Would Bobby Wagner and the Ravens Be an Ideal Fit?
With the NFL world buzzing about Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson yesterday, a transaction involving another star player was overshadowed.
Six-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was released by the Seattle Seahawks in a cost-cutting move, and if you think Wagner would be a great fit for the Ravens, you're not alone.
Bleacher Report’s Doric Sam named Baltimore one of the top three landing spots for Wagner.
"Adding Wagner to their defense would give the Ravens their best leader on that side of the ball since Ray Lewis," Sam wrote. "Pairing Wagner with former first-round pick Patrick Queen would help improve a unit that ranked 22nd in sacks (34) last year."
A key member of the famed Legion of Boom who helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl in 2013 and come within an eyelash of repeating in 2014, Wagner certainly fits the Ravens' profile.
Not only does the tough and talented Wagner "play like a Raven," but he also is exactly the type of free agent Baltimore has a history of signing.
"As a salary cap casualty, Wagner won't impact the compensatory pick formula for any team that he signs with, which is music to the ears of the Baltimore Ravens and General Manager Eric DeCosta," Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed wrote. "They are a franchise that historically prefers to sign unrestricted free agents that were released by their teams instead of just outright hitting the market.
"A player like Wagner, one of the most elite defenders of his generation and universally recognized as one of the best linebackers in the league, rarely becomes available. He is exactly the type of player that the Ravens should pounce on. They did this last year with veteran offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, signing him just days after he was released by the New York Giants."
The Ravens have two young, athletic inside linebackers in Queen and Malik Harrison who would benefit from playing alongside Wagner.
"As fast and physical as Queen and Harrison are, Wagner is the finished product with all the rough edges chiseled off. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations looking to compete in an ultra-competitive AFC conference, he'd be an invaluable asset," Reed wrote. " … Queen would be allowed more time to hone his skills at the WILL spot while being groomed next to Wagner, who is just 31-years-old and still in his prime."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones isn't as enthusiastic about the prospect of the Ravens pursuing Wagner.
"Bobby Wagner is eventually going to Canton and the type of free agent the Ravens target when considering compensatory picks, but the soon-to-be 32-year-old would have to come at quite a discount for me to forgo more premium position needs with limited salary cap dollars," Jones wrote. "It's a fun thought though."
If the Ravens do have interest in Wagner, they're likely to have plenty of competition for his services.
"He's going to get significant interest on the free-agent market," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said. "Do not be surprised if he actually stays in the [NFC West]. There is already interest in Wagner from three teams that he played against twice a year when he was in Seattle."
Roster Moves Leave Ravens 'Dangerously Thin' at Cornerback
None of the Ravens' roster moves yesterday were unexpected, but they do leave the team undermanned at cornerback.
Both The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried used the words "dangerously thin" to describe Baltimore's current cornerback situation after the team released Tavon Young and reportedly non-tendered restricted free agent Chris Westry in cost-cutting moves.
It's an atypical predicament for an organization that has long believed a team can never have too many cornerbacks.
"The Ravens know that they'll badly need to add talent and depth to their cornerback corps this offseason," Zrebiec wrote. "Right now, they have [Marlon] Humphrey and [Marcus] Peters; Iman Marshall who has missed two straight seasons with injuries; and Kevon Seymour, Kevin Toliver and Robert Jackson, who were all on the team's practice squad for parts of 2021. It seems likely that they'll draft two corners next month and they also will probably need to add one or two in free agency."
Fried wrote: "Other than that, Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith are both free agents, and it seems unlikely that either returns. Averett has likely priced himself out of a return while Smith just isn't effective at this stage of his career, although he could be a fallback option provided he doesn't retire."
Releasing Young opens up $5.8 million in cap space.
"This couldn't have been an easy move for DeCosta to make even if it was predictable with the oft-injured Young entering the final year of his contract and carrying a $9.1 million cap hit," Zrebiec wrote. "Young was a popular and much-respected player who persevered through two season-ending knee injuries and one season-ending neck injury to play in all 17 games this past season. When he was healthy in previous years, Young was a tough slot corner, who stuck with receivers and made plays."
Zrebiec said the Ravens will try to re-sign Westry to a smaller deal.
"The Ravens not tendering Westry is just a function of their tight cap situation," Zrebiec wrote. "They like the young corner who made the team last year after a strong training camp and played in six games, starting two. However, he has struggled to stay healthy and a near $2.5 million restricted free agent tender was just too rich for a player with so much to prove."
The other significant move yesterday was the retirement of offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who was unlikely to be retained. His decision created $6 million in cap space. Bolstering the offensive tackle position figures to be a priority in free agency and the draft.
Analytics Say Bradley Bozeman Is Best Center Available in Free Agency
In yesterday’s Late for Work, it was noted that center Bradley Bozeman was named the most overrated free agent at his position by Pro Football Focus.
ESPN sports analytics writer Seth Walder has a much different assessment. Walder contends that Bozeman is the top center available in free agency, based on the metrics.
"He's by far the best free agent in pass-block win rate," Walder said. "Bozeman is not necessarily elite when it comes to run-blocking, but he's still among the better centers in terms of run-block win rate."
The prevailing opinion is that Bozeman, who reportedly is on the radar of a number of teams, will be too expensive for the Ravens to re-sign. PFF’s Ari Meirov placed Bozeman on his list of free agents who could get more money than expected.
"Don't be surprised if his market takes him to $9 million a year or beyond," Meirov wrote.