Ravens, Steelers May Compete For Dumervil
Three-time Pro Bowl defender Elvis Dumervil could be in purple and black chasing after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger next season. Or the elite pass rusher could be in black and gold chasing after Joe Flacco.
Either scenario could drastically impact the AFC North, and may be determined by a potential competition for Dumervil over the next couple of days and/or weeks.
After a bizarre fax fiasco in Denver, the Broncos were forced to release Dumervil, making him an unrestricted free agent with the liberty to sign with any team.
The Ravens have "serious interest" in the 29-year-old defensive end, who would play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. Baltimore reportedly hopes to meet with Dumervil after the conclusion of NFL owners meetings in Phoenix Wednesday.
After cutting outside linebacker James Harrison to gain cap space, the Pittsburgh Steelers are also interested in Dumervil, per Wilson.
While both AFC North rivals are strapped for cash under the cap, either one could make room if they so desired.
"Structuring a contract high enough for Dumervil could be tough for either team because of tight salary-cap situations, but teams can always make adjustments to their roster by cutting players if they need to make room for an elite player," Wilson explained.
The demand for Dumervil goes beyond the Ravens and Steelers. The New England Patriots, Houston Texans, and Detroit Lions also inquired about Dumervil and are interested in talking to him, reported USA Today's Mike Garafolo.
Don't count out the Broncos either.
Dumervil has fired his agent, Marty Magid, who blames Denver for the fax snafu because he says they changed the terms of an agreed upon pay reduction (from $12 million to $8 million) in the 11th hour. Magid says he and his client didn't have enough time to look over the new terms and send it back before the deadline. The pass rusher wants to patch things up with the Broncos and give them the first shot to bring him back, per USA Today. There are conflicting reports of whether Denver wants Dumervil back.
By Magid missing the deadline (by six minutes), the Broncos had to cut Dumervil rather than pay him the guaranteed $12 million. Now they have $4.8 million in dead money, which can't make them too happy.
"It would take a leap of faith by both sides to get over hurt feelings from the fax fiasco, but if Dumervil wants to stay in Denver, the Broncos and Dumervil could make it happen," wrote USA Today's Lindsay Jones. "It would require some fancy finagling of the contract and cap numbers, but it is not an unworkable situation. If talks were to resume, just do them in person this time."
All three teams – the Ravens, Steelers and Broncos – would have to do some shuffling to get Dumervil on their roster, but you can't count any of them out.
Dumervil finished 2012 with 11 sacks, second most on the Broncos. He led the NFL in 2009 with 17. By comparison, Paul Kruger, who left Baltimore via free agency for Cleveland ($40.5 million, five years), notched a career-high nine sacks last season.
"If the Ravens could get [Dumervil] in now, at the reduced rate pass rushers are getting, it would make the business decision to let Paul Kruger walk away to Cleveland look that much better," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt.
Ozzie To Make Bid, Expects Reed's Decision This Week
Despite the lavish welcome the Texans gave safety Ed Reed last week, the future Hall of Famer left Houston without a deal, leaving the door "wide open" for Baltimore to make their own push for Reed to return to the city that drafted him 11 years ago.
General Manger Ozzie Newsome is expected to give his own spiel to Reed's agent David Dunn early this week while at owners meetings. The Texans are expected to meet with Dunn again too.
"Don't expect Ed Reed to leave the Baltimore Ravens without Ozzie Newsome waging a determined bid to keep the all-pro safety," wrote USA Today's Jarrett Bell.
After that? Newsome told Bell he expects Reed to make a decision this week.
Whether Reed chooses Baltimore could hinge on how much Newsome is willing to offer the 34-year-old veteran, who is reportedly seeking between $6 million and $7 million per year. The Texans offered something closer to $5 million, according to Wilson.
After losing eight players that started at least one time last year, it appears Newsome doesn't want to lose another leader.
"I've learned through the years, whether it's on offense or defense or special teams, you've got to be careful for how quickly you transition," Newsome told USA Today. "You've got to make sure that you contain certain elements, while you let other elements go."
Would Newsome be willing to at least match the approximate $5 million the Texans reportedly offered?
"I'd be surprised if the Ravens would go that high," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "[T]he Ravens' chances of retaining Reed ultimately rest with the importance the 34-year-old places on playing his whole career in one city, and his desire to be the undisputed leader and mentor of a young defense."
"The Ravens remain very interested in his services, with coaches and team officials reaching out to him, and the Ravens will continue those efforts next week," added CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. "After losing many key veterans, the Ravens are making Reed a priority, sources said. Money should come into better focus at the meetings."
Compensatory Picks To Be Announced, Maybe Season-Opener Too
Baltimore will discover how many compensatory draft picks the Ravens will receive this week at the owners meetings. Plus, the league may announce the defending champs' season-opening opponent.
After losing six free agents last offseason (including Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding and Ben Grubbs) and only picking up one noted free agent (Corey Graham; Jacoby Jones doesn't count because he was released), Zrebiec believes the Ravens will receive four compensatory picks – the most any team can get.
As for the season-opening opponent for the Sept. 5 game at M&T Bank Stadium …
"The three most likely candidates are the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots or the Houston Texans," Zrebiec wrote. "The Green Bay Packers, who will visit Baltimore this season, are also an option but the NFL has scheduled an NFC vs. AFC matchup just once since 2004 for the kickoff game."
Bonus Ends Lingering Worries For Jacoby
Jones received his $1 million roster bonus Friday, according to Wilson.
Some had speculated that Jones could be another cap casualty, as he carries a reported $4.9 million cap figure in 2013, with a $7 million maximum.
"[The bonus] should put to rest any lingering speculation about his spot on the roster for the 2013 season," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Josh Alpher. "Most of it likely died off when the Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to leave Jones as their nominal No. 2 receiver behind Torrey Smith, but any that was left has now been erased."
Alpher speculated that the Ravens could bring down Jones' $3 million base salary in 2013 by offering an extension that keeps him in Baltimore beyond this season, the final year of this two-year contract.
The Ravens also paid cornerback Lardarius Webb ($5 million) and safety James Ihedigbo their scheduled bonuses, according to Wilson.
Webb, who signed a long-term deal last offseason, is rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The cornerback is poised to return in 2013.
"Yes, I am coming back next season," Webb told Wilson at the Super Bowl. "And everything is great."
Could Teams Steal Pitta?
When word first hit the street that the Ravens designated a second-round tender to tight end Dennis Pitta, a former fourth-round selection, Fox Sports Alex Marvez tweeted:
Turns out, teams are considering doing just that.
Pitta is getting "preliminary inquiries," according to Wilson, from teams that are interested and may be willing to part ways with a second-round pick to acquire the 27-year-old veteran.
If Pitta signs his tender with the Ravens, he would receive $2.023 million for 2013. However, if he receives an offer from another team, the Ravens would have the chance to either match it or take the offering team's second-round pick.
Currently, the Ravens would have a hard time matching an offer.
"The Ravens are in a tight salary-cap situation, especially since wide receiver Anquan Boldin's $6 million base salary and $7.531 million salary-cap figure remains on the books until he takes and passes a physical to complete his trade to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick," wrote Wilson.
"Because Pitta wasn't assigned a first-round tender of $2.879 million, the Ravens are slightly vulnerable should another team submit an offer sheet. The restricted free agent market is notoriously dead, but NFL teams do have a high opinion of Pitta. It's unclear if the interest of teams will translate into any action regarding Pitta, though."
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