Can Ravens Afford Andre Johnson?
As soon as Andre Johnson was released by the Houston Texans Monday, Baltimore was immediately named as a potential landing spot. But can the Ravens afford him?
Let's look at why a marriage makes sense, and then we'll look at the financials.
"He wants to go play on a Super Bowl contender," ESPN's Adam Schefter said on NFL Insiders. "You'd have to think that might be Baltimore, New England, some of the teams that repeatedly contend for titles, even Indianapolis."
The Ravens just lost Torrey Smith to free agency and need help filling his void. They have a track record of finding veteran salary-cap casualties that don't count against the compensatory pick formula and immediately produce (i.e. Derrick Mason and Steve Smith Sr.). Johnson makes complete sense.
Make no mistake that the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver will have plenty of options, probably another handful in addition to those named by Schefter. So if the Ravens are interested (and they absolutely should be interested, says Hensley), Ravens brass will have to convince him they can offer what he's looking for.
Six playoff appearances in seven years ought to help. What else?
"Wherever I go, I hope I can play with a great quarterback," Johnson told EPSN's Josina Anderson. "I don't know. I'm just going to wait and see what happens. A lot of these teams want young players; so we'll see just what happens. I am open to visiting teams."
Tom Brady and Andrew Luck are tough competition, but having a Super Bowl MVP quarterback is a nice selling point.
And finally … what about the money? Can the Ravens realistically make an offer that can compete with all the other potential suitors?
After reportedly extending restricted and exclusive-rights tenders Monday afternoon (more on that below), the Ravens literally had no more cap space, per The Baltimore Sun, until they reportedly restructured outside linebacker Terrell Suggs' contract to free up about $2.25 million in cap room.
Jokes aside, the Ravens could still afford Johnson if they really wanted him. They would just have to start making moves to create money (and not as much as it would have taken to sign Torrey).
"To that end, they are working toward a restructured deal with [Lardarius] Webb, who will take up $12 million of salary cap space under his current deal, according to sources," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
"But no deal is imminent with [Haloti] Ngata. The Ravens could keep Ngata and his $16 million cap number on the roster going forward, but they would need to make other salary-cutting moves to be active on the open market and retain some of their free agents."
Other salary-cutting moves that The Sun mentioned last month, but haven't gotten buzz lately, include extending guard Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch, or releasing center Gino Gradkowski and linebacker Albert McClellan.
"At this point, I think Johnson is the best free agent wide receiver who could fit the Ravens’ budget," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown.
Ravens' List Of Tenders, Sending Them Over The Cap
The Ravens were busy handing out tenders yesterday, eating up much of their remaining of their salary-cap space (and then some).
Here’s the list, according to Wilson:
Restricted Free-Agent Tenders
FS Will Hill: $1.542 million right-of-first-refusal original-round tender
CB Anthony Levine: no tender, Ravens reportedly want to sign to long-term deal
K Justin Tucker: $2.356 million second-round tender
Exclusive Rights Free-Agent Tenders
WR Kamar Aiken: $585,000 tender
CB Tramain Jacobs: $510,000 tender
OL Ryan Jensen: $510,000 tender
LS Kevin McDermott: no reported tender
DE Steven Means: $510,000 tender
CB Rashaan Melvin: $585,000 tender
LS Patrick Scales: $435,000 tender
TE Phillip Supernaw: $510,000 tender
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint: expected to assign $510,000 tender
S Brynden Trawick: no reported tender
DT Casey Walker: no reported tender
Hensley: Ravens Made Right Choices With Torrey, McPhee
In a perfect world with no salary cap, the Ravens would have loved to keep Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee. But under the circumstances, Hensley believes the Ravens made the right decision to let both walk via free agency.
"It stings that … two players the Ravens developed for four seasons, are going to make big plays elsewhere in 2015. But it would sting more long-term if the Ravens matched what they received," Hensley wrote.
"This is a franchise that has maintained a strong run of success – six playoff seasons in seven years – by not overpaying for players. … The Ravens build their roster through the draft and not overspending in free agency."
The Ravens have regularly let other teams open their wallets to pay their free agents. They have been particular about who to spend market value for, such as Flacco and Yanda.
Plus, according to NFL Media's Adam Schein, McPhee and Smith are his two biggest free agency risks.
"Before Ravens fans lament these likely defections, understand the brilliance of your organization," Schein wrote. "Baltimore will be just fine. The questions will lie with these players' new teams."
Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko looked back at former Ravens' production with their new teams after getting big money on the open market. The last time a defensive player improved after leaving Baltimore was with Antwan Barnes in 2010, per Klemko. (Cornerback Corey Graham also improved his PFF grade last year during his first season in Buffalo).
Offensive Turnover Since Super Bowl Is 'Stunning'
Smith's departure nearly completes the Ravens' offensive turnover since winning Super Bowl XLVII, notes The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Just 25 months after the confetti fell on the Ravens, these offensive players have already gone: running back Ray Rice, fullback Vonta Leach, receivers Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss, tight end Ed Dickson, and offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher and Matt Birk. Tight end Dennis Pitta's status is also uncertain as he recovers from his second major hip surgery in as many years.
Not to mention, former Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell is also now gone.
The only starters that remain are Flacco, Yanda and Kelechi Osemele.
"Rosters change every year in the NFL," wrote Zrebiec. "That's the nature of it. However, it's still pretty stunning to see all the changes that a Super Bowl-winning offense – which was so good in the postseason – endured so quickly.
"It's also a credit to Flacco that he's never used the revolving door of play callers, targets and centers as an excuse."
Cary Williams Chose Seahawks Over Ravens
Free-agent cornerback Cary Williams has decided to join the Seattle Seahawks after contemplating offers from the Ravens, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, according to Wilson.
"Williams maintained interest in possibly returning to the Ravens, with whom he earned a Super Bowl ring as a starter three years ago, and the feeling was mutual, according to sources," Wilson wrote. "However, sources said the Seahawks emerged as the winner of a four-team race.
"The Ravens are in a tight salary cap situation and were unable to offer as much as the other teams."
"@Ravens: Thanks for all the memories, Torrey. You will be missed. https://t.co/CJvxs6jVoO" ...Crazy ride!!! Thank You!!! — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) March 9, 2015