Third Option With Mike Wallace Few People Are Talking About
In regards to the status of wide receiver Mike Wallace, Head Coach John Harbaugh was very clear, yet vague, at the same time.
Amidst speculation that Wallace could be a salary-cap casualty, Harbaugh was passionate about saying he wants, and plans on having, last year's leading Ravens receiver back next season. He just didn't explain how that would happen.
"I want Mike Wallace on our football team," Harbaugh said at the NFL Scouting Combine Wednesday. "Circumstances, contracts, salary cap are another conversation that you have about every single guy. But my anticipation is Mike Wallace will be a part of our team, and I know he's working to be part of our team. And I'm planning on having him back next year."
People have mostly talked about two options with Wallace: 1) Decide against picking up his 2017 contract option in order to save a reported $5.75 million in cap space, or 2) Pick up the option and let him play under his scheduled $8 million cap hit.
But Harbaugh's comments leave room for a third option:
"It remains unclear whether General Manager Ozzie Newsome intends to use the option or is attempting to work out a contract extension that would presumably lower Wallace's cap figure and keep him beyond 2017," added WNST's Luke Jones.
"[W]hile his $8 million cap figure for 2017 isn't exactly cheap, an organization that's frequently struggled at the receiver position shouldn't be quick to part ways with a 1,000-yard receiver who will only turn 31 in August."
That's why a longer-term extension could be a win-win for both sides.
Locking up Wallace for more years with a more equitable spread of his cap hits over that time would give the Ravens a reliable veteran along with a group mostly made up of young receivers that have potential but aren't proven. That's not a bad thing with wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.'s retirement and Kamar Aiken scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next week. The Ravens have also expressed interest in adding a veteran "complementary" receiver.
Extending Wallace would allow him to enjoy a more secure future with a team that helped him get his career back on track after down seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. Wallace has been on four teams in the past five seasons, and has said he would like to find a home.
Both sides would have to be agreeable to such a setup. If the Ravens don't pick up his option or strike a new deal, Wallace could find himself joining the free-agent pool.
"Wallace likely wouldn't be unemployed for long if the Ravens decided to move on," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Zac Jackson.
Salary Cap Officially Set
It's time to get out those checkbooks.
That's because the NFL Players Association announced Wednesday that the salary cap will be officially set at $167 million, which is a $12 million increase from last season. Teams will be ready to spend, spend, spend, starting March 9.
That reportedly leaves the Ravens with $13.8 million in cap space. But that will be cut in less than half when the team makes decisions on restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agent tenders, along with other cap adjustments, according to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland. After those moves are set in motion, he anticipates the Ravens to be in the $5 to $6 million range.
That's simply not enough to address the Ravens' myriad needs, including the secondary, defensive front seven, offensive line, wide receiver, backup quarterback, etc. That's why salary-cap cuts are still anticipated.
[T]he [cap] number will increase significantly when the Ravens go through an expected round of roster or pay cuts," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "When it all shakes out ahead of March 9, the Ravens figure to have more salary cap flexibility than they've enjoyed in some time.
"But their space is still dwarfed by what most teams in the league have. According to the website overthecap.com, 23 teams have more than $20 million of cap space. A dozen teams have more than $40 million of room."
Three More Holes To Fill?
The franchise tag deadline has come and gone. As expected, the Ravens didn't use it to keep any of their free agents in Baltimore.
That doesn't mean they aren't trying to retain their top players. In fact, as Harbaugh was walking to his press conference at the combine yesterday, he ran into Ravens Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty, who was hurrying to a meeting with a player's agent.
But even Harbaugh was realistic about the situation.
"Those guys do what they need to do in terms of their due diligence and checking out what their market value is going to be, and we're just competing against the market for those guys," the head coach said.
If Brandon Williams, Rick Wagner and Kyle Juszczyk choose to explore their market value next week, anything can happen at that point.
"That means that without a deal over the next week, Wagner, Williams and Juszczyk will hit the free-agent market as arguably the top players at their respective positions," wrote Zrebiec. "And the Ravens will have three more holes to fill on a team that went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years."
'Competitive Offer' Brings Back Memories Of Kelechi Osemele
In an attempt to keep their three top free agents, Harbaugh said the team has made them "very competitive offers."
That didn't serve as much comfort to Ravens fans, however, after what happened with guard Kelechi Osemele last year. While at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, Harbaugh said the Ravens offered a "very aggressive deal" to Osemele, but it only took one team with a lot of cap space to lure him out of Baltimore.
Harbaugh wasn't blowing steam when he said the offer to Osemele was aggressive. It was later revealed that the Ravens offered him $8.5 million a year, which would've made him the highest-paid guard in the league at the time. The Raiders, who had much more salary-cap space, reportedly came in with a massive $11.7 million annual figure that the Ravens couldn't match.
It just goes to show that anything can happen once teams start their bidding.
Cleveland Browns Don't Franchise Terrelle Pryor
Another AFC North team opted not to use its franchise tag before yesterday's deadline.
The Cleveland Browns stashed it away instead of using it on free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. The Browns say they remain committed to ongoing negotiations to re-sign him, but Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown said they "won't panic" if Pryor walks.
"[The move] possibly [adds] another coveted player to a free agent wide receiver market that the Ravens figure to explore," wrote Zrebiec.
It didn't take long for the questions about the Ravens' interest to start.
Michael Oher Still In Concussion Protocol
Former Ravens first-round pick (2009) Michael Oher remains in concussion protocol, confirmed Carolina Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman at the combine yesterday. Oher has been there since late September after playing just three games last season.
Without an idea of when Oher will be cleared to play, the Panthers are forced to come up with other possible solutions for their starting left tackle.
"You can't deny what's going on,'' Gettleman said on Wednesday at the combine, per ESPN. "We're in the unknown, and we're going to move forward."
This is a very unfortunate development for the former Raven. Oher has continued working out in anticipation of being ready for 2017, but he must wait to be cleared first. We wish him the best as he continues to try to improve his health.
Two More Years Of James Harrison For Ronnie Stanley
The ageless wonder will pester the Ravens for two more years.
Outside linebacker James Harrison, who will turn 39 in May, signed a new two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers Tuesday.
The news probably didn't make Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley jump for joy. Last year's No. 6-overall pick told the NFL Network in the video below that Harrison was his toughest matchup of the year.
"One hundred percent, James Harrison [was the biggest war]," Stanley said.
Harrison was Stanley's first test after coming back from an ankle injury that held him out for five weeks (including the bye week). He said it was his "Welcome to the NFL" moment.
While Stanley gave up a sack/strip and three hurries to Harrison in their first meeting, the rookie held the veteran without a single pressure in their second matchup in Pittsburgh, according to Pro Football Focus.