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Late for Work 2/4: Five Free Agents the Ravens Should Not Overlook

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy & Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe.
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy & Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe.

Five Free Agents the Ravens Should Not Overlook

A week ago in Late for Work, we discussed five "dream players" for the Ravens to pursue in free agency. Today, the focus is on free agents who aren't in the top tier but shouldn't be overlooked by the Ravens.

Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler identified five such players, none of whom made’s list of top 25 free agents.

While big-name edge rushers such as Jadeveon Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue are frequently mentioned as free agents the Ravens should go after, Schisler named two free agents who could boost Baltimore's interior pass rush: Gerald McCoy and Derek Wolfe.

McCoy, of course, is a name quite familiar to Ravens fans. The six-time Pro Bowl selection reportedly was very close to signing with the Ravens last year before the Carolina Panthers "wowed him" on his visit.

The Ravens reportedly offered McCoy twice as much money as the Panthers, who signed the veteran defensive tackle to a one-year deal worth a reported $8 million with just $4 million guaranteed. It was believed one of the deciding factors in McCoy signing with Carolina is that it gave him the opportunity to stay in the NFC South and play his former team -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- twice.

"McCoy would have made a huge difference for the Baltimore defense in 2019," Schisler wrote. "A defensive line that desperately needed interior pass rush, would have gotten just that in McCoy. … If there was mutual interest a year ago, don't be surprised if it's still there. McCoy may be 31 years old, but after a productive season it looks like he has more good football left in him."

McCoy, who turns 32 later this month, recorded five sacks this season, the fewest he's had since 2012.

Wolfe, who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Denver Broncos, had a career-high seven sacks this season despite missing four games.

"He's an explosive defensive end, who is multidimensional," Schisler wrote of Wolfe, who turns 30 later this month. "You are getting a space eater and a pass rusher with a big 6-5 frame. Bringing in a player like Wolfe will make the Ravens' defensive front more complete and more prepared against pass-happy teams.

"Wolfe could also provide a few solid years for Baltimore. Wolfe probably won't set the market at defensive end. He should be a little more expensive than McCoy; however, it's a deal that probably has more upside."

Inside linebacker A.J. Klein, a seven-year veteran who spent the past three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, also made Schisler's list.

"Inside linebacker is one of the Ravens biggest needs," Schisler wrote. "Signing A.J. Klein would be a lot like signing Daryl Smith in 2013. The Ravens would be filling a need with a veteran linebacker, and they would potentially be getting a leader for the defense."

Turning to the offensive side of the ball, Baltimore fans undoubtedly would love to see Amari Cooper or Ravens-killer A.J. Green in purple and black next season, but Geronimo Allison would be a viable, less expensive option.

Allison, 26, had 34 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers this season. He got off to a promising start in 2018, catching 19 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a concussion in Week 4. A groin injury limited him to just one more game that season.

"He's a young player who is starting to get things to click," Schisler wrote. "He hasn't had a monster season yet, and it looks like that could be on the way. He's got the talent and he made some flashy plays for the Green Bay Packers to prove it. The important thing to remember here is that Allison has a lot of untapped potential. … He's a 6-3 target with above average speed. He's worth taking a shot on in free agency at the right price."

Even though the Ravens appear set at running back with Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, Schisler wrote that Kenyan Drake would be a valuable addition.

After being traded to the Arizona Cardinals from the Miami Dolphins at midseason, the 26-year-old Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games.

"Drake has quietly become one of the most explosive weapons in the backfield," Schisler wrote. "The Ravens just broke a single-season record for rushing yards. The combination of Drake and Ingram would be almost unfair. The Ravens would also be able to use Drake in the passing game the same way that they do with Ingram. This would make their play-calling less predictable by who is in the backfield."

Lamar Jackson Will Be Even More Valuable Next Season

Lamar Jackson was a unanimous choice for NFL MVP, but he will be even more valuable to the Ravens next season -- fiscally speaking, that is.

Jackson's salary-cap hit of $2.58 million in 2020 currently ranks 31st among NFL quarterbacks, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

"Why is that relevant? It pays to have a great but cheaper quarterback in the NFL, a trend that was underscored by Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes' triumph in Sunday's Super Bowl," Hensley wrote. "Including Mahomes, eight of the past 10 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks have ranked outside the top 10 in quarterback cap hit, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Over the past decade, there have been more Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks outside the top 20 (three) than inside the top 10 (two)."

The cap hit for Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP, ranked 31st among quarterbacks this season.

"This past offseason, Kansas City probably couldn't have traded for pass-rusher Frank Clark, who harassed [San Francisco 49ers quarterback] Jimmy Garoppolo throughout the second half of the Super Bowl, and signed him to a $104 million contract if Mahomes was on a megadeal," Hensley wrote.

With Jackson still on his rookie deal, the Ravens are able to bring back the majority of their starters from this season's 14-2 team and add some additional pieces in the coming offseason.

"Certainly, it enhances your window from a standpoint that you could become aggressive at other positions," ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum told The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer. "It keeps your window open because there's such a substantial savings, so teams like Kansas City and Baltimore right now can sign other players that, a year or two down the road, they won't be able to."

Baltimore's Previous NFL MVP Is a Lamar Fan

Before Jackson, the last Baltimore player to be named NFL MVP was Bert Jones, who won the award with the Colts back in 1976.

Count Jones, 68, among Jackson's many fans.

"Tell Lamar he's a truly fabulous player, from an old broken-down quarterback in Louisiana," Jones told The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Klingaman.

"I'm thoroughly impressed," said Jones, who the Colts selected second overall out of LSU in 1973. "He carried [the Ravens] on his shoulders. If anyone is deserving of [the award], it's Lamar. He's a lot better player than me and I wish him well, though I'd encourage him to be more cautious; I worry about him getting hit all the time."

The year Jones won the award, he led the Colts (11-3) to the AFC East title, but the team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second year in a row. The previous year, Jones guided the Colts to nine straight wins to end the regular season before going one-and-done in the postseason.

Like Jackson, who is 0-2 in playoff games, Jones said he would gladly have traded his individual honor for a Lombardi Trophy.

"In a heartbeat," Jones said.

Teenaged Mahomes Picked Against Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII

It was seven years ago yesterday that the Ravens won their second Super Bowl, holding on to defeat the 49ers, 34-31.

Mahomes, a high school senior at the time, proved to be a much better athlete than prognosticator. Video has surfaced of Mahomes picking the 49ers -- the team he would go on to beat in this year's Super Bowl -- to prevail over the Ravens.

"I love the Ravens, but I've got to take the 49ers just because I feel like they have the defense and I think their offense will produce a little bit more," a 17-year-old Mahomes told a local Texas TV station.

On a side note regarding Mahomes, when he was asked after the Chief's Super Bowl victory if he considered himself the face of the NFL, he was quick to point out that Jackson also is in that discussion.

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