Free-Agent Market Heating Up For Kamar Aiken
Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken made it clear that he would pursue opportunities outside of Baltimore after feeling underutilized last season.
He's been patiently waiting as the top free-agent receivers struck deals around the league – he adopted the hashtag #silentgrind – and a little more than a week into the new league year, the market seems to be heating up for the six-year veteran.
Aiken visited the Indianapolis Colts Friday, and is expected to meet with the Seattle Seahawks today, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
On top of that, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora tweeted, "several teams [are] showing interest."
As with any player, Aiken's top priority is to find a home where he can get increased playing time so he can show off his ability. However, there isn't a clear path to meaningful snaps with either the Colts or Seahawks.
In Indy, the Colts have T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett. The folks at StampedeBlue.com said Aiken would perhaps fit in as a "depth wideout who is perfectly capable of stepping in and catching passes as a number three or four wideout."
In Seattle, the Seahawks are stacked with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett, but ESPN's Sheil Kapadia says there are plenty of question marks with the group, which could open the door for Aiken.
Lockett (fractured fibula and tibia) is expected back Week 1, but there's uncertainty about how surgery will affect his play. Kearse is "coming off a disappointing season" and Richardson could be gone after the 2017 season, which is his final under contract.
"If Aiken joined the Seahawks, he would compete for playing time and be part of the wide receiver rotation right away," wrote Kapadia.
Perhaps one of several other interested teams would provide a better opportunity for playing time, but if the Ravens want Aiken back, they have a strong argument that he'll get more snaps than last year.
Because injuries took a toll on the receiver group in 2015, he became the No. 1 receiver and led the team with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns. But that dropped to 29 catches, 328 yards and one touchdown in 2016 once the unit got healthy and signed Mike Wallace.
After the retirement of Steve Smith Sr., and the Ravens not yet signing anyone to replace him, the team only has two receivers on the roster (Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman) who caught more than seven passes last season. That could give Aiken an opening for playing time, and maybe he'd have a change of heart about a return.
"Things can change when you look out there and see what your market is. Then, all of a sudden, the team that had you might be a little more attractive again," ESPN's Jamison Hensley said on WBAL Radio last week. "[T]he Ravens can say to him, '[We] only have two proven guys, you can come back and it will be just like 2015 again.'"
Brandon Carr's Contract Looking Like A One-Year 'Prove It' Deal
The contract details for newly-signed cornerback Brandon Carr have come in, shedding light on two things:
1) It looks more like a one-year "prove it" deal rather than a four-year contract, per ProFootballTalk.com.
2) Maybe Morris Claiborne wasn't the Ravens' first choice, says The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"The good news for Carr is that the team must make its decision for the next league year by the end of the prior league year, which would put him on the market early," wrote PFT's Mike Florio. "The bad news is that, if the team picks up the option each year, there's a chance he's outperforming the contract. If he's underperforming, the Ravens won't keep him."
Meanwhile, Carr's former Dallas Cowboys teammate, Morris Claiborne, got a reported one-year deal for $5 million from the New York Jets. That's $1 million less than Carr gets in year one, but Claiborne is free to do what he wants after the 2016 season.
Unlikely, But Not Crazy, For Ravens To Pursue Adrian Peterson … In May
As running back Adrian Peterson, 31, continues to wait for free-agent suitors, ESPN looked at six teams that could sign the seven-time Pro Bowler.
The Ravens were named as one possibility in the "unlikely, but not crazy" category.
"One can make the case that Baltimore needs to upgrade at running back because Terrance West is a journeyman, Kenneth Dixon was suspended for the first four games of the season, and Danny Woodhead has struggled to stay healthy," wrote Hensley. "But the Ravens would be more interested in adding a veteran in May if they don't select a running back in a loaded draft."
At this point, Hensley says the Ravens will be more selective in who they sign until May 9 anyway, because that's when unrestricted free-agent signings won't count against the compensatory pick formula. As such, expect Baltimore to narrow its additions during March and April to players that have been cut by their former teams (Peterson was cut by the Vikings).
Baltimore is currently due one comp pick after losing Rick Wagner, Kyle Juszczyk, Lawrence Guy and Vladimir Ducasse and signing Carr, Tony Jefferson and Woodhead. That could move up to two comp picks if Aiken signs elsewhere and the Ravens don't sign any more unrestricted free agents before May.
"That's why it is more likely Baltimore signs a player who has been released: offensive tackles Ryan Clady and King Dunlap; pass-rusher Mario Williams; wide receiver Victor Cruz; inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson; and center Nick Mangold," wrote Hensley.
"If the Ravens signed an unrestricted free agent -- a player whose contract expired, such as Anquan Boldin, Dwight Freeney, Chris Long, Zach Brown or Kevin Minter -- it could negate that fifth-rounder (for Juszczyk)."
Harbaugh Brothers Sound Off On Firing Of Brother-In-Law Tom Crean
The Indiana Hoosiers announced late last week the firing of men's Head Basketball Coach Tom Crean, who is married to Joanie Harbaugh, sister of John and Jim Harbaugh.
Crean's brothers-in-law quickly came to his defense, strongly stating that the Indiana administration really never had his back. Jim likened it to his time with San Francisco 49ers Owner Jed York and former General Manager Trent Baalke.
"[M]uch like my situation in San Francisco, the people that are doing the micromanaging … when it comes to building a ball team, what they know could not blow up a small balloon," Jim told Michael Rosenberg of SI.com. "In my case, an owner and a general manager. In [Tom's case] case, an administration. They are so similar in that way. And he still wins two Big Ten championships outright."
John has always had the full support of Ravens management, including from Owner Steve Bisciotti and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and he understands how powerful that can be to a head coach.
"In the end, it was the lack of support that basically takes its toll the most," John said. "You want to feel like you're part of a team and you're doing it together. It's about knowledge, loyalty and leadership. This is the merry-ground that Indiana athletics has been on forever. … He was just going through what he was going through — the administration over the years, the toll it takes on you. This has not been the last four or five days. It's been the last four, five, six years."
Shocker: Ben Roethlisberger 'Leaning Toward' Playing In 2017
Rival Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger floated out the possibility of retirement this offseason, which few people believed would actually happen.
He confirmed why those doubts were legitimate when he told Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter Dale Lolley that he's now "leaning toward" playing in 2017.
"I think the shocking upset of the week is that Ben Roethlisberger told a reporter for the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter* that he's 'leaning towards' playing in 2017," wrote TheMMQB.com's Peter King. "All those who think Roethlisberger was going to retire, raise your hands. *Bueller? … Bueller?"