Looking at the Chances of 12 Ravens Unrestricted Free Agents Returning
Ravens brass recently met at Owner Steve Bisciotti’s house in Jupiter, Fla. to discuss a pivotal offseason blueprint they hope will get them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Likely a key discussion point was which of the 12 unrestricted free agents they’ll try to bring back to Baltimore. We don’t know their conclusions, but Press Box’s Bo Smolka took a stab at what he thinks are the chances of each returning.
Below are Smolka’s percentages, along with some of my commentary:
WR Michael Campanaro
Chances of returning: 60 percent
The Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh have always liked Campanaro, including his work ethic and ability to make plays when he’s on the field. He’s had a long history of injuries, but may have gotten over the hump last year, as he played a career-high 13 games. In a thin wide receiver group, Campanaro is appreciated for his return abilities and his low price makes him a strong candidate to re-sign.
DE Brent Urban
Chances of returning: 55 percent
Urban is clearly a major talent and looked to be on the verge of a breakout year before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury. It wasn’t the first time he’s been knocked off course, as he’s missed 39 games in four seasons. Because of his upside, he’s certainly worth re-signing, but because he’s been injury prone in the past, Baltimore can’t invest too much. “The Ravens might be able to bring him back on a one- or two-year team-friendly deal,” wrote Smolka.
WR Mike Wallace
Chances of returning: 50 percent
This will be one of the more interesting developments this offseason, as Wallace has led the Ravens in receiving yards each of the last two years. Nobody at the position that’s scheduled to return has come close to his production. Market demand and what the Ravens do with fellow veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin will both be factors. Says Smolka, “It's a weak receiver market, which could help Wallace, but not necessarily the Ravens' efforts to retain him.”
OL James Hurst
Chances of returning: 40 percent
“Fans have had Hurst out the door for years, ever since he rolled into Joe Flacco's leg in 2015. Coaches like him, though,” wrote Smolka. And for good reason. Hurst has been ultra-durable, as one of only two non-specialists that have played in every game over the last four seasons (the other is Anthony Levine). He’s also versatile, as he’s started at left tackle, right tackle and left guard. He was a 16-game starter for the first time in his career last year, which may lead to him getting a starting job with starting money elsewhere. Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the Senior Bowl that the Ravens want to retain Hurst.
C Ryan Jensen
Chances of returning: 35 percent
Jensen picked a good time to have the best year of his career. He started all 16 games at center for the first time and he thrived in that role. Not only does it help Jensen get a bigger contract, but WNST’s Luke Jones called him a “godsend” to the Ravens with two backups starting on each side of him and the sudden retirement of John Urschel in training camp. Smolka believes re-signing Jensen should be among the Ravens’ top priorities this offseason, but it may not be easy because he’ll no longer come cheap. Spotrac has his market value at $8.9 million per year. DeCosta said the team also wants to retain Jensen.
LB Steven Johnson
Chances of returning: 30 percent
The linebacker didn’t play a single snap on defense after signing in October, but he did a solid job on special teams.
TE Benjamin Watson
*Chances of returning: *25 percent
Watson was 36 and coming off Achilles surgery last season and still led the team with 61 catches. He’s a shining light off the field as an NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist, but it’s unclear whether he will retire. His veteran presence is desirable, yet the Ravens are looking to get a younger playmaker at the position. Both Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle are more blocking tight ends.
QB Ryan Mallett
Chances of returning: 25 percent
The Ravens have been talking about drafting quarterback Joe Flacco’s next backup. They want somebody young they can develop over the next couple years that, if needed, could step into the starting role. Watching the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings advance deep into the playoffs with their backup quarterbacks shows the importance of having a strong alternative option.
OL Luke Bowanko
Chances of returning: 25 percent
The Ravens will have Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa back in 2018, which hurts Bowanko’s chances. Hurst and Jensen are also unrestricted free agents and are higher priorities. If neither re-sign, the Ravens may look to retain Bowanko.
TE Crockett Gillmore
Chances of returning: 15 percent
One of the Ravens’ top needs this offseason is a dependable, pass-catching tight end, but Gillmore has struggled to stay healthy since his rookie season with the Ravens when he showed promise. Smolka pointed out that Gillmore’s missed 32 games in the past three years.
RB Terrance West
Chances of returning: 15 percent
The Ravens are stacked at the position with Alex Collins, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen and the expected return of Kenneth Dixon. Baltimore will also consider drafting another running back if a “game-breaker” falls to them. West was able to turn his career around in Baltimore before losing the starting job to Collins last year, and he may be able to use that to get another opportunity elsewhere.
CB Brandon Boykin
Chances of returning: 5 percent
Boykin was once considered one of the better slot corners in the league, and was brought in to add depth after Tavon Young’s knee injury. But he played in just one preseason game before suffering his own season-ending injury. Young and Maurice Canady are expected to start the season healthy, leaving less room for Boykin.
Dean Pees Explains His Decision to Unretire
Former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees explained why he decided to come out of retirement after only four weeks, and the answer is simple.
He missed the game.
During the last four weeks, Pees stuck around the Ravens Under Armour Performance Center until his previous contract was scheduled to be officially up in March, and he could already tell he wasn’t quite ready to give it all up.
“One week after I retired I had gotten an offer to coach and I turned it down,” Pees told The Baltimore Sun yesterday on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Tennessee. “I had already spoken with the officials at Medicare, talked with the NFL about my pension and had planned the move. We were ready to move our stuff to our retirement home in Michigan.
“Then I got a call from [new Titans Head Coach] Mike Vrabel and he kept calling and calling. When I was sitting in the office, I kept missing the game more and more. It got to the point where I finally knew I missed it and told him ‘Yes, I’d do it.’”
Pees told the newspaper that he wouldn’t have accepted the job if it wasn’t Vrabel, with whom he shares a special bond after coaching him in New England for five years. He was surprised the Titans fired their last head coach, Mike Mularkey, after he led them to a playoff win earlier this month.
Pees said he accepted the job before he knew his son, Matt, would be hired on the coaching staff. He would’ve taken the job even if Matt wasn’t there, but he’s happy it worked out and can now enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity working beside him.
“I was sitting there thinking, [retirement in] the frozen tundra in Michigan or Nashville, the tundra or Nashville, and I chose Nashville,” Pees said. “I’ll never forget those eight great years in Baltimore and there were a lot of great memories, except for two plays. I won’t forget that interception in the Super Bowl, but I won’t forget those two plays in the last two seasons, either.
“… And just think, I really was done. This opportunity just came across at the right time.”
Ray Lewis Has Advice for Eagles as They Attempt to Beat Tom Brady in Super Bowl
You want to figure out how to beat arguably the best quarterback in NFL history?
It’s not a bad idea to get some advice from soon-to-be Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, whose defense stopped the Patriots’ Tom Brady from reaching Super Bowl XLVII by beating him in the AFC championship game five years ago. Lewis also topped Brady in a 2009 wild-card game.
"You cannot beat New England unless you get to the head, and the head is Tom Brady," Lewis told The Talk of Fame Network. "So, I think Philly is going to have a tough task on how do they dial up blitzes without letting him know what coverages you’re in or doing. That’s one of the successes we had against Tom over the years.
"I’ve been trying to think about why [the Patriots] are so successful," Lewis said. "They are a player-driven offense. What does that mean? Tom Brady does not look to the sidelines to get the plays he’s going to call. Tom Brady knows exactly what he’s going to do. When I had my defense in Baltimore for so many years, we didn’t have to look to the sidelines to get the next defensive call to make a call. You have to play the game on the field. You have to be an on-field general [to match Brady’s thinking]. That’s why a bunch of these young, talented defenses struggle so much."