What Happened With Ryan Grant's Deal?
From now on, any deal announced via social media during the "legal tampering" period should have a mandatory hashtag.
The Ravens agreed to terms with wide receivers Ryan Grant (reportedly four years, $29 million) and John Brown (one year, $5 million) during this period, but it was made clear that the contracts were pending passed physicals.
When the two receivers reported to the Under Armour Performance Center Thursday morning, the expectation was both would talk with team brass, meet with doctors for their physicals, sign their contracts and then be introduced to the media as the newest members of the team.
The problem is Brown passed his physical, but Grant did not, according to multiple reports.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport pointed out that Grant's original deal included $14.5 million in guaranteed money for injury. Grant had never missed a game in his four-year career, but after seeing an issue with his ankle, the Ravens paused.
"[O]ne of the drawbacks of the 'legal tampering' period, when agents and teams are allowed to agree on the parameters of a contract, but players are not allowed to visit team facilities or get checked out by team doctors," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith.
"If Grant had been allowed to take his physical from the outset, both he and the Ravens would be in a better place now: Grant would have been able to shop himself to other teams, hoping that whatever issue concerned the Ravens' medical staff could be cleared by another team's medical staff. And the Ravens would have been able to find another receiver, before many were signed by other teams."
Nobody wins in this scenario. A life-altering contract slips through Grant's fingers, and he* *must return to the market with fewer buyers and an injury concern. The Ravens couldn't be as competitive with offers to remaining receivers on the market, and now they must continue rebuilding with fewer options.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is scheduled to speak with media this morning at 11 a.m., and will likely elaborate on what happened.
Conspiracy theorists assert the Ravens may have voided Grant's contract because they had buyer's remorse when receiver Michael Crabtree became available (more on that below). The timing is the foundation of such a theory, but it makes an assumption and ignores a couple facts.
The assumption is the Ravens regretted the deal they offered Grant just two days prior. Baltimore was widely questioned by fans and media because they believed Grant was being overpaid based on his low production, but that doesn't mean the Ravens thought the Ravens were overpaying. There was no indication Baltimore regretted the deal, which brings us to facts being ignored.
First, according to WNST's Luke Jones, the media were put on alert about a potential press conference introducing Grant and Brown Thursday afternoon, indicating they thought the deal would go through.
Second, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens were already trying to add a third receiver, ON TOP OF Grant and Brown, before Crabtree was released (a move that had been rumored from the time the season ended). They were pursuing Jordy Nelson, who was cut by the Green Bay Packers Tuesday afternoon. Reports of the Ravens signing Grant came out Tuesday evening. They knew Nelson was available before agreeing with Grant, and they still continued pursuing him after.
All signs indicated the Ravens expected to sign Brown, Grant AND another receiver. Not either/or.
"The team's decision with Grant will surely be scrutinized around the league, partly because it came on the same day when Crabtree, the type of possession receiver the Ravens have lacked, became available." wrote Zrebiec. "It's been well-documented, though, that the Ravens are in the midst of an offseason overhaul at the wide receiver position … Even after agreeing to the framework of deals with Brown and Grant, they had expressed interest in Nelson and were hoping to bring him in for a free-agent visit."
ESPN pointed out that there was one other time the Ravens didn't go through with an agreement because of a medical issue. The Ravens scheduled a news conference to introduce Cowboys safety Brock Marion, who ended up playing another seven years, before X-rays revealed a concern in his left shoulder.
That was in 1997. Twenty-one years ago.
The focus now shifts to the future and what the Ravens and Grant will do next. Baltimore is still rebuilding its receiver corps, and Grant will likely look for a job elsewhere.
"There was some hope earlier Thursday that the deal could potentially be revived on a smaller scale, but that seemed unlikely as the day wore on," wrote Zrebiec. "Grant's agent, Rocky Arceneaux, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment."
Ravens Get First Crack at Michael Crabtree. Will They Sign Him?
With Grant no longer in the plans, the priority to add pass-catchers is even higher.
The good news is that, unlike several other veteran pass-catchers the Ravens have reportedly pursued, Baltimore will get the first crack at signing Crabtree.
Like Grant, Crabtree is a possession receiver with excellent route-running ability and strong hands. If signed, Crabtree would fill the role that Jeremy Maclin played for the Ravens last year. Maclin was released Wednesday.
"If the Ravens can sign Crabtree, it would represent a significant upgrade at the possession receiver role once envisioned for Grant," wrote ESPN. "What separates Crabtree is his superior red-zone ability and proven track record.
"With Grant, a team is paying for potential. With Crabtree, it's about proven production."
The website added that only Crabtree and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown have caught eight or more touchdowns passes in each of the past three seasons.
Crabtree is coming off one of the worst years of his career, catching 58 passes for 618 yards. Meanwhile, Grant is coming of the best season of his career with 45 catches for 573 yards. Crabtree caught eight touchdowns last year. Grant has six scores over his entire four-year career.
Crabtree isn't considered a speedy deep threat, as his 11.9-yards per catch average shows. But the Ravens already have plenty of people on the roster who can do that, including Brown, Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman.
What quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't have, however, is a red-zone monster like Crabtree. All Baltimore receivers combined for 11 touchdown catches last year.
The Ravens have experience in trying to slow the 2009 No. 10 overall pick. They came out on the better end of a last-minute fourth-down pass to Crabtree in Super Bowl XLVII, but he's dominated ever since. Crabtree has caught five touchdown passes against Baltimore, which is the most of any player in the last four seasons, per ESPN.
There's no doubt Crabtree would elevate the Ravens receiving corps, but they have to sign him first.
"Crabtree's market is not immediately clear, but the Ravens will get their first shot at him and the organization has a strong history of closing deals once free agents get into the building," wrote Zrebiec.
One recent example was when the Ravens signed Steve Smith Sr., who was also a productive wide receiver cut by his former team. He never left Baltimore when he came to visit, despite a scheduled flight to visit the New England Patriots. Mike Wallace also missed a flight to stay in Baltimore.
"The priority, of course, is to build a team that will get the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014," wrote ESPN. "But doing so with recognizable names will go a long way in generating the excitement needed to fill the increasing empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium."
Update on Salary Cap after Brandon Williams' Contract Restructure
The Ravens reportedly restructured defensive tackle Brandon Williams' contract Thursday, just as Owner Steve Bisciotti said they would do.
It's the second time Baltimore has restructured Williams' deal since he signed it last year.
By converting $7.5 million of Williams' $8.5 million base salary this year to a signing bonus, the Ravens opened up a sizable $5.6 million in cap space. It gives the Ravens breathing room immediately, but pushes $1.8 million to his cap hits in each of the remaining three years of his deal.
2018: $11.55 million -----> $5.92 million
2019: $12.29 million -----> $14.17 million
2020: $12.29 million -----> $14.17 million
2021: $12.54 million -----> $14.42 million
Eric Ebron Has Three Scheduled Visits; None to Baltimore
After tight end Eric Ebron was released by the Detroit Lions, it was immediately reported that the Ravens were interested and Ebron even teased Ravens fans a bit.
Alas, Ebron's list of visits have been reported and Baltimore is not one of the destinations. Ebron will visit the Carolina Panthers Friday, Indianapolis Colts Saturday and then possibly the New England Patriots, according to Schefter.
Ebron represents one of the last quality options for a pass-catching tight ends on the market. The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed Tyler Eifert to a one-year deal yesterday, and the talented but oft-injured tight end will try to prove he can stay healthy for 16 games. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins yesterday as well.
- "The Ravens have yet to have one of their 10 free agents sign elsewhere, meaning they have some ground to make up if they want to get a compensatory selection or two in next year's draft. … And if the Ravens sign another true outside unrestricted free agent, it's going to be very tough for them to recoup a comp pick next year." [The Baltimore Sun]