Chances Ravens Sign McCown To Reunite With Trestman
A very intriguing quarterback just hit the market, and bringing him to Baltimore makes both a lot and little sense at the same time.
The Tampa Buccaneers released quarterback Josh McCown Wednesday night, about 11 months after agreeing to a two-year deal reportedly worth $10 million. Questions quickly ensued whether the Ravens would seek to sign him to be Joe Flacco's backup.
"It looks good on the surface and there's no doubt that McCown would be a decent addition," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "But both history and opportunity suggest that it probably won't be the Ravens that end up with McCown."
Here are the reasons why McCown makes sense:
1) It reunites him with Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman. McCown excelled under Trestman in Chicago in 2013, playing in eight games and throwing 13 touchdown passes to one interception. Plus, having McCown in the quarterbacks room could help accelerate the process as Flacco and Trestman get to know each other.
2) Tyrod Taylor, who has backed up Flacco for four years, is an unrestricted free agent and may not return in 2015. The Ravens may be in the market for a new No. 2 if they don't feel last year's sixth-round pick Keith Wenning is ready.
3) General Manager Ozzie Newsome likes to sign salary-cap casualties because cut players won't hurt his chances of earning compensatory picks.
Here are the reasons McCown may not fit:
1) He may not want to come to Baltimore for the simple fact there's a zero percent chance that he will start unless Flacco is injured. Flacco has never missed a start since 2008. For the second consecutive offseason, McCown will be one of the top free-agent quarterbacks and there are struggling teams that need a starter, including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.
2) The Ravens don't have a lot of cap space as it is (or maybe none depending on the limit this year), and there are other positions of need, like cornerback or wide receiver, that could use money. "[T]he #Ravens have far bigger priorities to address. Wouldn't make sense beyond a veteran minimum deal," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
3) McCown is more qualified than your typical Ravens backup, and that trend doesn't seem likely to change. "[T]hey traditionally haven't had an accomplished and well-known backup, at least not since Marc Bulger," wrote Zrebiec. "A big reason for that is Flacco's durability, but salary cap concerns come into play as well." The Ravens reportedly paid Bulger $3.8 million in an uncapped 2010 year.
Because he was cut, McCown doesn't have to wait until free agency doors open on March 10 to begin speaking with other teams. Per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, McCown has already heard from some interested teams.
But after a poor 2014 season in which he started 11 games, threw 14 interceptions and lost four fumbles, there's no guarantee that teams will offer him a starting role. After all, he only won one game as the starter last year.
"If McCown only receives offers to be a backup, the Ravens would have to be near the top – if not at the top – of his list because of Trestman," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "It makes sense that the Ravens would want McCown, who would serve as a perfect one-year stopgap."
The 12-year veteran could replace Taylor and give Wenning another year to develop. But the only likely way the Ravens could afford him is at a veteran minimum deal, as Jones suggested, and the only way McCown's taking that kind of money is if other teams don't offer him much more.
"The chances of McCown ending up with the Ravens boils down to how much he wants to reunite with Marc Trestman and how much other teams want a 35-year-old journeyman quarterback," wrote Hensley.
Yanda Extension Would Be A 'Win-Win'
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata isn't the only player who should get an extension in Baltimore. Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda should get one too, says Hensley.
"[I]t makes too much sense for it not to happen," he wrote.
"The Ravens can get much-needed salary cap room (at least $2 million), and Yanda can double what he would earn this year. The Ravens can make sure they'll have one of the NFL's best offensive linemen for the next four to five years, and Yanda can get the opportunity to be a Raven for life."
How is it possible to double his earnings, yet create salary cap room?
Yanda is currently set to make a $5.5 million base salary in 2015, but Henley proposes a four-year extension worth $30 million ($7.5 million a year is close to the average of the top 5 guards in the league) with a signing bonus of around $12 million. That would double the $5.5 million he's set to take home, but the signing bonus would be spread out over the length of the contract. In the end, it would save $2 million in cap space this year.
"Even though Yanda will turn 31 a couple of weeks into the regular season, there is little concern of Yanda wearing down," Hensley wrote. "He is among the most dependable players on the Ravens, and he's played 99.4 percent of the Ravens' snaps the past two seasons. Getting an extension done would be a smart decision for the Ravens as well as Yanda."
Kiper Has Ravens Selecting Tight End
ESPN's Mel Kiper is changing his prediction for the Ravens' No. 26 pick from a wide receiver to a tight end.
Instead of Michigan receiver Devin Funchess, Kiper now predicts Baltimore will select Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder would be a boon to a unit that may only have one player on the roster, Crockett Gillmore.
Dennis Pitta's status is up in the air as he tries to recover from his second major hip injury in as many seasons, and Owen Daniels is a pending unrestricted free agent.
"The ageless Steve Smith masked what looked to be a lack of weapons in the passing game for Joe Flacco, and while the Ravens were able to make it work on offense thanks to building around a solid running game, they could use another matchup threat in the passing game," wrote Kiper.
"Williams is a threat as a long-armed pass-catcher with the size to overwhelm smaller defenders, even while covered, and the quickness to beat linebackers and create space. Williams also offers the ability to be at least an adequate blocker with the potential for more, which is saying something for a guy who can also stretch defenses vertically."
Upshaw's Big Offseason Ahead
Like Kiper, most mock drafts have the Ravens selecting a pass catcher or a defensive back. While he agrees that makes sense, Zrebiec believes Baltimore should strongly consider taking a pass rusher with their top pick, should one fall to them at No. 26.
"Think about it: The Ravens likely will lose their top interior rusher, Pernell McPhee, in free agency. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are 32 years old and 31 years old, respectively. While valuable as an edge setter, Courtney Upshaw really hasn't developed into an every-down pass rusher, and he's set to become a free agent after the 2015 season," Zrebiec wrote.
"The Ravens really don't have anybody else. The top free-agent pass rushers will get paid big money on the open market, so the draft will probably be the best opportunity for the Ravens to add somebody who can pressure the quarterback."
Zrebiec sees 2015 as a big year for Upshaw, who will enter the final season of his rookie contract after the Ravens drafted him in the second round out of Alabama in 2012.
He will be out to prove he is worthy of a hefty second contract, whether with the Ravens or elsewhere. What better way to do it than with a role as an every-down linebacker? Upshaw has traditionally split time with Dumervil, alternating between rushing and passing situations, but if McPhee leaves the picture, there could be more in store for Upshaw.
"Upshaw, who has seemingly dealt with weight and conditioning questions at the start of every training camp, has to look at this offseason as a major opportunity," wrote Zrebiec.
"Not only will he be playing for a contract, but McPhee's expected departure could lead to an every-down role for Upshaw if the former Alabama standout proves up to it. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees loved having McPhee, Suggs and Dumervil rushing the passer from different spots on third downs. Upshaw could be a candidate to enter that mix."
Forsett More Likely To Land In Denver Or Baltimore?
Running back Justin Forsett said his heart is in Baltimore, where the Ravens gave him his first real opportunity to be a starter in the league.
One of the decision-makers to give him that chance is Gary Kubiak, who is now the head coach in Denver. That's made some in the media predict another reunion between the two, including NFL Media's Solomon Wilcox,* *who said it's time to buy Forsett a bus ticket to Denver.
But after his explosive 2014 season, there's a good chance that Forsett could get a nice payday and The Sun's Jon Meoli knows that Kubiak doesn't have to spend a lot to find a productive back.
"Kubiak has found production at a bargain before and may seek to do it again now that he's the head coach of the Broncos," Meoli wrote. "For all the talk of Kubiak's zone scheme churning out 1,000-yard rushers, there is no precedent for someone Forsett's age, or really anyone else, staying in or returning to that system when Kubiak's team has another, cheaper option.
"With the Ravens staying in the zone-running system that worked so well in 2014 under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, Forsett could prove most valuable to the Ravens when free agency opens."
- Will the Dolphins cut former Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe after signing him to big money in 2013? "The Ravens valued linebacker Dannell Ellerbe as perhaps a $4 million per season player after helping the team win a Super Bowl in a year in which Ray Lewis was largely injured; Miami gave him a five-year, $35 million deal," wrote Jason La Canfora. "Ellerbe has made $14.5 million in the first two years of that deal, yet has made little impact. I can't fathom he's in Miami in 2015, set to make a staggering $8.5 million next season." [CBSSports.com]
- Predicted outcome of punter Sam Koch's status in Baltimore. "Ravens keep Koch. While some may disagree, I don't believe Koch is in any danger of getting cut," wrote Hensley. "His $3.1 million cap hit and $2.5 million base salary both rank seventh in the NFL among punters. Based on that, the Ravens are getting good value for Koch. If any move is going to be made, it's likely an extension for Koch that could open up $1 million in cap room. It's not easy to find consistent punters. Only one first- or second-year punter ranked in the top 10 in gross average in 2014. And, if there was any doubt how much the Ravens liked Koch, remember that special-teams coach Jerry Rosburg went on a 573-word rant in December about how Koch was snubbed for the Pro Bowl." [ESPN]