Will Not Franchising C.J. Mosley Prove to Be the Right Move?
It appears there's finally an answer to the question of "will they?" or "won't they?" in regard to the Ravens using the franchise tag on linebacker C.J. Mosley.
According to a report yesterday by ESPN's Adam Schefter, the team will not franchise Mosley (teams have until 4 p.m. ET today to designate the franchise tag), which means he will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent unless the Ravens re-sign him before March 13 at 4 p.m., when free agency officially begins. Teams can start negotiating with pending free agents on March 11.
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta has said on several occasions that the Ravens hope to sign the 26-year-old Mosley to a long-term deal, and he said last week that he expected negotiations to heat up at the NFL Scouting Combine, which ended yesterday. Mosley has said that he would like to remain in Baltimore.
So now the questions become: Are the Ravens making the right move by not franchising Mosley? What are the odds Mosley ends up playing elsewhere next season?
Before going any further, let's first look at the financial implications. Under the franchise tag, Mosley would've earned $15.4 million this season. The highest-paid inside linebacker in terms of base salary in 2019 is the Seattle Seahawks' Bobby Wagner at $10.5 million, according to Spotrac.com. The Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly is the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker overall, as he signed a five-year, $61.8 million contract in 2015, which averages out to $12.4 million per year.
Mosley could get an even larger deal than Kuechly. They are the only players in the NFL with at least 500 tackles, eight sacks and eight interceptions since 2014, when Mosley came into the league as the Ravens' first-round pick.
When considering the significant amount of needs the Ravens have and their salary cap situation -- they have $18.6 million of space, according to overthecap.com, and that number will increase by $10.5 million when the Joe Flacco trade to the Denver Broncos becomes official -- not franchising Mosley seems to make sense.
However, Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens believes the Ravens are taking a huge gamble. If the Ravens can't re-sign Mosley, he said "not using the franchise tag will look like a stupid move."
Stevens wrote: "By not using the franchise tag on Mosley, Baltimore has practically ensured he's going to hit free agency, where they have a real shot at losing him. … When a top free agent like Mosley hits the market, teams swarm like sharks in order to bring in a core piece for their roster. It's unclear what Mosley was asking in negotiations, but it seems near impossible he won't get that asking price if he's allowed to hit free agency."
Conversely, ESPN's Jamison Hensley remarked that history indicates the Ravens will get a deal done with the four-time Pro Bowl selection.
On a side note, it didn't take long for the "(insert team name here) should pursue Mosley" stories to surface after Schefter's report.
Several Combine Standouts Could Be Available for Ravens
While Mississippi wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat may have ascended out of the draft range of the Ravens with their attention-grabbing performances and measurements at the Combine, there were others who stood out who could be available to the Ravens at No. 22.
One such player is Iowa State wide receiver and Baltimore native Hakeem Butler.
"Butler already had the stats [60 catches for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns last season] and the size [6 feet 5 ⅜]," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Then the Baltimore native showed the speed, running the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds. There are concerns about his hands, a frightening thought for those who remember former first-round pick Breshad Perriman's inconsistent ball skills. But Butler, with a solid Pro Day showing, could be worth serious consideration at No. 22, and certainly lower if the Ravens trade down."
Another wide receiver who performed well at the Combine who could interest the Ravens is Ohio State's Parris Campbell.
"At 4.31 seconds, Campbell tied for the fastest 40-yard dash time among receivers at the combine and performed as well as expected in other agility drills," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "A shifty kick returner comfortable with the ball in his hands, Campbell would add a new dynamic to the Ravens' Lamar Jackson-led offense if Baltimore could scoop him in the early rounds of the draft."
Kasinitz said other prospects who stood out who could be good fits for the Ravens in terms of talent and availability include Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush and N.C. State center Garrett Bradbury.
"Bush posted the best vertical jump among linebackers and the second-best 40-yard dash time, which should help pad his reputation as a sideline-to-sideline defender," Kasinitz wrote, adding that if the Ravens don't re-sign Mosley, "perhaps Bush could be in play for the Ravens in the first round."
Regarding Bradbury, Kasinitz wrote: "Bradbury's 4.92-second 40-yard dash time is quite speedy for a center, and the former Wolfpack star impressed scouts in Indianapolis across the board. If Baltimore is indeed looking for an upgrade over Matt Skura at center, Bradbury might be the lineman to target in the first round."
Added Shaffer: "While centers are not immune to the difficulties of transitioning to the professional ranks, Bradbury's prior experience at guard means he'd be versatile enough to play anywhere along the Ravens' interior line."
It Was a Good Day for Za'Darius Smith
Whatever the odds were of the Ravens re-signing unrestricted free-agent outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith heading into yesterday, they almost certainly decreased.
Pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans, DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys, Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs and Frank Clark of the Seattle Seahawks all received the franchise tag from their teams.
That suddenly makes Smith and several other free agent pass rushers more attractive to teams with cap space who are looking for help in that area.
Smith, 26, led the Ravens in sacks this past season with 8½.
Ravens Reportedly Interested in Tight End Dwayne Allen
The Ravens are one of four teams who reportedly have preliminary interest in meeting with tight end Dwayne Allen, who was released by the New England Patriots yesterday.
Allen, 29, was used in a blocking role in New England and had just three receptions for 27 yards in 13 games this past season. Before being traded to the Patriots in 2017, Allen spent his first five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He scored a career-high eight touchdowns in 13 games in 2014.
Lack of Depth at Running Back a Concern
Even though running back Alex Collins likely wasn't going to be in the Ravens' plans this coming season, his release last week was another reminder of the team's instability and lack of depth at the position.
"With Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery both readying for free agency and Collins now gone, the Ravens' depth chart looks like this: Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, De'Lance Turner and Tyler Ervin," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "It's a group that's short on experience and proven big-play ability. It's also not an ideal mix for a team that envisions the running game as the backbone of its offense."
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week that Edwards is now the team's No. 1 running back and he expects Edwards to build on his success from last season, when he went from being an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, to the Ravens' practice squad, to a starring role down the stretch.
"Despite Edwards' effectiveness last season, there is some concern that he will struggle to replicate similar production this year," Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J. Platko wrote. "While his strength is running downhill and churning out yards north-to-south, Edwards isn't the most elusive back and offers very little as a pass-catcher out of the backfield."
Harbaugh noted that the Ravens will bring in competition for Edwards, but where will it come from? Internally it will be from Dixon, but his history of knee injuries and suspensions are a concern.
As easy as it is to get caught up in the buzz coming out of the combine that the Ravens are one of the favorites to land former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le'Veon Bell, "it's unlikely the Ravens will be a serious suitor for Bell," according to Zrebiec.
"There are other options in free agency, like Tevin Coleman and Mark Ingram," Zrebiec wrote, "and there will be a running back in every round of the draft that the Ravens could target, starting with Alabama's Josh Jacobs and Iowa State's David Montgomery, potential first- and second-round picks.
"The Ravens really like Edwards, a grind-it-out, north-south back. However, last week was a reminder that in their efforts to build a strong supporting cast around Jackson, they could use a dynamic, three-down back who will also factor into the passing game."