Late for Work 2/19: Franchise Tag C.J. Mosley? Analysts Are Torn

021919_LFW

Franchise Tag C.J. Mosley? One Analyst Thinks Yes

The window for teams to place the franchise tag on one of their players opens today, which is creating a lot of debate about who will be tagged and who will not.

The Ravens have a potential candidate this year in linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is now less than a month away from unrestricted free agency.

Mosley, as we all know, is a fantastic player who has gone to four Pro Bowls in five years, but there’s a lot of debate about whether signing him to a lucrative long-term deal makes the most sense.

So, will Baltimore apply the tag for one more (very expensive) year and re-evaluate in 2020?

New General Manager Eric DeCosta said “everything is on the table right now,” leaving the possibility open when he spoke about it last month.

However, most analysts don’t believe it will happen because the cost is prohibitive.

Inside linebackers are grouped together with outside linebackers, aka more expensive pass rushers, for the sake of the franchise tag. It’s projected to be $15 million this year. That’s significantly higher than the highest-paid inside linebackers in the game, and more than Mosley would get, on average, in a long-term deal.

“[Mosley] remains one of the best inside linebackers in the game. stacking up contractually with the top names at the position,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr.

“Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Alec Ogletree, Eric Kendricks and Benardrick McKinney all make between $10-$12.3 million per year. The tag is substantially higher than that amount, which means it’s probably not a realistic option especially since the Ravens’ scheme isn’t changing and they’re aware of his long-term fit.”

ESPN said, “it’s just not very practical.”

“The Ravens won't put the franchise tag on Mosley, but they will end up retaining him in free agency,” ESPN predicted. “All sides are optimistic about getting a deal done.”

Then there were opinions that ranged somewhere in the middle. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora put the chances of Mosley getting the tag at “moderate.”

“He has significant appeal within their front office … But this team has a history of always finding young and cheap linebackers and has a bevy of position groups to try to address this offseason with youngster Lamar Jackson now the QB,” La Canfora wrote.

“They are pushing to get an extension done, though it is hard to see Mosley not hitting the market at this point. A tag of over $15M for a run-stuffing LB who doesn't get to the QB and does not shine in coverage is super steep.”

(By the way, it’s also eyebrow-raising that La Canfora believes Mosley will reach the open market. To me, it still seems too early to jump to that conclusion, as deadlines often spur action.)

The one analyst who leaned most closely toward Mosley being tagged was NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, who put Mosley in the “I’m leaning that, yes, they will [tag him]” category.

“Eric DeCosta has made keeping Mosley a priority,” Rosenthal wrote. “That may have to include using the franchise tag despite the pricey $[15] million sticker shock for an inside linebacker. The Ravens and Mosley might be the most likely pair on this entire list to strike a deal before the tag is even necessary because it should ultimately save Baltimore cap room.”

The Ravens have used the franchise tag eight times in franchise history, most recently in 2016 with kicker Justin Tucker. With Tucker, running back Ray Rice (2012) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), it led to them doing long-term deals that same offseason.

“Recent history suggests Baltimore won’t use the franchise tag as a temporary fix,” Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote. “In the past, when the team pulled out that tool, it did so with the idea of keeping a prominent player in Charm City for several years instead of one.”

So, if you see the Ravens use the franchise tag between now and March 5, it doesn’t necessarily mean Mosley will be in Baltimore for just one more year.

“DeCosta could opt to use the franchise tag on Mosley, but that would mean earmarking more than $15 million of cap space on the veteran. That’s not ideal for a team with myriad needs, although that would buy the team and the player some time to work out a deal,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote.

“Either way, the clock is ticking. The Ravens understand that their chances of keeping Mosley drop significantly if he reaches the open market.”

Mel Kiper’s Latest Mock Draft Pick Is the Top Running Back

We don’t highlight every single mock draft out there (because there are probably hundreds), but when the heavy hitters release theirs, it deserves some attention.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his second mock draft yesterday, and he has the Ravens selecting top running back Josh Jacobs out of Alabama.

“Finally, a running back off the board. And new GM Eric DeCosta could go right back to Alabama, from where former GM Ozzie Newsome loved to mine prospects,” Kiper wrote.

“Jacobs is a complete player and the most explosive back in this draft. He didn't get a ton of touches in a talented Crimson Tide rotation, which means he has little tread on his tires. How's this for a stat: Jacobs had 300 touches over three college seasons. Derrick Henry, who won the Heisman Trophy at Bama, had 406 touches in the 2015 season. There's a lot to like about Jacobs, who has also shown nice hands in the passing game. Check out this catch and run.”

Jacobs stands in at 5-foot-10, 216 pounds, but plays a lot bigger than his size. He could add a physical, game-breaking dimension to Baltimore’s already dangerous ground attack.

New Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman told “The Lounge” podcast last week that the Ravens are always looking for an elite running back.

“If the Ravens truly want to be a team predicated on the run, they need to use their assets to acquire a top-tier running back,” wrote 105.7 The Fan’s Joe Schiller. “Jacobs could be that missing piece.”

His college production is a double-edged sword. Jacobs doesn’t have the eye-popping numbers one would expect from a top prospect (640 rushing yards, 247 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns last year), yet that means he also doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his frame.

Just to keep track, Kiper’s first mock draft pick for the Ravens, which he made a month ago, was Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown.

DeCosta May Look for More Trades to Get Picks

As discussed in yesterday’s LFW, DeCosta’s ability to reportedly get a fourth-round draft pick from trading Flacco, in this year’s quarterback market, is being applauded.

“DeCosta, though, certainly doesn’t have time to exhale,” wrote The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.

At the top of Zrebiec’s to-do list is keeping Mosley from hitting the open market, as discussed above.

Zrebiec continued to talk about pending salary-cap cuts, potentially including safety Eric Weddle, cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

Then there’s retaining other pending free agents not named Mosley, potentially including outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, quarterback Robert Griffin III, wide receiver John Brown, tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams and defensive end Brent Urban.

Lastly, and this is one that not many people have talked about, is trying to acquire more draft picks.

If the reported Flacco trade becomes official, the Ravens will likely have eight picks in 2019. They got a reported fourth-rounder for Flacco, a sixth-rounder for Kamalei Correa and are expected to get a third-round compensatory pick for losing Ryan Jensen last offseason.

“DeCosta calls the draft the lifeblood of the Ravens’ organization. He’s always eyeing opportunities to collect more picks, whether that’s before the draft or during it by trading back,” Zrebiec wrote.

“A big baseball fan, DeCosta is apt of using the analogy that the more swings you get, the better chance you have of connecting. This will be DeCosta’s first draft while in charge, so he surely wants to have as many picks as possible.”

The Ravens don’t have a second-round pick after dealing it to the Philadelphia Eagles last year to move up and get Jackson. They would surely love to recoup a pick in that round.

“If the Ravens have decided to move on from Jimmy Smith, perhaps they could get a draft pick in return. Smith would immediately become one of the top corners available if he hit the open market,” Zrebiec wrote. “It’s also not impossible that they could trade a player from a position that they have depth at, like they did two offseasons ago with the Timmy Jernigan deal.”

Quick Hits

  • Did former Ravens cornerback/safety Lardarius Webb officially retire yesterday? If so, he had one heck of a ride in Baltimore. A third-round pick in 2009, Webb played nine seasons in purple, notching 400 career tackles and 15 interceptions. He was released last March and didn’t suit up anywhere else last season.

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