Ravens Working on Free Agency, Trade Market, Salary Cap This Week
The NFL Scouting Combine is so much more than analyzing draft prospects.
Obviously, that's a huge part and will have a major impact on the Ravens' final draft board. But while the bright lights and cameras will focus on the best talent that college football has to offer, there will also be a bunch of business conducted behind the scenes.
And the work will be significant in shaping the 2018 season.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec looks a several other major developments to watch this week.
1) Should they stay or should they go? Working on their own free agents.
Michael Campanaro, Crockett Gillmore, James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Ryan Mallett, Brent Urban, Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson and more are pending unrestricted free agents, and the Ravens have likely already determined who they want to pursue and at what cost. Now, they'll get a chance to talk to their agents at the Combine to get a gauge on the type of money they're looking for. Free agency is two weeks away, so now's the time to act fast.
Zrebiec: "[This group is] headed by Wallace and Jensen. The Ravens have some interest in retaining both, but it's unlikely something gets done on either this week. It, however, wouldn't be shocking if the Ravens are able to find common ground with a couple of their lesser-priced free agents, such as tight end-turned-offensive lineman Gillmore and Urban."
2) Who's available by trade and what will the free-agent market look like?
Teams can't strike deals with players from other teams until March 14; the "non-tampering" negotiating window begins on the 12th. So, the Ravens won't talk specifically with agents about veterans from around the league, but they can get a general idea about how the market will look. They can start talking with teams about trades. Reports indicate the Miami Dolphins will be open for business and listening to trade offers for wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Zrebiec says the Ravens "figure to be involved depending on the asking price."
Zrebiec: "The Ravens won't have an abundance of salary cap space, but they should have enough flexibility to be active on a couple of fronts in free agency as they try to add a few offensive playmakers to a roster that doesn't have nearly enough of them. The Ravens are expected to be involved in what is an underwhelming receiver market beyond the Jacksonville Jaguars' Allen Robinson and the Los Angeles Rams' Sammy Watkins, who are both candidates for a franchise tag. They have to be intrigued by the potential availability of Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham."
3) Creating Salary-Cap Space
We already know the Ravens plan on restructuring contracts of some veterans such as defensive tackle Brandon Williams, per Owner Steve Bisciotti. But they'll also release some more expensive veterans. Shortly after the Combine concludes next Monday, we'll start to find out who will be cut. At that point, the start of free agency will only be about a week away.
Those decisions will be affected by what the salary-cap limit will be. ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio reported it could exceed $179 million. If so, that's at least an $11 million raise over last year. The Ravens could stand to benefit from such an aggressive increase, as $11 million would essentially double the space they currently have.
Also, Baltimore will likely talk with linebacker C.J. Mosley's agent about a potential long-term deal. Mosley is already under contract for 2018 – the Ravens already exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract – but they could significantly lower his current $8.7 million cap hit on the books for the upcoming season.
Zrebiec: "The Ravens aren't in dire cap straits, but they'll need to start creating room relatively soon to bolster their roster this offseason. … They'll cut a few veterans, with running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and safety Lardarius Webb being oft-mentioned as potential candidates."
4) Rule Changes, Including Three Potentially Significant Ones
Zrebiec didn't have this on his list, but I'm inserting it.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a member of the competition committee, and the group is meeting this week to discuss some significant rule changes that will be officially voted on at owners' meetings later this offseason.
NFL.com's Judy Battista reports that among those on the table for review are A) clarifying the definition of a catch (somewhere Owner Steve Bisciotti is smiling after calling the current definition "stupid") B) changing the penalty for defensive pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty at most and C) implementing a "Josh McDaniels Rule," which is a proposed measure that would allow teams to hire coaches while their teams are playing in the playoffs.
With regard to the catch rule, Battista says the committee is considering eliminating the "going to the ground" element of the rule, which requires players to maintain control of the ball all the way through when they hit the ground. If that were changed, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant's infamous non-catch would have counted along with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jesse James' touchdown catch against the New England Patriots last season.
Reaction is already rolling in …
5) Newsome will meet with the media for the first time since the Ravens announced this will be his final year as general manager.
This is kind of a big deal, folks. Really big. The list of Ravens general managers is short: Newsome. He's been the man in charge for more than 20 years since the franchise came into existence in 1996. Newsome will address media Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. and we will live stream it here.
Zrebiec: "Newsome abhors talking about himself, but the questions about his future are unavoidable given his longevity and significance to both the franchise and the league. There's a lot more ground to cover as well about the Ravens' roster, their free-agent decisions and their recent subpar drafts."
Why Didn't Ravens Get in on Marcus Peters Trade for so Cheap?
Soon after NFL Network's Ian Rapoport announced what the L.A. Rams sent to the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters, jaws dropped to the floor.
The Rams only had to part ways with a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick for perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL. Fans from the other 30 teams probably had questions similar to this:
Well, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, every team, including the Ravens, had a chance at getting Peters.
"I'm told the Chiefs called all 31 other teams in the league this month on Peters, looking for a trade partner, and 28 teams either said they were not interested or did not make an offer of any value," King wrote. "For a player with the playing history of Peters at a vital and hard-to-fill position, that's amazing. One team made an offer of a mid-round pick, laughable for a player of Peters' age and stature. (My guess is that was Cleveland or Indianapolis.) Two were in it until the end—the Rams and 49ers. And the Rams' offer of second- and fourth-round picks was evidently better than San Francisco's."
Is Calvin Ridley 'Just' a Slot Receiver in the NFL?
While on a national conference call with reporters Monday, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says he believes receiver Calvin Ridley projects more as a slot receiver on the professional level.
That was surprising to some, as Ridley is the consensus top receiver in this year's draft class and those guys are usually projected to the outside and are capable of being a team's No. 1 receiver.
But if you ask Reggie Wayne, a six-time Pro Bowl receiver and Super Bowl champion, Ridley can absolutely play on the outside in the NFL and become a team's top receiver.