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Late for Work 3/13: More Big-Time WR Options Gone; Ravens Still in Running for Jimmy Graham

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More Big-Time Receiving Options Gone

Scratch two more wide receivers off the list.

Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins, who are widely considered this year’s top unrestricted free-agent wide receivers, will reportedly sign with the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.

Robinson’s three-year deal is worth a healthy $42 million with $25 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.  He also reports Watkins will get an average of $16 million over three years.

The opportunity for teams to bid on Robinson, 24, was a surprise after the Jacksonville Jaguars chose not to place the franchise tag on him. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 last year, but the market was still strong for the 6-foot-3, 211-pound receiver, who is just a year removed from a 1,400-yard season.

“Badly needing a receiver, the Ravens maintained interest in Robinson, but it’s not clear whether they got close to a deal,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.

Watkins also has an injury history that could’ve given teams pause, in addition to his low production, but both players possess attributes that make them potential No. 1 receiver options.

With Jarvis Landry, Robinson and Watkins signed by other teams, some of the biggest names on the market are gone.

As of yesterday, the Ravens “remained focused” on Indianapolis Colts receiver Donte Moncrief, but Zrebiec reports, “sources familiar with their thinking also say that they like Albert Wilson, a former Kansas City Chief. However, NFL Network reported Monday that the Dolphins are the leading contenders for Wilson.”

The Ravens will also keep an eye on veteran wide receivers who could be cut from their teams, including the L.A. Rams’ Tavon Austin, Green Bay Packers’ Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, Tennessee Titans’ Richard Matthews and New York Jets' Jermaine Kearse. 

The Ravens will face challenges in luring free agent wide receivers to Baltimore, says ESPN, for three reasons: 1) little salary-cap space, 2) the team’s history of not splurging money on the position and 3) the absence of a “Jimmy Garoppolo” type player.

Baltimore is estimated to have around $5.5 million in cap space, whereas a team like the Bears, who just signed Robinson, had $50 million heading into the new league year. Even when the Ravens have had more cap room, they’ve rarely doled out big contracts. The most the team has spent on a wide receiver since 2010 was $8.3 million per season for Anquan Boldin.

“Even if everything was equal, the Ravens still might have trouble getting a top free-agent wide receiver,” wrote ESPN. “Garoppolo can become a great recruiting tool for the 49ers. … Flacco doesn't carry the same cache anymore. Five years removed from being the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco ranked No. 25 in passer rating with 80.4.”

Ravens Still in the Running for TE Jimmy Graham

Another pass-catching option in veteran tight end Jimmy Graham doesn’t seem destined for Baltimore, but the door isn’t completely closed.

The favorites to land the five-time Pro Bowler are the the New Orleans Saints, the team that drafted him in 2010, and the Green Bay Packers, according to The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell. Rapoport added there’s “a lot of momentum” for a reunion in New Orleans.

Is it still possible for Baltimore to land him?

“The Saints and Packers are considered the front-runners for Graham, but the Ravens aren't out of the running,” ESPN wrote. “Baltimore has had talks with Graham. The Ravens should put a higher premium on adding a difference-maker at tight end than at wide receiver.”

The argument to more aggressively pursue a tight end hinges on Flacco’s penchant for throwing to players at the position. The Ravens quarterback has targeted tight ends 1,090 times, which is the fourth-most of any quarterback since he entered the league in 2008.

“Plus, Graham is a red zone monster,” the website added. “His 10 regular-season touchdowns led all NFL tight ends last season and ranked second only to DeAndre Hopkins.”

James Hurst Getting Starter Money Makes Austin Howard’s Future Cloudy

The Ravens announced Monday that they re-signed Hurst to a four-year deal that is reportedly worth $17.5 million with $8 million guaranteed.

His $4.4 million average only ranks 25th among NFL guards, per Spotrac, but is enough to suggest that the Ravens consider Hurst a starter moving forward. He told ESPN that the Ravens didn’t tell him whether he would play guard or tackle.

For the first three years of the 2014 undrafted rookie’s career, Hurst was a backup that got 13 starts in relief of injured players. When left guard Alex Lewis was placed on injured reserve during last year’s training camp, Hurst was promoted and started 15 games there and one at left tackle.

Right tackle Austin Howard has scheduled cap hits of $5 million and $7.5 million the next two seasons. The Ravens would save $3 million if they parted ways with him this year.

“A lightning rod for criticism from fans, Hurst was maligned for being pushed back into quarterback Joe Flacco during a November 2015 game against the St. Louis Rams. Flacco tore the ACL and MCL on the play, ending his streak of 122 starts to begin a season,” wrote Zrebiec.

“However, Hurst is a well-respected teammate who works hard and never makes excuses despite being put in some tough spots. Last summer, he was the projected starting right tackle at the beginning of training camp, but then the Ravens signed Howard. Hurst moved to right guard with Yanda still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He then was shifted to left guard after Lewis got hurt. In a one-week span, Hurst worked with the three different starting positions on the offensive line.”

* Youth Movement Hurt Lardarius Webb’s Chances of Returning*

It’s always tough to say goodbye to a longtime Raven.

But that’s what happened Monday when the Ravens released 10-year veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb. Baltimore drafted him in the third round in 2009, making him the fourth longest-tenured Raven behind Terrell Suggs, Flacco and Marshal Yanda.

The Ravens reportedly created $1.75 million in cap space, which isn’t a big amount, suggesting his release had as much to do with football as finances. Last year, they also released him and brought him back at a lower price, but pundits don’t see that happening this time around.

“With Tavon Young expected to be recovered from a torn ACL, and with safety Chuck Clark returning after making significant strides late in his rookie season to back up Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, there isn't much room for Webb,” wrote the Press Box’s Bo Smolka.

Bengals Got New Stud Left Tackle in Major Trade with Bills

Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon and company will have a tougher time getting to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton next year.

That’s because the Bengals picked up left tackle Cordy Glenn in a massive trade with the Buffalo Bills Monday. The Bills traded Glenn to move up April’s draft board from No. 21 to Cincinnati’s previous place at No. 12.

“The Bengals have struggled at tackle since longtime veteran Andrew Whitworth signed with the Los Angeles Rams in free agency last year and have been noncommittal about picking up the fifth-year option of 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi,” wrote ESPN.

The Bills seem intent on moving up the board to draft one of the top quarterbacks.

“This trade could have major draft implications for Baltimore,” wrote Baltimore Beatdown’s Logan Levy. “It is now likely that the Bills will select a quarterback with the 12th overall pick in the draft, if they stay put at that pick.

“However, Buffalo could likely move into the top 10 or even top five to select a quarterback. Either way, this could help slide premier talent down the board for the Ravens.”

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