Tough Decisions Surround Jacoby Jones
The future of two deep-threat playmaking Ravens receivers is in doubt.
Could the Ravens afford to lose both Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith? It is a possibility.
Let's take a look at both situations, starting with Jones.
Jones re-signed with the Ravens last offseason after he was on his way to dinner with the New York Giants, but then told his cab driver to turn around and take him to the airport so he could go "home" to the Ravens.
He signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $12 million, but he had a down season in 2014 and fell behind Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken on the depth chart. Ravens brass are in Florida discussing the entire Ravens roster this week, and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec believes Jones' name could come up as a potential salary-cap casualty.
"The wide receiver and kick returner, is viewed as a potential offseason release, given his diminished role as a wide receiver during the 2014 season," Zrebiec wrote. "The question that the Ravens have to answer is whether Jones, who will turn 31 in July, is more a luxury at this point than a necessity."
Jones was ninth among Ravens receivers with 16 catches for 131 yards last season. He is considered one of the most electrifying returners in the game, averaging 30.6 yards per kickoff return, which was second-best in the league.
"Letting Jones go may make sense when you look at his drop on the wide receiver depth chart, but it's a little more complicated than that," Zrebiec wrote.
It's complicated because the Ravens have to balance their decision with Smith's future (more on that below), plus the financials are tricky.
Jones would still reportedly cost the Ravens $3.4 million against the salary cap if they cut him, so it would only be a savings of $750,000. The other option would be to designate him as a post-June 1 release, which would provide a much greater $2.5 million in cap space. The only problem is they wouldn't enjoy that money until his official cut in June, which wouldn't help when free agency opens in March.
"So, the Ravens' decision is every bit a performance one as a financial one, and it's not as simple as it appears given Jones' struggles this past season," Zrebiec wrote. "Is the modest salary cap savings worth losing one of the most electric return men in the NFL? … Can the Ravens afford to lose both Jones and pending free agent wide receiver Torrey Smith?
"Those are two questions the Ravens' top decision makers will have to answer."
Ravens Made $35M Offer To Smith Before 2014 Season
Smith is a pending unrestricted free agent, but he apparently could have gotten a long-term deal before his 2014 season even began.
At that time, the Ravens made a five-year, $35 million offer ($19 million guaranteed) to Smith, according to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
“$7M/yr is very fair," La Canfora said. "Smith started slow; finished strong. … Will be very interested to see how Torrey Smith would do in a limited WR market (once Dez, Demaryius, etc) are franchised."
In terms of average salary, $7 million a year would put him just outside the top 15 paid receivers in the league today, per the Spotrac.com numbers below.
Receiver Average Salary
1) Calvin Johnson $16,207,143
2) Larry Fitzgerald $16,142,857
3) Mike Wallace $12,000,000
4) Dwayne Bowe $11,200,000
5) Vincent Jackson $11,111,111
6) Percy Harvin $10,707,500
7) Brandon Marshall $10,000,000
8) Jordy Nelson $9,762,500
9) Andre Johnson $9,685,714
10) Greg Jennings $9,000,000
11) Victor Cruz $8,600,000
12) Pierre Garcon $8,500,000
13) Antonio Brown $8,392,000
14) Marques Colston $7,260,000
15) Stevie Johnson $7,250,000
Eric Decker $7,250,000
16) Golden Tate $6,200,000
Many of the receivers on this list are considered true No. 1 receivers, which depending on the pundit you talk with, is a question mark for Torrey Smith. CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown weighed Smith's pros and cons.
"Pros: Still only 26 years old, Smith has caught 213 passes for 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns during his four-year Ravens career. There's legitimate reason to believe his best football is yet to come, and he's another quality locker room presence who wants to stay with Ravens," Brown wrote.
"Cons: Despite scoring 11 touchdowns in 2014, his catches (49) and receiving yards (767) dropped in 2014. If Smith isn’t going to be a No. 1 receiver, it may be better to part ways with him now, and acquire someone more consistent."
Hensley: Cody One of 2010 Draft Misses
Looking back on the Ravens'2010 draft is haunting.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant was close to falling to Baltimore at No. 25, but the Dallas Cowboys traded up to No. 24 and grabbed him. Receiver Demaryius Thomas was selected at No. 22. Tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn't on the Ravens draft board because of medical concerns, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
With all the stars off the board, the Ravens traded back (with the Broncos, who got Tim Tebow), to recoup third- and fourth-round picks used to trade for Anquan Boldin.
Hensley looks back on the draft, given the Ravens officially released defensive tackle Terrence Cody Tuesday.
"Cody brings up the 2010 draft, which will not be remembered fondly by a franchise known for making the right moves," wrote Hensley. "Cody was among the misses by the Ravens in a draft that didn't produce many impact players."
LB Sergio Kindle (second round): Never recovered from falling down a couple flights of stairs before his first training camp, and is no longer in the NFL.
Cody (second round): Officially released by the Ravens Tuesday. He was meant to be a long-term replacement for Kelly Gregg.
TE Ed Dickson (third round): The Ravens let him walk in free agency last offseason and he signed with the Carolina Panthers.
TE Dennis Pitta (fourth round): The only 2010 draft selection still on the Ravens roster and one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets. His future is in doubt after his second serious hip injury in as many years.
WR David Reed (fifth round): Traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 2013 and spent training camp with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014. Released prior to the start of the regular season.
DT Arthur Jones (fifth round): A late-round gem, and was so good he priced himself out of the Ravens' range last offseason and signed with the Colts for five years and a reported $32 million.
OT Ramon Harewood (sixth round):On injured reserve for first two seasons, and was a cut a year later in 2013. No longer on an NFL roster.
- If former Ravens defensive tackle Terrence Cody signs with another NFL team, he could face punishment by the league in the form of a suspension or fine for his pending felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor marijuana possession case, says league spokesman Greg Aiello. "It could be an extremely hard sell for Cody to land another NFL job considering the criminal case he's facing, the fact that he's had both hips surgically repaired and the fact that he wasn't productive with the Ravens," wrote Aaron Wilson. [The Baltimore Sun]
- Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended without pay for at least one year for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. [ClevelandBrowns.com]