King: Nobody Holds Ozzie Over A Barrel
Let's not pretend Haloti Ngata isn't a freaking stud. He absolutely is. He is a different breed and dominantly anchored the Ravens defensive line for nine years. In the words of Owner Steve Bisciotti, Ngata is an "iconic Raven" and will be greatly missed.
Let's also not pretend that there isn't a business side to football, and GM Ozzie Newsome is freaking good at this stuff.
Newsome made a smart decision by trading Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions late Monday afternoon. ESPN's Jamison Hensley even declared the Ravens "winners" in the trade.
Ngata put Newsome in as close to a no-choice situation as you can get. (That's not demonizing Ngata. There is nothing wrong with wanting to play out the final year of his contract, but it forced the Ravens to make a decision.)
The Ravens had zero cap space Monday morning. Actually that's not true. They had less than zero cap space until Terrell Suggs swooped in and restructured his contract to allow the Ravens to simply comply with the cap limit. That just isn't acceptable for a team that needed a starting running back, tight end, wide receiver and help in the secondary as free-agency doors were opening.
The Ravens needed significant money, which wasn't coming from a couple of depth-chart cuts or even a Lardarius Webb restructure. (And please, don't blame Joe Flacco's contract. We've had this discussion before; he's the 15th-highest paid QB in the league this season. Next year is when his contract will hurt the cap.)
The Ravens had to shed Ngata's reported $16 million cap hit, (the highest on the team), but there was no progress after months of contract negotiations. The two sides got "nowhere close to a deal" and "never" did, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
It was an extend-or-be-cut situation, and Ngata likely knew that. So, Newsome got creative.
What's the "something" that Newsome got via a trade? It's a lot:
1) A fourth- and fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. When you add in the expected compensatory picks, the Ravens could have 10 to 11 picks, which is great news for a team that perpetually builds via the draft and is tight on cap space.
2) They grabbed control of where Ngata would land. Some expected him to land in Indianapolis or Cleveland had he hit the open market, but Newsome sent him out of the conference so Ngata will have little effect on the Ravens next season.
3) Newsome gets the same amount of cap relief had he simply just cut Ngata. The Ravens now reportedly have a healthy $9 million in space.
"For those who want to criticize the Ravens' trading of Ngata, it's difficult to come up with a better result when it was clear that Ngata wasn't going to sign an extension," wrote Hensley. "If the Ravens held on to Ngata, they would have had no way of addressing voids on the offensive side. The Ravens got something for Ngata instead of parting ways with nothing.
"An argument can be made that Ngata did the Ravens a favor by not agreeing to an extension. He's 31 years old, and the decline in 30-something defensive tackles can often be rapid. There were no guarantees that Ngata was going to play at a high level for the next two to three years."
The Ravens already have Ngata's replacement on the roster with last year's second-round pick Timmy Jernigan. He didn't seem too small for the task when Ngata was suspended for four games last season. The Ravens were 3-1 during that time and allowed an average of 94.2 rushing yards per game.
We won't know the full effect the trade has until we see what the Ravens do with their extra $8.5 million from Ngata's base salary. With how creative Newsome can get, that money could go a long way in finding a running back, tight end and receiver. Plus, given how well the Ravens draft, those fourth- and fifth-round picks from Detroit can be used to draft future starters. Pernell McPhee, Dennis Pitta, Kyle Juszczyk and Rick Wagner were all selected in those rounds in recent years. Or the Ravens could use the extra picks as ammunition to move up in the draft if there is somebody they covet.
"The Ravens will feel the loss from parting ways with one of the best players in franchise history. It just shouldn't overshadow what the Ravens gained as a result, which is a means to improve this team in free agency and in the draft," Hensley wrote. "[They] made the best out of tough situation."
Ravens Turn Focus to Justin Forsett
Now that the Ravens have some cash, they can start work on filling big holes.
The first item of business?
Forsett was reportedly drawing interest from several teams, including the Redskins, Colts and Falcons. Now the Ravens can jump in and make a play for their guy. They will also have less competition because the Colts signed running back Frank Gore last night.
"[That] probably closes one door for Justin Forsett," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "But there have been other interested teams."
In the NFL Network interview below, Forsett said he was shocked to see Ngata go, but hopes the cap space the trade opened up will mean there's a better chance that he returns to the Ravens. He said he has a number he is looking for and will not be giving a hometown discount.
Where are the negotiations between his agent and the Ravens?
"We're still talking. Hopefully everything can work out. I've been saying all along that I want to go back to Baltimore," Forsett said. "The city has embraced me and my family. I would love to go back, but [I want] a commitment from wherever that may come.
"We've got some other teams interested. The same goes for anyone else out there that's interested. I'm just looking for that commitment. I want out of that friend zone."
Ravens, Webb No Longer In Restructure Talks
With Ngata gone, Webb now has the second-highest cap hit on the team (reportedly $12 million).
There have been reports about the Ravens trying to restructure his deal, but that those negotiations have apparently stopped.
"The Ravens are no longer in active talks about restructuring cornerback Lardarius Webb's contract," wrote The Baltimore sun's Aaron Wilson. "Webb may wind up playing this season under an $8 million base salary and a $12 million salary-cap figure.
"The Ravens were inching toward a contract extension for Webb at one point, but momentum stalled. At this point, the Ravens don't need to restructure Webb's contract to be in compliance with the salary cap or to have enough space for their rookie pool to sign draft picks. This financial situation could always be revisited, but has gone quiet for now."
Tyrod Taylor Visiting Buffalo Bills
It didn't take long for Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor to find a potential suitor.
Taylor is visiting the Buffalo Bills, per Wilson, where he will have a much better chance of starting than he would get in Baltimore. Taylor never started a game in the four years that he backed up Joe Flacco.
In Buffalo, Matt Cassel initially didn't pass his physical because of a broken foot last season. He eventually passed, but the Bills may be looking for another veteran as insurance. The Bills also have E.J. Manuel, who isn't a lock as a starter.
Taylor entered free agency after his four-year rookie contract expired.
"It's just a fresh start," Taylor told Wilson at the end of the season. "I knew the reality was coming. I have had time to think about it and we'll see what's the plan moving forward."
Torrey Smith's Contract Details
The 49ers inked Torrey Smith Monday night, so now we know the terms of the deal that the Ravens couldn't match.
Smith got a five-year deal for $40 million with $22 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. According to La Canfora, the Ravens reportedly offered Smith a five-year, $35 million before the 2014 season began.
"It remains unclear whether a similar offer from the Ravens was still on the table considering the organization's significant salary cap problems stemming in part from the release of Ray Rice last September," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
Former Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin told CBSSports.com that he helped recruit Smith to San Francisco.
"It'll be cool, man," Boldin said of being reunited with Smith. "Me and Torrey had a great relationship in Baltimore. We continue to be friends off the field. I definitely have done some recruiting. It'll be cool having a guy like Torrey back on the field. He's a guy that can take the top off. It will help us out tremendously."