Ravens Expected To Meet Kyle Juszczyk's Agent At Combine To Talk Contract
The NFL Scouting Combine is used just as much for getting a look at potential draft prospects as it is for agents and teams around the league to meet and discuss veteran contracts.
That will be the case for Ravens brass and fullback Kyle Juszczyk's agent, who are preparing to meet in Indianapolis in 11 days, says Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. It wouldn't be surprising if there are arrangements to meet with representatives of other pending Ravens free agents too.
"They will be talking to Juszczyk's agent at the combine. They're setting that meeting up," La Canfora said on his "Bmore Opinionated" podcast.
Juszczyk couldn't be hitting the market at a better time.
He put together two consecutive solid seasons, and was honored with his first Pro Bowl appearance in January. Last season, he showed how effective he can be both as a blocker and pass catcher, reeling in 37 passes for 266 yards. He also had five carries for 22 yards and a touchdown (on Christmas Day against the Pittsburgh Steelers), and was the league's top-graded fullback by Pro Football Focus.
His Pro Bowl season surely didn't go unnoticed by other teams. The fullback position is a dying breed in the NFL with several rosters not employing one at all, but La Canfora pointed out that all it takes is one team with a lot of cap space to lure him out of Baltimore.
"The problem there is, a year ago, he probably would've done a two- or three-year deal for $2 to $2.5 million a year," La Canfora said.
"Now, he's the best fullback out there, it's a weak free-agent class and all it takes is somebody like a Kyle Shanahan, who runs [Gary] Kubiak's offense, who still values a fullback, who has more cap space and more money than God in San Francisco to say, 'That guy's gonna catch 55-60 balls for me, and he's going to run it two or three times a game, I'll go give him $5 million a year.'"
Juszczyk doesn't represent the traditional fullback of old, who was primarily used as a battering ram to open holes for running backs. In a pass-happy NFL, Juszczyk is more of a hybrid that has proven his ability as a pass catcher (although he's not gotten close to 60 catches as La Canfora suggests).
The CBSSports.com reporter is a big proponent of locking players into long-term deals before the final year of their contracts. He used the quarterback Joe Flacco negotiations as an example.
La Canfora said the deal originally offered before Flacco's Super Bowl year fell apart because of $1 million in the final year of the contract. He said that had the Ravens acquiesced, they could've signed Flacco to something in the neighborhood of a six-year deal for $80 million, instead of the $120 million contract he signed after being crowned Super Bowl MVP.
"So that's the bind the Ravens are in," La Canfora said. "A year ago, they get [Juszczyk] on the cheap. Now, we'll see where their price point is."
Obviously it's ideal to lock players in before they have as good of a season as Juszczyk and Flacco did in the final year of their contracts. But, that's not always the case, and there's also risk to signing players too early. Plus, it means paying a player more in that first year of the new deal instead of riding out their less expensive rookie contract.
Either way, it looks like the two sides are set to discuss a potential second contract. Juszczyk was on "The Lounge" podcast earlier this week and was mum on negotiations.
"No news yet, no news yet," Juszczyk simply said.
2016 Rookie Class Grades For Entire AFC North
As the league ramps up to select a new crop of rookies for the 2017 season, NFL.com is grading all 32 teams' draft classes from last year.
Conor Orr reviewed the AFC North, and gave the Ravens the second-best grade behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here's his explanation for each divisional team's grade:
Pittsburgh Steelers: B"Each of Pittsburgh's first three picks played moderate to significant snaps in 2016 and performed at a level above rookie expectations. Cornerback Artie Burns was tied for the team lead in picks (three), was second in passes defensed (13) and was fifth in tackles. Sean Davis played more than any other safety, save for Mike Mitchell, was fourth on the team in tackles and added 1.5 sacks, five broken up passes and an interception. As for third-rounder Javon Hargrave, he started 13 games, logged a pair of sacks and recovered a fumble in the end zone. There are teams that go an entire draft and don't get this level of production out of one player, so it was encouraging to see Pittsburgh bolster its recovering defense so quickly." Baltimore Ravens: B-minus"A mix of good and bad, this Ravens draft class was about reenergizing their proud defense, and on some levels, they managed to succeed. I was particularly high on Tavon Young and Kamalei Correa coming out, which motivated me to write this story, but only Young really grabbed the bull by the horns. … For a team desperate to find cornerback help, this pick was a godsend. First-rounder Ronnie Stanley was good, and a no-complaints tackle on Day 1 was exactly what Baltimore was hoping for. Fourth-round pick Kenneth Dixon also stood out and should be a good-to-very-good third-down back again this year, as he was down the stretch in Baltimore. While this draft may have failed to produce a game-changing weapon for QB Joe Flacco, it had a foundational feel, assuming Correa can come out of his shell and win an inside linebacker spot this summer."
Cleveland Browns: C"The next five years for this franchise will be determined by its ability (or inability) to secure a foundation in 2016 and 2017. After one year of one draft class, the results were largely mixed. The Browns focused on intelligence and production in the draft this past year, securing hungry players who could come in with a chip on their shoulder and contribute right away. Some, like first-round pick Corey Coleman, second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah, third-round pick Carl Nassib and fourth-round pick Derrick Kindred, simply had to, given the lack of talent on the roster when new head coach Hue Jackson arrived."
Cincinnati Bengals: C-minus"First-round pick William Jackson had to go under the knife during training camp and, because of a long line of injured players, did not get selected to return off injured reserve. That, I feel, leaves this draft grade as incomplete. The team could very well lose Dre Kirkpatrick this offseason, giving Jackson a chance to show off his skills. Tyler Boyd had a good rookie season with 54 catches for 603 yards and a touchdown, but the rest of the class fell largely silent. This was a veteran-laden Bengals team that was stocked with good players from previous Marvin Lewis drafts, so it's hard to knock him too much when we won't know the full extent of their talent for years to come."
Four League News Pieces That Could Affect Ravens And Free-Agent Market
As we await any potential Ravens free-agent moves, there were four news items from across the league that could inadvertently affect Baltimore and the free-agent market.
1) The Miami Dolphins released three players yesterday, including defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The highest-profile cut was Williams, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. The 32-year-old pass rusher recorded just 1.5 sacks last season and would've cost Miami $10.5 million in 2017. "It's fair to wonder where Williams goes from here," wrote NFL.com's Marc Sessler. "After flaming out in Miami and Buffalo, the edge rusher feels destined for a one-year pact with a team willing to take a chance on a player who operated as a headache in Buffalo in 2015 before vanishing in Miami last season."
2) New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was reportedly charged Thursday with four felonies after an alleged altercation that took place in Pittsburgh early Sunday morning. His attorney said they are working out the details of Revis turning himself into law enforcement. This comes after a down season for the 31-year-old veteran, who was already speculated to become a cap casualty because of his $15.3 million cap hit next year.
3) The Cleveland Browns are not planning on using the franchise tag on top receiver Terrelle Pryor, according to TheMMQB.com's Albert Breer. That could leave him vulnerable to be plucked by another team in free agency, but Breer says Cleveland's goal is to still get a long-term deal done. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Pryor has "instructed" his agent to get a deal done with the Browns because he wants to stay. Whether Pryor stays or goes will have an impact on the Ravens as they play Cleveland twice a year.
4) If Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert gets his way, the Ravens will have to defend wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell for a long, long time. Colbert told the Pittsburgh media that he'd like to see both offensive playmakers retire as Steelers. He added that the team is in active contract talks with Brown, and the Steelers will not rule out using the franchise tag on Bell as a way to work on a long-term deal.