Maybe Ozzie Newsome Wasn't Bluffing About Joe Flacco Contract
After agent Joe Linta said Wednesday that he hasn’t spoken with the Ravens about a contract restructure for Joe Flacco, some started to think General Manager Ozzie Newsome wasn't bluffing after all.
At last month's end-of-season press conference, Newsome said the team might be able to live with Flacco's $28.55 million cap hit if the team was strategic enough.
"The Ravens do things on their own timetable and they essentially won't need significant cap flexibility until free agency begins on March 9, but the fact they haven't approached Linta yet suggests Newsome's comments last month may not have just been lip service," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
We'll get a much clearer gauge after the NFL Scouting Combine next week. In addition to highlighting the nation's top college prospects, the combine also provides an opportunity for agents and front office executives to negotiate current players' contracts.
In fact, that's exactly where Linta and Ravens Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty reportedly conducted their first meeting after Flacco was named Super Bowl XLVII MVP three years ago.
Guess how long it took to hammer out the then-record $120 million deal?
Does Linta expect a similar process with the Ravens next week at the combine?
"We might do that," Linta told Zrebiec. "Ozzie has been on record saying that they don't need to do anything. We talked about it back then. I don't think they really need to do anything. I think everything is fine as is. But that's really not for Joe to decide.
"Joe has a contract and he's happy with it. I'm not saying that we wouldn't talk to them to help them out if possible. We'd be happy to try and help. But it's not a big deal right now."
ESPN's Jamison Hensley says there are 9 million reasons for Baltimore to approach Linta and hope the two sides can follow the same swift course.
Freeing up $9 million would do a world of good for the Ravens as they try to reload and rebound from their 5-11 season. It might not sound like much, but Baltimore could already be over the cap limit. Plus, Newsome is an accomplished bargain shopper who can find real value on the market with $9 million.
Hensley says the Ravens could cut three players – for example, defensive end Chris Canty, linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Kyle Arrington – and still come up $3 million short of what a Flacco restructure could create.
Hensley says "the pressure is on" Baltimore to convince Flacco to rework his deal. But I'm not sure it will take much prodding.
"Come on, I want to win," Flacco told WBAL 1090 Radio last month. "So I want to do everything we can to get something done."
Linta is open to it. Flacco is open to it. The conversation just needs to begin if that's what the Ravens want.
"If the Ravens can cut Flacco's cap number to $19 million – which is what Owner Steve Bisciotti once suggested last year – Baltimore can make a run at a much-needed veteran wide receiver, pass rusher, cornerback or left tackle," wrote Hensley. "If the Ravens and Flacco can't strike a new deal, Baltimore will be a spectator in free agency just a couple of months after finishing up its worst season under coach John Harbaugh."
Pitta, Former Ravens Make NFL's Worst Contracts List
With free agency approaching in less than a month and the Ravens trying to figure out how to create more cap space, Jason Fitzgerald of The Sporting News released his list of the worst contracts on the books for every NFL team.
It comes as no surprise that tight end Dennis Pitta, who still hasn’t given up on a comeback, was the choice for the Ravens. Pitta signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $32.5 million in February 2014. Pitta has only played in three games since then due to his second hip fracture and dislocation.
It's tough to criticize that contract, however, as Pitta had already returned from his first hip injury and looked to be 100 percent recovered.
There are other former Ravens who made the list after Newsome decided to let them walk and get bigger paydays elsewhere.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith's contract was named the worst for the San Francisco 49ers after the team signed him last March for five years and $40 million. He only produced 33 catches for 663 yards and four touchdowns as the 49ers worked through quarterback issues.
For the Chiefs, the worst contract is guard Ben Grubbs, who the Ravens drafted in 2007 and didn't sign to a second contract. The Chiefs traded for Grubbs from the Saints, and the two sides agreed to a new contract of two years for $10.1 million. He played in just seven games before being injured, and Fitzgerald says Grubbs may not be back next year.
For the Colts, defensive lineman Arthur Jones' five-year, $33 million contract was listed as the worst. Jones was a former Ravens fifth-round pick who developed and excelled in Baltimore, but was another that the Ravens wouldn't overpay. Fitzgerald called the signing for the Colts a "classic overreach."
Neither outside linebacker Paul Kruger (Browns) nor inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Saints) made the list, but they are two other Ravens that saw a decline in production after leaving Baltimore for big paydays.
This list is something to keep in mind as the Ravens may not be able to hold onto some of their key free agents this offseason, including guard Kelechi Osemele and outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. That's not to say they won't excel if they leave Baltimore. They could follow a similar successful path that quarterback Tyrod Taylor and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee found.
"But at the very least, it should serve as a buyer’s beware, and remind fans that very few of the big-money free agents that the Ravens have lost in recent years have performed up to their contracts elsewhere," wrote Zrebiec.
By the way, as we talk about salary-cap space, CBSSports.com's Joel Corry released a list of the five teams with** **the most cap room in 2016. With the Ravens potentially over the cap limit, it's mind-boggling to look at other teams with a crazy amount of space.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: $74.835 million in projected salary cap room
- Oakland Raiders: $65.428 million
- Chicago Bears: $59.653 million
- New York Giants: $56.15 million
- San Francisco 49ers: $50.216 million
DeForest Buckner Becoming Popular Baltimore Projection
A name you might want to start studying up on is Oregon defensive end Deforest Buckner. He's becoming a popular projection to the Ravens at No. 6.
NFL Network analyst and former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah is the latest to predict him to Baltimore in his second mock draft. Jeremiah switched to Buckner after he originally projected Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Ravens, but Jeremiah now has Ramsey going to the San Diego Chargers at No. 3.
The very athletic 6-foot-7, 281-pound Buckner is listed as the second-best overall player on Pro Football Focus' draft big board, only trailing Ohio State outside linebacker Joey Bosa.
"Similar to Bosa, Buckner was the most productive interior defensive lineman by a wide margin," wrote PFF's analysis team. "He's a playmaker against the run and able to get into the backfield as a pass rusher."
In other respected big boards, Buckner is consistently ranked in the top-10, including by ESPN's Mel Kiper (sixth overall) and Todd McShay (fourth overall).
The Ravens are already strong along the defensive line and have bigger needs at edge rusher, left tackle, wide receiver and cornerback.
But would it really surprise anyone if Newsome picked the best player available, regardless of need?