Late For Work 2/6: Potential Free Agents Ravens Could Target

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Potential Free Agents Ravens Could Target

If history is any indicator, the Ravens will be very active in free agency this offseason.

That doesn't mean they will make huge splashes, however.

According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, the Ravens have signed less than 40 percent of their own free agents during the past few years. If the trend continues, that comes out to seven of the Ravens' 15 unrestricted free agents moving on to other teams.

That would leave some holes to fill, both via free agency and the draft.

So who will be the free agents from other teams the Ravens target? Well, the targets may not even be available just yet.

"You have to start by monitoring the players who get cut," Hensley wrote.

It's rare for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to sign unrestricted free agents because they go against the compensatory pick formula. Plus, the Ravens don't have a lot of salary cap space at this point.

"It's safe to say the Ravens won't have much cap room – if any at all – unless they make cuts, sign players to extensions or get players to agree to pay reductions over the next 33 days," Hensley wrote.

ESPN Stats and Information projects $141.9 million is already committed to the Ravens' 2015 salary cap. While the cap allowance hasn't been announced by the league yet, the estimates are between $140 and $145 million.

The Ravens rarely have much money to spend, so they're usually creative in making every dollar count. They found great value in former cap casualties (Elvis Dumervil and Steve Smith Sr.), which is why Hensley says to keep your eye on six players that could get cut and help at current positions of need:

WR Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay): 30 years old, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds
2014 stats: 70 catches, 1,002 yards, 2 touchdowns
Reportedly a $12.2 million cap hit in 2015, $2.4 million in dead money if cut

TE Vernon Davis (San Francisco): 31 years old, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds
2014 stats: 26 catches, 245 yards, 2 touchdowns; missed 2 games due to injury
Reportedly a $7 million cap hit in 2015, $2.1 million in dead money if cut

RB Chris Johnson (New York Jets):29 years old, 5-foot-11, 203 pounds
2014 stats: 155 carries, 663 yards, 1 touchdown
Reportedly a $5.3 million cap hit in 2015, $1.8 million in dead money if cut

RB DeAngelo Williams (Carolina):31 years old, 5-foot-9, 215 pounds
2014 stats: 62 carries, 219 yards, 0 touchdowns; missed 10 games due to injuriesReportedly a $2.1 million cap hit in 2015, $1.1 million in dead money if cut

S Tyvon Branch (Oakland): 28 years old, 6-foot-0, 210 pounds2014 stats: 30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, played in just 3 games due to injuryReportedly an $8.3 million cap hit in 2015, $1.8 million in dead money if cut

CB Cary Williams (Eagles): 30 years old, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds
2014 stats: 60 tackles, 2 interceptions, 10 passes defensed
Reportedly an $8.2 million cap hit in 2015, $1.7 million in dead money if cut

Titans Waive Michael Oher After One Season

He signed a reported four-year, $20 million contract last offseason, but it was one-and-done for Michael Oher in Tennessee.

The Titans announced Thursday that they waived the Ravens' former first-round draft pick, citing a failed physical. Oher started all 11 games he played in before landing on injured reserve with a toe injury.

"Oher struggled mightily in 2014," wrote The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt. "By releasing him now, the team admitted the mistake rather than invest further in the veteran whose season was cut short by injuries and marred by unsteady play." 

After making $6 million last season, Oher was on the books for a $4 million base salary in 2015. If he had remained on the roster through today, $3.35 million would have been fully guaranteed, per ESPN's Field Yates.  

Oher played his first five NFL seasons in Baltimore after the team selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft. He started and played every game for the club in that span. At the end of his rookie contract, the Ravens weren't aggressive in re-signing him.

"The team loved Oher's toughness and durability. However, consistency was an issue as Oher was prone to penalties and struggled at times against top pass rushers," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.

By allowing Oher to walk, the door was left open for second-year right tackle Rick Wagner, who shined in his first full year as a starter.

While Oher graded at No. 75 (of 84 qualifying tackles) in 2014 by Pro Football Focus, Wagner came in at No. 15,* *and No. 3 among right tackles.      

Careful What You Wish For With Torrey

The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec is noticing a trend.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith is a polarizing figure in terms of whether Baltimore should re-sign him. Zrebiec says he regularly hears from fans that want him back, citing his 11 touchdowns last season. But he also regularly hears from others that want to see him walk, citing fewer catches and yards last season).

Zrebiec has a message to the latter group.

"[B]e careful what you wish for," he wrote. "Now, don't misunderstand – I don't think the Ravens should overpay for Smith, who is not a No. 1 wide receiver. … [I]t would be foolish to think the Ravens could easily and immediately replace Smith with a rookie or another free agent.

"Smith had his issues this past season, but he's still a guy who the opposition game plans for, who puts a ton of pressure on the back end of defenses and who makes big plays and draws big penalties. My sense is there's a fair deal to be made and both sides want it to happen."

Why Flacco Missed 4,000 Yards

Quarterback Joe Flacco came up 14 measly yards short of 4,000 in 2014. Had he got those few yards, it would have been the first time in his career to hit the milestone.

Meanwhile, 11 other NFL quarterbacks achieved it, including Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (50th to do so in NFL history).

"[It leaves] a somewhat maddening number of what-ifs that could have put the Ravens' quarterback over that milestone," wrote The Sun's Jon Meoli.

"[A] 4,000-yard season proved just out of reach for a variety of reasons that could have — and by many statistics, should have — been prevented. A combination of run-pass balance, penalties, and drops all kept Flacco below that mark."

The Ravens regained their successful form on the ground in 2014, and Meoli thinks that if it had struggled in a game or two, Flacco easily would have broken the milestone by passing more. But not even Flacco would have wanted that change.

But then there were the league-leading 14 pass interference penalties on Flacco's receivers that totaled 283 yards, per Football Outsiders. Turn one or two of those into catches, and Flacco likely gets his 14 yards.

Finally, drops by Ravens receivers doomed Flacco's chances. Only quarterback Andrew Luck's receivers dropped the ball more (38) in 2014 than Flacco's receivers (37). Of course, Luck still did break the 4,000-yard plateau.

"Now, given that nine or more quarterbacks have passed 4,000 yards in all but one of the last four seasons (and the fact that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton did it in 2013), 4,000 yards isn't quite the high watermark that it used to be," wrote Meoli. "But it's still a meaningful benchmark that plenty of good quarterbacks (and some not-so-good ones) have hit in their best seasons."

Quick Hits

  • Expanded playoffs would favor the Ravens. "Playing in the tough AFC North, the Ravens, Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals beat up on each other, making it that much harder to stack up records against teams from less-rigorous divisions when it comes to determining who makes the postseason," wrote Bo Smolka. "Yes, all three made the playoffs this past season, but another berth would leave a little margin for error, something AFC North teams dearly need." [CSNBaltimore.com]
  • "It is no secret the Ravens will look hard at cornerbacks in this year's draft," wrote Clifton Brown. "So could Florida St. cornerback P. J. Williams be the next Seminole player to join the Ravens' defense? Williams is listed at six feet, 196 pounds, and he was a sure tackler in college. Open field tackling was an issue for the Ravens' secondary last season, especially after Jimmy Smith suffered a season-ending foot injury. At this point, it's far too early to pinpoint where Williams will land. But if the Ravens take him, he will join two teammates that he knows very well." [CSNBaltimore.com]
  • Ed Reed on not liking, but respecting, the Patriots: "I played against these guys continuously and we never really talked about the cheating part. I mean it comes up, but in Baltimore, we didn't like the guys. But you respected them. You had the utmost respect for those guys because at the end of the day it comes down to football. It comes down to between those lines and execution, and those guys execute to a 'T.'" [ProFootballTalk.com]
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