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Late for Work 2/26: Pump the Brakes on Ravens' Flexibility Following Michael Crabtree Release


'Pump the Brakes' on Salary Cap Flexibility Following Crabtree Release

The Ravens are expected to have increased cap flexibility this offseason and that projection grew bigger Monday following the release of veteran wideout Michael Crabtree.

The move will reportedly save the Ravens $4.7 million in salary cap space this year, while taking on the same amount in dead money.

If Joe Flacco's reported trade becomes finalized on March 13, it's expected to bring another $10.5 million in cap savings.

The magic number in estimated cap space is between $34 million and $35 million, which seems like uncharted territory for the Ravens.

Time to be excited, right? Not so fast.

Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland cautioned fans to halt their excitement for now.

While the Ravens are in a better position compared to recent years, as McFarland noted, there's still plenty of work to be done.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec furthered that notion.

"When you take into account the Flacco and Crabtree moves, the Ravens would have approximately $35 million of cap space," said Zrebiec. "Will that be enough to accomplish everything they'll have to do this offseason?

"Those tasks include re-signing a few of their own free agents, filling a couple of holes with outside free agents, tendering restricted and exclusive rights free agents, paying draft picks, potentially extending a few other young players like they did with Young and carrying over enough cap space to maintain flexibility into the regular season."

The Ravens could turn to their internal options, but they'll also likely need to sign and/or draft another wide receiver.

General Manager Eric DeCosta has continually stressed the importance of the Ravens taking care of their own and that starts with the upcoming free agency period.

The NFL announced that the salary cap is expected to land in the range of $187 million to $191.1 million per team. That would be at least a $15 million increase from 2018's number ($177.2 million).

Looming decisions on veterans Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle could potentially add another $17 million in cap space this offseason.

"[The extra cap space] doesn't necessarily mean that the Ravens are set on keeping Smith and his soon-to-be team-high $16.1 million salary cap hit for 2019," Zrebiec wrote.

"Smith, the talented but injury-prone 30-year-old cornerback, represents one of DeCosta's toughest calls. In a perfect world, the Ravens would keep Smith and benefit from quality cornerback depth. … However, Smith's salary ($9.5 million), age (30) and injury history has invited speculation that he could be a guy the Ravens move on from in their efforts to get younger and create cap space."

In regards to Smith, Zrebiec believes the Ravens could do nothing, cut him, trade him (potentially for a mid-round pick), extend his contract, propose a pay cut or just wait. What the Ravens choose to do with Smith (and Weddle) will have a large bearing on the rest of their cap situation.

Still, the Ravens are far from competing with top teams like the Colts ($107.7 million), Jets ($96.5 million), Browns ($79.3 million) and Bills ($79.1 million) in terms of cap space.

But those same teams rank among the league leaders in dead money over the past three years, while the Ravens seem to be in good shape.

Brandon Williams Among Top Pre-Draft Viral Sensations

The NFL's top draft prospects will take center stage this week at the NFL Combine. And for small school players hoping to stand out, sometimes they have to get creative.

Just ask Brandon Williams.

Before he gained prowess as one of the league's top defensive linemen, Williams was a rather unknown product out of Division-II Missouri Southern, but with a unique talent.

He could perform a walking handstand at 335 pounds, which landed him among MMQB’s best pre-draft viral videos.

Trust me, even if you've seen this before, it's worth another watch.

It all started with a video from defensive backs coach Rashad Watson and quickly became Williams' signature stunt every time a scout came to visit.

"It was just natural to show them, because I'm like, man, this guy is 335 pounds and look how athletic he is," Watson told the MMQB’s Kayln Kahler. "We didn't know really where Brandon would go [in the draft], or even if he would get a shot. But we said, let's just pump anything that we can about him out there."

"That was the X-factor for me," said Williams. "It showed other teams and everyone around the NFL how athletic I really was, even though I was coming from a Division-II school."

Williams has proven to be more than just a viral sensation. He's started all 16 games for the Ravens three of the last four seasons, earning his first Pro Bowl nod this year. Williams helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed 82.9 rushing yards per game in 2018 (fourth best in the NFL).

While watching Tarik Cohen catching passes mid-back flip is impressive, we'll take the big guy and the handstands.

Joe Flacco Could Play in Familiar Offense With Broncos

Joe Flacco is expected to be sporting a new uniform next season in the Mile High City, and John Elway and co. will want to maximize all of the production they can from the 34-year-old quarterback.

That means bringing in familiarity while hoping to replicate his best numbers.

"That new offense should look like an old one to Flacco. It'll largely be the play-action and run-heavy offense Gary Kubiak ran in Baltimore as Flacco's offensive coordinator in 2014," wrote ESPN's Jeff Legwold.

It's been well noted that Flacco's best season undoubtedly came under Kubiak's reign. Flacco tossed a career-high 27 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions and had 3,986 passing yards.

His 7.2 average yards per attempt were tied for the second-highest mark in his career, a number that could benefit the Broncos' passing attack in higher altitude.

"Elway has said he wants to see play-action in the Broncos' offense and a quarterback willing to push the ball down the field," Legwold added. "With Case Keenum playing every snap but one this past season, the Broncos were one of nine teams in the NFL that averaged fewer than 6 yards per attempt, and three of those nine teams started rookie quarterbacks."

Continuity will be key, as the Broncos are hitting the reset button on their offense yet again with a new quarterback and a first-year offensive coordinator in Rich Scangarello.

Quick Hits

  • Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens compared Lamar Jackson’s rookie season to other mobile quarterbacks of the past: Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair and Cam Newton. "Jackson is the second-best quarterback behind Newton in this comparison," Stevens wrote. "Only Newton started his full rookie season, skewing the numbers in his favor more than they actually average out to."

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