Three Moves the Ravens Shouldn't Make
Much of the talk among Ravens fans and pundits during the offseason is focused on what the team should do. Who they should pursue in free agency. Who they should draft in the first round. Who they should attempt to trade for.
As the saying goes, however, sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make. Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler identified three things he feels the Ravens should not do this offseason:
1. Don't trade backup quarterback Robert Griffin III.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Griffin has been discussed in trade talks. It's plausible that a quarterback-needy team would be interested in the 30-year-old Griffin, who has been an exemplary team-first player and mentor to Lamar Jackson, but has never hidden his desire to be a starter again.
While it makes sense that the Ravens would listen to offers, Schisler believes Griffin's role on the team is too vital for Baltimore to part with him.
"The Ravens have the perfect backup to Lamar Jackson," Schisler wrote. "If Griffin III needs to come in for a game or two, [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman won't have to change the way he calls the offense. That's an underrated quality. Because Jackson is such a unique starter you need a backup who can be a lite version of him.
"Griffin can operate out of the pistol, do all the zone reads and all of the stuff Jackson does at the mesh point. Griffin has some speed to play around with and there are much worse passers employed in the NFL."
Griffin, who led the Ravens to a 28-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 in his lone start last season, carries a cap hit of $2.5 million heading into the final year of his contract, per Spotrac. He would cost other teams just $2 million.
Trading him would give the Ravens more money to spend in free agency as well as additional draft capital, but unless the pick was at least a third-rounder, Schisler wrote that it's not a move the Ravens should even consider.
"The bottom line is that Griffin III is essentially an extension to the quarterback coach," Schisler wrote. "Sometimes you can't mess with a good thing. It would be hard to find a better backup situation than what the Ravens have right now."
2. Don't add a running back that isn't a game-changer.
The Ravens set an NFL single-season rushing record last season and have their top three running backs – Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill – returning in 2020. Adding another running back seems like it should be pretty low on the team's to-do list this offseason, but NFL Network's Terrell Davis said that running back Frank Gore's best fit in free agency is the Ravens.
Davis noted that Gore would be reunited with Roman, who was his offensive coordinator in San Francisco, and said the Ravens run the ball so much that they could use more depth at running back.
Schisler disagrees that Gore, who rushed for 599 yards (3.6 yards per carry) for the Bills last season and turns 37 in May, and the Ravens are a good match.
"The only thing that bringing in Gore would do is to take away from Justice Hill, a running back who has much more potential than this seasoned version of Gore for 2020," Schisler wrote.
Schisler said the Ravens shouldn't think about tinkering with their running back situation unless they can add a player who can make a significant impact.
"There are two names that I think make sense for the Ravens at running back. Option One is D'Andre Swift in the NFL draft. Option Two is Kenyan Drake via free agency," Schisler wrote. "Both players could come in and add big play potential and could compete for the top position in the running back room.
"However, even if the Ravens could bring in a player like Swift or Drake, should they? It's hard to justify adding to the running back position, so if they do it has to be a game-changer. Frank Gore is not an option."
3. Don't overpay too many of their own free agents.
The harsh reality of the NFL is that the salary cap makes it impossible to retain all the players teams may like to. Among the Ravens' pending free agents are outside linebacker Matthew Judon, cornerback Jimmy Smith, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, and the team has an option on cornerback Brandon Carr.
The Ravens are likely to place the franchise tag on Judon, which would cost them just over $16 million. Baltimore has nearly $38 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.
"If they can't get Pierce and/or Smith back on a team-friendly deal, they must be willing to say goodbye," Schisler wrote. "The contract extensions maneuvered by [General Manager Eric] DeCosta show you how much he wants to keep players in purple. The one mistake the Ravens absolutely can't make is overvaluing too many of their own free agents. They have to go into this knowing they are probably losing a linebacker, a defensive lineman and at least one cornerback in the free-agency period."
Could Ravens Target Pass Rusher Everson Griffen?
Even if the Ravens retain Judon, it's possible the team will look to add another pass rusher in free agency. One option could be Minnesota Vikings veteran defensive end Everson Griffen.
Griffen, 32, had eight sacks last season and was named to his fourth Pro Bowl. He had a career-high 13 sacks in 2017.
Griffen exercised an option in his contract to become a free agent for the first time in his career. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said last month that he expects Griffin to return, but The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling wrote that he expects Griffen to "at least explore his options elsewhere." The Vikings rank 31st in salary cap space with $746,556, according to Spotrac.
"Several factors could ultimately lead Griffen to leave the Vikings after 10 seasons," Goessling wrote. "If he's interested in testing his value — albeit in a free agent market stocked with pass rushers — Minnesota doesn't figure to be the place where he'll maximize it. How interested he is in exploring another team's culture, and how close he believes the Vikings are to Super Bowl contention, could ultimately determine his interest in taking what might be a below-market deal to stay."
The Viking Age’s Adam Patrick also speculated that playing for a strong Super Bowl contender could lure Griffen away from Minnesota.
"At this point in his career, the desire to win is likely going to be a top priority for Griffen when he's deciding where to play next season," Patrick wrote. "If he has the opportunity to join a team like the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, or San Francisco 49ers, it's going to be hard for him to return to Minnesota."
Schisler wrote that Griffen and the Ravens "would be a match made in football heaven."
"On the free agency market, you'd have to think that Griffen would be a much more affordable option than Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler Jr., or Shaquil Barrett," Schisler wrote. "The Ravens have to make this offseason about accruing difference-makers. Griffen is still a very explosive pass rusher who is coming off a strong season."
Bradley Bozeman Is No. 5 in Performance-Based Pay
Near the end of the season, right guard Marshal Yanda praised Bradley Bozeman, saying the second-year left guard had "consistently gotten a little bit better and continued to work extremely hard" throughout his first year as a starter.
All of Bozeman's hard work paid off – literally. Bozeman is No. 5 in the league's performance-based pay program for 2019, earning $613,180. Bozeman, a sixth-round pick in 2018, earned a base salary of $570,000.
Left guard was a question mark for the Ravens entering the season, but Bozeman seized the starting job and was a key piece of the team's historically good running game and top-ranked scoring offense.
Under the NFL’s Performance-Based Pay program, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary.
Two other Ravens placed in the top 25: safety Chuck Clark (No. 19, $494,960) and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (No. 25, $465,532).