Brandon Marshall Will Be A Free Agent. Will Ravens Sign Him?
Another highly-productive veteran wide receiver will become a free agent, as news broke Thursday night that the New York Jets will release Brandon Marshall.
So, will the Ravens sign him?
On paper, it seems to be exactly what Baltimore is looking for.
The Ravens have said they want a veteran with a few good years left. Marshall, who will turn 33 later this month, is just one season removed from putting up 1,502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He posted 59 catches for 788 yards and three scores last year amidst the Jets' quarterback turmoil.
The Ravens have said they want a "complementary" receiver.
Marshall's 6-foot-4, 230-pound size is something Baltimore lacks on the outside. He's adept at going up and making contested catches down the field, as well as his overall route-running. That would complement the Ravens' speed threats of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman.
Baltimore makes sense for Marshall too.
Marshall, who is also well-known for his outspoken and honest personality, already struck up a relationship with Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh when the two were at the Super Bowl two years ago. Marshall asked Harbaugh what it would be like to play for the Ravens, and whether Harbaugh would allow him to also be a television personality.
Harbaugh already allowed Steve Smith Sr., another strong-headed wide receiver, to do TV the past two years in Baltimore. Harbaugh encourages players to be who they are, as long as it helps the team.
Then there's the money. Marshall was slated to have a $7.5 million cap hit in 2017, per Spotrac. The six-time Pro Bowler was still valued by the Jets. According to reports, New York offered him a contract extension with no pay cut, but Marshall asked for his release.
However, money may not be the biggest factor for Marshall in free agency. He posted on Instagram that he's "looking forward to finding a great organization where I can contribute and bring home a championship." The Ravens, despite missing the playoffs three of the past four years, are widely recognized as a great organization and championship contender.
So, what's the hold-up?
"Whether the Ravens pursue him depends on how the team addresses this pressing question: Does Marshall become an exception to the Ravens' stance on domestic violence?" wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Marshall has had nine reported incidents of domestic violence against women and was arrested three times for domestic-violence issues. The last incident occurred in March 2012, and no charges were filed.
Led by Owner Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens have stayed away from players with domestic violence in their history since the Ray Rice episode in 2014.
"It will be tough for us to bring a player to Baltimore that has domestic abuse in their background," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said in February 2015.
That said, Newsome didn't rule it out completely. Every case, and every player, has their own story.
"The Ravens could determine that Marshall has turned around his life," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore could weigh the fact that Marshall was never convicted and focus on what he has done since those incidents."
Hensley points out some of the changes. In 2011, Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He has since become an advocate to raise awareness about mental health issues. In 2014, he held a clothing drive in Denver to collect winter clothing for domestic violence survivors.
"I think the first half of my career really painted a picture of me being a product of my environment," Marshall said in 2014. "I'm just thankful that now I'm in a position where I can take my story and tell these guys, 'Listen, man, you don't have to be a product of your environment. That is the wrong path.'"
While Newsome said two years ago that it would be tough to add a player with a domestic violence history, he said just two months ago that Baltimore is "not afraid" of adding a player with character concerns.
"When we do take someone, it's upon all of us to make sure that that guy is doing everything he needs to do to change his life," Newsome said.
"While Newsome wasn't talking about domestic violence, this could relate to Marshall in terms of how he has changed his life," Hensley wrote.
Brandon Williams Rated Top Free Agent; Ravens Have Met With His Agent
We all know defensive tackle Brandon Williams is at, or near the top, of the Ravens' free-agent priority list.
That's not all. He tops ESPN's list of all the available NFL free agents.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and more can take a back seat to the Ravens' run-stopping bulldozer.
The list was compiled by ESPN's experts and is based on the market value for players (not how they did on the field in 2016).
As Hensley pointed out, Williams consistently ranked among the top-10 projected free agents, but he moved up the list after seven players received the franchise tag.
"This is impressive recognition for Williams, a Division II player out of Missouri Southern State who was the 94th player drafted four years ago," Hensley wrote.
Williams would likely rather the recognition come in the form of dollar bills, and that isn't far off. According to ESPN's John Clayton, Williams is projected to receive a four-year, $38 million deal.
Williams has made a name for himself as one of the league's best run-stopping defensive linemen. The Ravens have given up the third-fewest rushing yards (93.8) per game since he became a starter in 2014, and ranked fifth in that category last season.
The Ravens know exactly how valuable Williams is to their defense, as Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said he's an "A" player and "we have to try to retain him." The Ravens didn't opt to use the franchise tag ($13.4 million) on Williams, but are actively trying to keep him.
On Thursday, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec said the Ravens are working at the NFL Scouting Combine to try to lock up Williams before he hits the open market, where any team with more salary-cap space could outbid them.
5 Bold Predictions For Ravens Offseason
Things are about to get really interesting around Baltimore.
Free agency is just six days away and the Ravens are looking to 1) re-sign some of their own players, 2) clear cap space to sign other free agents and 3) sign those free agents. Then, in less than two months, Baltimore will step into the draft room.
With all that in mind, Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos made five bold predictions about what will happen.
1. The Ravens will re-sign offensive tackle Rick Wagner
"Head Coach John Harbaugh has expressed his desire to build the best offensive line in the NFL. That is difficult to accomplish when the team loses one of their best blockers in consecutive offseasons, especially when the free agent market and draft do not contain very many quality tackles."
"The Ravens will jettison Elvis Dumervil, Shareece Wright, Jeremy Zuttah, Ben Watson, Kyle Arrington and Kendrick Lewis, creating $18 million in newfound salary cap space. However, several veterans with borderline contracts will be retained.
"Team Owner Steve Bisciotti has put considerable pressure on Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh to improve the team's results next season. It is unlikely the leaders will feel capable of doing so without their only proven wide receiver, Flacco's security blanket tight end and the only free safety on the roster. In keeping with recent tradition, the Ravens will convince Webb and Pitta to accept incentive laden restructures, and Wallace's unjustified cap hit will be deferred to 2018 through a short contract extension."
3. The Ravens will sign one big-name receiver this offseason
"The loss of Steve Smith Sr. cannot be overstated, he was the top playmaker on the team over the last three seasons. The Ravens needed more difference makers even with Smith on the roster, failing to replace him with a proven commodity and expecting to have a more potent offense would be the definition of insanity. Alshon Jeffrey will probably be priced out of range. But Pierre Garcon or Brandon Marshall, if he is released by the Jets, will sign in Baltimore."
4. The first-round pick will be a pass rusher
"Come draft day, they will fall back on what they know best and their 'win the line of scrimmage' philosophy. Derek Barnett would be the quintessential Newsome pick as a highly productive, well rounded player who provides tremendous draft value due to a lack of high end athleticism. Taco Charlton has a higher ceiling but questions about his effort, which should be assuaged by the Harbaugh Michigan connection. One of these two will be chosen at No. 16 overall."
5. The team will miss out on a top-ranked cornerback in the draft once again
"The Ravens have had an aversion to spending early picks on the cornerback position, they have not drafted a corner in the first three rounds for five consecutive drafts. Despite the best crop of corners perhaps all time in this draft class, the trend will continue. Without a clear cut pecking order of first round corners, and considering the great depth in the class, the Ravens will pass in the first round."