Late For Work 2/27: Adding Pro Bowler Nick Mangold Would Make Sense; Matt Elam's Future

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Adding Pro Bowler Nick Mangold Would Make Sense

The New York Jets announced another cap-saving move over the weekend by releasing 11-year veteran, and perhaps the best center of the past decade, Nick Mangold.

The seven-time Pro Bowler has spent his entire career with the Jets after they drafted him in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, but it doesn't look like New York will be his only destination.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Mangold, 33, has no plans to retire and will be a hot commodity during free agency. Mangold released a statement via Twitter saying, in part, "I look the forward to seeing what the future holds for me."

Ravens fans want to know whether it would make sense for that future to be in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec likes the idea, but only if Mangold is healthy.

Some are comparing Mangold to the Ravens' free-agent signing of center Matt Birk, who joined the Ravens at about the same age and with almost as many Pro Bowls as Mangold. He went on to anchor the Ravens offensive line for four seasons and retired after winning Super Bowl XLVII.

One difference between the two players is concern surrounding their health. Birk came to Baltimore after starting all 16 games during the previous three seasons, while Mangold missed the final eight games last year with an ankle injury. Prior to that, however, he built a reputation for durability by starting 160 of 164 regular-season games through 2015. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Mangold hasn't given up a sack in his last 33 games.

The Ravens already have veteran center Jeremy Zuttah under contract for the next two seasons, but some media have identified him as a potential release with a $4.6 million cap hit on the books for 2017. One of Baltimore's main priorities this offseason is to improve the offensive line.

The Ravens will have to decide whether they think Mangold would be an upgrade from the players already on the roster and/or if he could be signed for cheaper.

Zrebiec says Mangold adds an interesting option in a "poor free agent and draft market for centers," and signing him wouldn't preclude the Ravens from drafting another center to build for the future.

If Ravens brass is interested, other things will have to align, including salary, competition from other teams and where Mangold would prefer to land. But there's reason for the Ravens to at least look into the possibility of bringing him to the purple and black.

"I think the released Nick Mangold is going to be some team's solid rock at center over the next two seasons," wrote TheMMQB.com's Peter King. "He'll be able to pass physicals this spring, from what I hear, and, at 33, you don't want to plan your future at center around him.

"But for the short term, if he stays healthy, he could have an Alex Mack-type impact on a needy line (as Mack did in Atlanta in 2016)."

Does Matt Elam Have A Future In The NFL?

As the Ravens said in a statement Sunday, safety Matt Elam isn't in their plans for the 2017 season.

His arrest yesterday morning on drug charges isn't the reason for that decision. The team had already decided not to pick up Elam's fifth-year option on his rookie contract, making him a scheduled free agent in March. 

Elam had been working hard to overcome an injury-riddled career in Baltimore (missed all of 2015 with torn biceps and seven games in 2016 with a knee injury), but his arrest 11 days prior to the new league year won't help him strike a deal with a new team.

"Before the arrest, Elam was likely looking at having to sign a one-year, 'prove it' deal for close to the veteran minimum salary in free agency," wrote Zrebiec. "Now, his career is in definite jeopardy as he likely faces NFL discipline for a second time."

Elam served a one-game suspension in 2014 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and if a team wants to sign him for 2017, they'll do it knowing he likely won't be available for multiple games to start the season with another suspension.

The unfortunate incident has many discussing Elam's Ravens legacy after the team used the 32nd-overall pick to draft him in 2013.

"Elam … is officially the worst first-round pick in team history," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "His career in Baltimore can be summed up like this: He couldn't stay in the starting lineup. He couldn't stay healthy. He couldn't stay out of trouble.

"…There have been missteps from wide receiver Travis Taylor to quarterback Kyle Boller to wide receiver Mark Clayton. But at the very least, those players started more than 40 games and showed flashes of skill. Boller even outdueled Brett Favre on Monday Night Football once by throwing for three touchdowns."

Saying Goodbye To Entire 2013 Draft Class?

With Elam not returning to the Ravens next season, Zrebiec looks at how the entire 2013 draft class could come to an end in the next few months.

Elam will join Arthur Brown (second round), John Simon (fourth round), Kapron Lewis-Moore (sixth round), Aaron Mellette (seventh round) and Marc Anthony (seventh round) as players who have already left Baltimore.

There's also Brandon Williams (third round), Kyle Juszczyk (fourth round) and Rick Wagner (fifth round), who are all pending unrestricted free agents. Finally, Ryan Jensen (sixth round) is a restricted free agent. The Ravens must re-sign at least one to retain somebody from the 10-man draft class.

"Disgruntled Ravens' fans often cite the team's 2013 draft class as proof that General Manager Ozzie Newsome has lost his touch," wrote Zrebiec. "He couldn't have missed any more with his two first picks, as Elam and Brown contributed as little as any early draft picks in Ravens' history. However, in rounds three through five, Newsome found three of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions in Williams, Juszczyk and Wagner.

"In my opinion, the bigger issue than the mixed 2013 draft production is the early-round misses from 2013-2015. Elam, Brown, Terrance Brooks (third round, 2014), Breshad Perriman (first round, 2015), Maxx Williams (second round, 2015) and [Carl] Davis (third round, 2015) all qualify, though a few of them still have a chance to do something about it." 

Correlating Compensatory Picks With Super Bowl Wins

For the first time since 2010, the Ravens will not have multiple compensatory picks in the draft. But they did get a significant third-rounder after losing offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele to the Oakland Raiders in free agency last season.

Overall, the Ravens still lead the entire league with the most compensatory picks (48) since the system was instituted 24 years ago.

"[C]ompensatory picks have turned out to reward smart teams," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith. "The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the ones that keep getting lots of compensatory picks, while the teams that overspend in free agency are the ones that don't receive compensatory picks."

The MMQB's Peter King looked at the teams with the most comp picks over the years, and correlated them to Super Bowl wins.

  1. Baltimore: 48 comp picks; 2 Super Bowls
  1. Green Bay: 38 comp picks; 2 Super Bowls
  1. Dallas: 37 comp picks; 1 Super Bowl
  1. New England: 34 comp picks; 5 Super Bowls
  1. St. Louis/L.A. Rams: 33 comp picks; 1 Super Bowl

"Maybe [their] success … is a coincidence," King wrote. "But I doubt it."

The Ravens uncharacteristically signed more free agents than usual last season, adding safety Eric Weddle and tight end Benjamin Watson. Weddle made a huge impact on defense as an immediate leader, but Watson never suited up after tearing his Achilles in the preseason.

Was the addition of Watson worth cancelling out one of the losses of outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and quarterback Matt Schaub, who both signed with the Falcons?

Some have criticized the Ravens for letting so many of their ascending players leave, like Osemele.

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