Ranking Ravens' Top Free Agents Of 2016 Class
The biggest free-agent splashes the Ravens will likely make this offseason were already on the squad in 2015.
It's just not the Ravens' way to spend big money on other teams' players. That model rarely leads to playoff success.
"The Ravens' free-agent playbook has been to make one or two of their own free agents a priority to re-sign and then allow others to go elsewhere for more lucrative deals than they were willing to offer," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"And bidding on top free agents from other teams? Forget it."
The Ravens have about 30 players scheduled to become free agents in March, according to Spotrac.com, including all unrestricted free agents (UFAs), restricted free agents (RFAs) and exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs).
Out of all those, ESPN's Jamison Hensley ranked what he believes are the Ravens' top-10 free agents in 2016. Along with his rankings, I've added commentary from Hensley and various other media members about the status of each player.
1. OT Kelechi Osemele (UFA)
"He will undoubtedly draw the most interest in free agency. … So did Osemele price himself out of the Ravens' range by playing tackle, or did he increase his chances of returning?" -- Hensley
"Osemele is the Ravens' top free agent and he'd be a significant loss, given the team's uncertainty at left tackle." -- Zrebiec
2. K Justin Tucker (UFA)
"Though he struggled from beyond 50 yards this year, the 2013 Pro Bowl selection is just too good to let go and will be re-signed or given the reasonable franchise tag for kickers." -- Luke Jones
3. WR Kamar Aiken (RFA):
"The Ravens are going to have to decide whether to protect him with a second-round tender or risk losing him with a low tender." -- Hensley
"With questions about the health of Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, Aiken will likely receive a second-round tender after a season of just under 1,000 yards." -- Jones
4. OLB Courtney Upshaw (UFA)
"It wouldn't be surprising to see the Ravens retain him because he didn't put up big pass-rush numbers in a contract year like Pernell McPhee did last year." -- Hensley
"Upshaw appears to be a long shot to return." -- Zrebiec
5. CB Shareece Wright (UFA)
"His value will increase this offseason if the Ravens decide to switch Lardarius Webb to free safety and cut Kyle Arrington. He's a good No. 3 or No. 4 corner who can start in a pinch." -- Hensley
6. LB Albert McClellan (UFA)
"Regarded by some as the best player on Jerry Rosburg's special-teams units, the Ravens would love to bring him back at a reasonable rate ($1 million base salary in 2015)." -- Jones
7. LB Zachary Orr (RFA)
"He's a core special-teams player who could get an increased role if Daryl Smith is a cap cut." -- Hensley
8. OL Ryan Jensen (RFA)
"He exceeded expectations in six starts this season, but he still projects as a backup." -- Hensley
9. QB Jimmy Clausen (UFA)
"Though overshadowed by what Ryan Mallett did in the win over Pittsburgh, Clausen wouldn't be a bad option on a one-year deal to compete for the backup job behind Flacco." -- Jones
10. LS Morgan Cox (UFA)
"The veteran has been such a model of consistency working with punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker that you'd be very surprised to see the Ravens let him go."* *– Jones
You'll notice some key figures from 2015 didn't make the top-10 list, including wide receivers Chris Givens (UFA), Jeremy Butler (ERFA) and Marlon Brown (RFA), quarterback Matt Schaub (UFA), running back Terrance West (ERFA) and returner Kaelin Clay (ERFA).
The ERFAs are inexpensive and easier to keep on the roster, but Jones doesn't have a lot of optimism for Givens, Brown or Schaub to return.
DeCosta Turns Down Titans Interview
Death, taxes and Eric DeCosta in Baltimore.
The Ravens assistant general manager turned down an interview request for the Tennessee Titans' general manager vacancy, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer. The news isn't surprising, as DeCosta also reportedly turned down interview requests last offseason with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets.
"While he has a good job now and is positioned to succeed Ozzie Newsome someday, at this point it's reasonable to wonder if there's a job that would tempt him," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt.
DeCosta has explained why he prefers to stay in Baltimore.
"I get a chance to work with my friends," DeCosta said last April. "Every day, I come in and work with my friends. I think it's a relationship business. In the end, personal ambitions aside, all you have is really your reputation and your friends and your enjoyment in life. And I love Baltimore, the community.
"My wife is from Baltimore. I've been here 20 years, my kids go to school here. It's great. I sit with these guys every day and give everybody a hard time, get a chance to play jokes on everybody every day, and it's just fun. I enjoy work. I enjoy coming in here. We have a great owner, awesome stadium and best fan base in the country. So, what more do you want?"
Ike Taylor: Steve Smith Only NFL Receiver On Antonio Brown's Level
Retired Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor really, really, really likes wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Taylor wrote a 500-word essay on why Brown is superior to all other NFL receivers, considering his size, and it's hard to argue when the 5-foot-10 pass catcher finished second in the league with a whopping 1,834 receiving yards. And he's consistently put up big numbers for years.
Taylor said only one receiver has ever compared to Brown, and that's the Ravens' Steve Smith Sr.
"AB is proving that a sub-6-footer with a good skill set and great work ethic can become an All-Pro," wrote Taylor. "I played against a lot of good receivers during my 12-year career, and the only player I'd put on the same level as AB is Steve Smith Sr., who's currently ranked 11th in all-time receiving yards (13,932).
"Right now, with Smith injured and nearing the end of his career, AB is hands-down the best receiver in the league. He endlessly works at improving his craft and that's why he's experiencing rare success. If he can play the next three or so years at this level, he's going to be considered one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game."
Will Bisciotti Turn Up The Heat?
At 2 p.m. today, Owner Steve Bisciotti will make a rare annual press conference appearance, alongside General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and President Dick Cass.
Bisciotti doesn't like the limelight and prefers to allow the others to speak to the media while he stays in the background. This might be the first and only group setting where Bisciotti speaks in the entire year.
Zrebiec is interested in whether Bisciotti will "turn up the heat" after the Ravens finished in third place in the AFC North for the third consecutive season. In Zrebiec's eyes, the talent gap between Baltimore and division foes Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals is widening rather than shrinking.
"When [Bisciotti] does talk, he rarely minces words," Zrebiec wrote. "In this setting, he has challenged [former Head Coach Brian] Billick and former Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. It would be surprising if he put Newsome and Harbaugh on notice, but Bisciotti's patience does have its limits.
"It will be interesting to hear whether Bisciotti thinks this season was an aberration or a sign that things need to change."
As we await the presser, Press Box's Glenn Younes says fans should be happy that the Ravens organization doesn't have the same coaching worries as other teams around the league.
Harbaugh And Buck Showalter Team Up
This would be a special treat to attend.
Harbaugh and Orioles Manager Buck Showalter will both speak at a leadership conference to benefit Pathfinders for Autism on Jan. 13 at the SECU Arena at Towson University.
Tickets range from $20 - $40 (available through Ticketmaster), and all proceeds from the event will benefit Pathfinders for Autism, Maryland's largest autism organization.