There's been a lot of talk about trading quarterback Joe Flacco, but could another Raven be on the block?
One of the Ravens' toughest decisions centers around cornerback Jimmy Smith, and there seems to be multiple ways Baltimore could go for a solution.
Smith would carry a $15.85 million cap hit into next season, per Spotrac. That would be the second-highest in the league among cornerbacks, trailing only the Detroit Lions' Darius Slay. It would also be the highest on the Ravens next year, assuming Joe Flacco is off the books.
Thus, some action will almost assuredly happen with Smith's contract.
"He is, in a word, expensive," wrote Press Box's Bo Smolka. "A couple of contract restructures from Smith's four-year extension signed in 2015 pushed some of Smith's money down the road, and now that is coming due.
Releasing Smith would save Baltimore $9.5 million. That's a good chunk of change. But could the Ravens potentially trade Smith instead?
"You'd think that DeCosta would at least aggressively shop the 30-year-old to see if the team could recoup a mid-to-late-round pick in return," wrote The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec. "Given Smith's salary and his detailed injury history, I'm skeptical that there would be a trade market."
However, as Zrebiec points out, Smith would be one of the best, if not the best, cornerback on the free-agent market if he were to be released. Check out the full list of 2019 cornerback free agents. Thus, a cornerback-needy team (of which there are many) with cap space (there are a lot of them) might be willing to give up some assets to make sure they acquire Smith.
After serving a four-game suspension and shaking off the rust of an Achilles injury suffered at the end of the 2017 season, Smith rounded into top form down the stretch. Remember, he had two interceptions in the Ravens' AFC North-clinching win over the Browns in Week 17.
"At age 30, Smith still has the talent to shadow elite wide receivers, and he played better as the 2018 season went on," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote. "But the Ravens can save $9.5 million by cutting him, and they have cheaper options at cornerback."
Baltimore would rely on last year's team MVP, Marlon Humphrey, and presumably veteran Brandon Carr if they were to part ways with Smith. The Ravens also still have top-notch slot corner Tavon Young, experienced (but injury prone thus far) Maurice Canady, Cyrus Jones, and up-and-coming sophomore Anthony Averett, who showed flashes as a fourth-round rookie, under contract.
But, as the Ravens have said time and time again, you can never have too many corners. The Ravens aren't in the business of getting rid of good cornerbacks, and Smith most certainly is one. Thus, the other option with Smith could be to keep the marriage together but make his 2019 cap hit more manageable by giving him an extension.
"The Ravens could negotiate an extension that would make Smith less costly in 2019," Walker wrote. "But would they make such an effort for a player who's missed 13 games over the past three seasons?"
Smith's injury history complicates matters, and he's set to turn 31 in July. But he still plans on playing some more high-level football.
"I'm young," Smith said after the season ended. "I've got a lot of ball left in me."
An Update on Potential Joe Flacco Landing Spots
Speaking of trades … the potential landing spots for Flacco appear to be diminishing.
Per Zrebiec, Miami Herald writer Armando Salguero wrote last week that the Miami Dolphins will not be in the market for top available quarterbacks.
"If that's the plan, cross off another potential landing spot via trade for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco," Zrebiec wrote. "If the Dolphins are eliminated, the only three remaining teams that make some sense are the Jaguars, Broncos and Redskins."
The Jaguars continue to be linked to Nick Foles considering the Jags' new offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, was Foles' quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2017 when Foles won Super Bowl LII.
The Broncos didn't end up hiring Gary Kubiak as their OC, which would have made a natural fit for Flacco. His big arm in that thin air still seems like a dangerous combo, however.
So what about the Redskins? NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman predicts we'll see the headline: "Staying in the DMV: Redskins acquire Joe Flacco from Ravens" this offseason.
"After losing out on the Foles-stakes, Washington will pursue another former Super Bowl MVP on the Acela corridor," Bergman wrote.
"With Alex Smith likely shelved for the 2019 season, the Redskins are desperate for a signal-caller to lead an otherwise-solid roster. Pressured to act by reported pursuit of Flacco from Miami and Denver, Bruce Allen and Doug Williams will overpay for the 34-year-old QB before Baltimore releases him, taking on Flacco's $26.5 million cap hit."
Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J. Platko also ranked the Redskins as the most likely trade candidate, followed by the Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers.
Zrebiec, however, poured some cold water on the Flacco-goes-down-the-road chatter.
"The Redskins' salary cap situation would make it awfully hard for them to eat Flacco's contract in a trade," he wrote.
Ravens Rank Very High Among Top NFL Franchises When Factoring in Age
If you're feeling bummed (or sickened) after watching a sixth Patriots Super Bowl parade, this should help. Remember, we've had it pretty darn good here in Baltimore.
After the Patriots' sixth title, The Athletic's Bob Sturm ranked the "Super Bowl-Era" NFL franchises. On the surface, it doesn't look like the Ravens did all that well, coming in at No. 17. But a closer inspection shows just how well Baltimore has done.
Sturm's scoring is based on reaching the playoffs and playoff success. The Steelers (yuck) sit atop the list with 30 playoff seasons, 16 conference championship appearances, two Super Bowl losses and six Super Bowl wins (now tied with the Patriots for the most in NFL history).
The Steelers, however, were founded in 1933. The Ravens, on the other hand, have only been in existence since 1996.
"If you wish to sort this on a points-per-year basis, the Ravens would be in the top five overall," Sturm wrote. "That's obviously not a viable premise, but it does speak to their quality in the last 20 years. Instead, with wins at SB35 and SB47, they rise above several franchises that have existed since before World War 2. Very impressive."
The Ravens have made the playoffs 11 times, reached four conference championship games and had two Super Bowl wins. That, when measured in per year success, puts the Ravens only behind the Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys and 49ers, respectively.