Late For Work 3/4: Exploring Andre Johnson, Cary Williams. Will Lardarius Webb Take Pay Cut?

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Should Ravens Target WR Andre Johnson?

The Houston Texas will trade or release wide receiver Andre Johnson, and it's not just because of the seven-time Pro Bowler's reported $16.1 million salary.

Johnson told the Houston Chronicle that Head Coach Bill O'Brien communicated in a meeting last week that Johnson shouldn't expect to catch more than about 40 passes this season.

"I just laughed," Johnson said. "They gave me my role, and I just laughed at them. How do you tell a guy who is used to catching 80 balls a year that he was going to catch 40?"

Naturally, the team's all-time leading receiver wants out.

And naturally, folks around Baltimore are speculating whether the Ravens could be his next destination

There are pros and cons to bringing Johnson to Baltimore, laid out by CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.

Pros

  1. The Ravens need a playmaker at wide receiver, particularly if Torrey Smith leaves via free agency.
  2. Nabbing successful receivers from other teams has worked well in the past for the Ravens, including with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Steve Smith Sr.
  3. Despite never playing with a marquee quarterback, Johnson has regularly produced 1,000-yard seasons when healthy. The Texans had a shaky quarterback situation last year, and the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder still put up 936 yards. He has never played with a quarterback as good as Joe Flacco, and Flacco has never had a consistently reliable big body to target like Johnson.
  4. As a trade or cap casualty, Johnson wouldn't hurt the Ravens' formula for garnering compensatory picks.
  5. Johnson has a reputation for being a good teammate and leader both on and off the field.

Cons

1)      If the Ravens lose Torrey Smith, the top two receivers would be a combined 70 years old. Johnson turns 34 in July and Smith Sr. turns 36 in May. The Ravens need more young blood.

2)      Johnson doesn't fill the need for a speedy threat without Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith. Can he stretch the field?

3)      While Torrey Smith scored a career-high 11 touchdowns last season, Johnson hasn't been prolific at finding the red zone. He's averaged just four touchdown catches over the last three seasons.

4)      There could be better options available in the next week or so. As outlined on Monday, there are 10 potential big-name wide receivers that could become salary-cap casualties before free agency opens Tuesday, including Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin.

"General Manager Ozzie Newsome's mantra is 'right player, right price.' Perhaps, the Ravens could get Johnson for relatively cheap if he isn't traded and he's available as a free agent," wrote Zrebiec. "He'd make any team better.

"But at some point, the Ravens also are going to have to commit to getting younger and faster on the outside. It would be hard to endorse acquiring Johnson and letting Torrey Smith get out of town without the Ravens also drafting a wide receiver in the early rounds."

CB Cary Williams Has 'Strong Interest' In Rejoining Ravens

The Philadelphia Eagles officially parted ways with cornerback Cary Williams, opting not to pay him his reported $6.5 million in base salary. That leaves the former Ravens Super Bowl champion available to sign.

The Ravens need to bolster their cornerback corps, and Williams is reportedly interested in a reunion with the team that gave him his first shot at a starting job.

"Williams has a strong interest in potentially rejoining the Ravens after leaving the organization on good terms two years ago," reported The Sun's Aaron Wilson. "Whether that means the Ravens will try to sign Williams is premature at this time, though."

At the very least, Wilson believes Williams is an option "worth exploring."

Williams is known for his feisty and sometimes combative nature. He had some run-ins with the Eagles, criticizing the up-tempo practice regimen and getting into two separate fights. One fight was with teammate Riley Cooper, and the other was with Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson during a joint practice.

That said, he has "plenty of allies in Ravens organization," tweeted Zrebiec. He also had four seasons (2009-2012) in Baltimore without any major issues. The Ravens liked him enough to reportedly offer a three-year, $15 million contract in 2012. But he ultimately chose the Eagles' offer of $17 million for three years.

Williams, 30, didn't have a particularly strong season in Philadelphia last year. He ranked as the 49th-best cornerback by Pro Football Focus after allowing 56 completions for 757 yards and five touchdowns. 

"It wasn't a stellar season, but Williams has a proven track record and played his best football with the Ravens," wrote Wilson.

Williams transformed himself from a practice-squad player to a starter in Baltimore. He was the starting corner during the Super Bowl XLVII run, and has started all 16 games during his past four NFL seasons. He reportedly has domestic violence in his background, and served a two-game suspension for it in 2010 while he was with the Ravens. He has had no reported off-the-field issues since.

Pairing Williams with a healthy Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb – while also adding another corner in the draft – would be considered an upgrade at the position. Williams could also come at a modest price.

"The Ravens could view him as a nice veteran insurance policy while still aiming to add a cornerback for the future in the first few rounds of this year's draft," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.

Ravens Asked Webb For Pay Cut. Will He Take It?

There's been speculation that the Ravens would approach Webb about a pay cut, and that request has finally been made, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

As things stand now, Webb has the team's second-largest cap number behind defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. But with a struggling secondary, the Ravens want to keep their capable corners (when healthy), not get rid of them. Webb has plenty of leverage if he doesn't want to reduce his salary. The Ravens would only gain a reported $2 million by releasing him, while picking up $10 million of dead money against the cap.

"These cases tend to be pay cut or get cut, but it may not be the case this time," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Josh Alper.

That means if the Ravens want to create some space without letting Webb go, they'll have to get creative.

"The best-case scenario for the Ravens is finding a middle ground with Webb," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "One compromise is reducing Webb's salary by $2 million or $3 million to give the Ravens immediate cap relief and adding incentives that would allow him to earn it all back in 2015.

"Another option is doing a simple restructuring of Webb's contract, which is what the Ravens did last season to open up $3 million in cap room. The Ravens can convert a portion of his base salary into a bonus to spread the cap hit over the remaining three years of his deal. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has said that he prefers to avoid restructuring deals because it's only pushing the cap hit into future seasons."

Adding S Devin McCourty 'Almost Certainly Won't Happen'

Would bringing in somebody like safety Devin McCourty, who didn't get the franchise tag from the New England Patriots Monday, make sense?

Of course.

But don't expect it to happen.

"Let me preface this item by saying it almost certainly won't happen," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens clearly don't have the salary cap space while plenty of other teams do. However, if you asked me to identify the one pending free agent that would best fit the Ravens, I'd say it's New England Patriots' safety Devin McCourty, with no hesitation."

The Ravens currently rank No. 4 in the least amount of salary-cap space, per the ESPN Roster Management System, and that doesn't count the tenders the Ravens will need to give their restricted and exclusive rights free agents. That's a projected $3.8 million for just two restricted players in kicker Justin Tucker and safety Will Hill.

Until the Ravens officially agree to extensions, restructured contracts or make cuts, they are projected to be over the cap by $4.9 million.

"What does all of this mean?" asked Hensley. "It would be realistic to expect the Ravens to have between $5 million to $8 million in cap space when free agency begins. This would allow them to sign some of their key free agents but will limit what they can do in signing other teams' free agents."

That includes McCourty, who will be a hot target when free agency opens.

"The interest in McCourty, 27, is expected to be extremely high if he leaves," wrote Zrebiec. "A smart, rangy and play-making safety who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, McCourty is exactly the type of player that the Ravens need to shore up their secondary. But the money is just not there to get in what is sure to be a bidding war for his services if he becomes available."

Jim Harbaugh Rescues Motorist In Michigan Highway Crash

I could see this exact same headline for John Harbaugh.

His brother, Jim, who is the new football head coach at the University of Michigan, pulled over along I-94 near Ann Arbor to assist a woman in a single-car accident. She was driving a Jeep along the highway and lost control of her car in slippery conditions.

The car reportedly hit the center median and then overturned, landing on the other side of the road. The 53-year-old driver was partially ejected despite wearing her seatbelt, and Harbaugh assisted her, and a 73-year-old passenger, until police and emergency vehicles arrived on the scene.

"Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan, head football coach, and Jim Minick, University of Michigan, Athletic Staff, stopped and assisted with first-aid by assisting the partially ejected driver to exit the Jeep and by using coats to keep the injured passenger warm until EMS arrived," Michigan State Police said in a prepared statement.

After it was all over, Harbaugh continued with his day, proceeding to the airport where he caught a plane back to the Bay Area.

Good for you, Jim.

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