Freed Up Money Creates Big Opportunities
That's one way to describe the expected announcement of a long-term deal between the Ravens and their longest-tenured player, Terrell Suggs.
The anticipated deal makes sense for both sides.
For Suggs, he has a good chance of retiring a Raven and avoids hitting the free agent market as a 31-year-old pass rusher. The deal will add at least three years to his contract on top of the one remaining, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
For the Ravens, they will free up a significant amount of money that gives them a better chance of retaining pending free agents. Suggs was reportedly scheduled to make $12.4 million. The Sun's Mike Preston predicted the team could save $5 to $6 million, boosting the salary cap space to about $17 to $18 million.
"In the end, Suggs realized he wasn't going to make more money elsewhere and the Ravens understood they weren't going to get a pass-rusher like Suggs at a lower price," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "It was a smart move for the Ravens and Suggs. The Ravens know they're not getting the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but Suggs is still a quality defender who can rush the passer and set the edge against the run."
The Suggs extension could create a domino effect.
With the extra cash, the Ravens can shift their focus to several other pending free agents:
1) Left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta
The two are regarded as the Ravens' top free agents to re-sign before free agency opens in March. Both are candidates for the franchise tag, and both could get long-term deals. The Ravens gave up two draft picks in a trade for Monroe in the early part of last season.
2) Linebacker Daryl Smith
"Daryl Smith was the Ravens' best inside linebacker last season, which makes him an important piece of the team’s offseason puzzle," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown. "Smith will command more than the one-year, $1.125 million base salary he agreed to with the Ravens in 2013. After the season, Smith said he wanted to return. But money talks. Smith will draw interest from teams that need help at inside linebacker, with the Broncos and Titans being two of his potential suitors."
3) Compete for defensive tackle Art Jones
"In his four years in Baltimore, Jones worked his butt off and exceeded expectations every season. A self-made standout player, Jones was one of the team's best defenders in 2013 and stands to cash in on the open market," wrote The Sun's Matt Vensel. "If they could afford it, though, it would behoove the Ravens to bring him back because he is an asset."
4) Re-sign cornerback Corey Graham
The Ravens expressed a desire to bring back Graham, who has been a steady player at nickel cornerback. With Graham back in the mix, the cornerback position would have the most continuity on the team. "Plus, it will be harder to replace what he brings to the table, and I'm not sure Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson is up to that task," wrote Vensel.
5) Tender restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents.
The Ravens have eight restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents, and they may want to tender them all. That list includes wide receiver Tandon Doss, linebacker Albert McClellan and safety Omar Brown.* *
6) New deal for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata?
La Canfora noted that a new deal for Ngata could be on the table because of his cap hit next year. Added Hensley: "Ngata should pay attention to the Suggs extension. He has a $16 million salary cap number in 2014 and is entering the next-to-last year in his contract. If the Ravens don't approach him with the same type of deal this year, Ngata can expect the team to do so next year."
7) What about wide receiver Jacoby Jones and tackle Michael Oher?
"Right now, returner/specialist Jacoby Jones would be a luxury item, not worth the $4 million he made last season," wrote Preston. "And what about right offensive tackle Michael Oher? He isn't a priority, and probably [has] seen his last days in Baltimore."
Will Family Lure Jones To Patriots?
Perhaps the New England Patriots will be one of the obstacles to accomplishing item No. 3.
Jones is expected to follow former Ravens defensive standouts like Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, who got big pay days on the open market last year.
Brown wonders if family, in addition to money, could lure Jones away from Baltimore to one of its biggest rivals. Art's younger brother, Chandler, is one of the Patriots' starting defensive ends.
"Having a chance to play with Chandler, on a perennial AFC contender, for more money? All of that may be too much for Jones to resist," Brown wrote. "Even if the Ravens make a competitive offer, Jones will have a tough decision to make, especially if the Patriots are in the picture. Jones is 27 years old, and this is his time to cash in."
Coin Flip Shouldn't Keep Ravens From Good Player
The Ravens are finally close to knowing exactly which draft pick they will get in May.
The league will flip a coin at the NFL Scouting Combine this week to determine the Ravens and Cowboys' draft order because the two teams ended the season with 8-8 records and identical opponents winning percentage (.484).
The Ravens will either land the No. 16 or 17 draft spot.
Either way, they should be able to get a good player, says Brown.
"Recent history suggests the Ravens will find a player to help them at either spot, particularly if they choose an offensive lineman," he wrote.
Brown listed the players taken at each spot in the last five drafts:
No. 16: QB E. J. Manuel, Bills
No. 17: LB Jarvis Jones, Steelers
201216: LB Quinton Coples, Jets
17: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengals
201116: LB Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins* *17: OT Nate Solder, Patriots
201016: Derrick Morgan, Titans* *17: Mike Iupati, 49ers
200916: DE Larry English, Chargers* *17: QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
How Close Are Mock Drafts To Getting It Right?
Just about everyone loves a good mock draft, especially when it comes from a respected draft guru like ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.
But how have the two fared in recent drafts compared to who the Ravens actually selected?
Hensley looked back to see the success rate of Kiper and McShay and noted his own predictions too.
It would only be fair to throw out 2010 and 2012 because General Manager Ozzie Newsome traded out of the first round.
Ravens pick: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
Kiper pick: UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers (went in second round to Titans)
McShay pick: Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn (went in first round to the Buccaneers)
Hensley pick: Smith
2013Ravens pick: Florida safety Matt Elam
Kiper pick: LSU linebacker Kevin Minter (went in second round to the Cardinals)
McShay pick: Elam
Hensley pick: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (went in second round to Chargers)
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