news that San Diego was not chosen to move to L.A., Chargers Linebackers Coach Mike Nolan decided that he will step down from his post and explore other opportunities.

"Nolan only worked as the linebackers coach for the Chargers for one season, but was generally well-liked by players," wrote ESPN's Eric Williams.

It's anyone guess where Nolan will land. He served as an assistant coach for the Ravens from 2001-04, including a three-year stint as the defensive coordinator.

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