How Pats Letting Go Of Vince Wilfork Affects Haloti Ngata
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork wrote an emotional goodbye on Twitter yesterday, announcing that the New England Patriots informed him they would not pick up his contract option in 2015. After drafting Wilfork in the first round of the 2004 draft, their 11-year stint together is over.
Onlookers in Baltimore can't help but think about how the Pats-Wilfork situation compares to the one between the Ravens and their long-time defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
"That situation sounds eerily similar to what could play out in Baltimore," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka.
Like Wilfork, Ngata was drafted by the Ravens in the first round (2006) and has played his entire career for one team. Both are five-time Pro Bowlers, fan-favorites in their respective cities and over 30 years old (Ngata is 31 and Wilfork is 33).
One area where the two diverge is their salaries for 2015.
Consider this: Wilfork's reported cap hit ($8.9 million) was going to be almost half that of Ngata's ($16 million), and the Patriots still released him. Meanwhile, defensive end Darnell Dockett signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers yesterday reportedly worth $7.5 million.
Both moves give an indication of what the market is like for aging defensive tackles.
"Now let's give fair due to Haloti. Not only is he younger than Dockett and Wilfork, he is a hybrid in terms of size and athleticism; his ability to play both NT and DE capably is a special asset. He also did not show particular decline in production last year," wrote Russell Street Report's Mark Weingram.
"That said, the market for over-30 D-linemen is manifesting in increasingly favorable ways for the Ravens as free agency nears."
The Ravens and Ngata have been trying to work out a contract extension, and if they don't agree by the new league year on Tuesday, the Ravens will either be forced to incur the $16 million cap hit or cut him.
"Is Ngata on the verge of a similar fate? And if so, is there any chance that Wilfork, on a cheaper salary, replaces him?" asked Smolka.
Chicago Bears Shopping Brandon Marshall Trade
UPDATE: The Bears have traded Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. That ends the Marshall-to-Ravens speculation.
The Chicago Bears are exploring trade options for five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, according to The Chicago Tribune.
"One NFL source said the Bears are shopping Marshall with the idea of moving him. Another source said his belief is the team is taking calls in regard to Marshall," wrote The Tribune's Brad Biggs. "One source said the Bears potentially could move him for a mid-round pick. It's unknown if the team would consider releasing Marshall instead of locking into the contract for the coming season."
The news is picking up buzz in Baltimore based on Marshall's tie to Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman and his joking comments to Head Coach John Harbaugh at the Super Bowl about playing for the Ravens. CBSSports.com named Baltimore as one potential landing spot.
Nobody will have a better scouting report on Marshall than Trestman since he was the receiver's head coach the past two years, but some analysts around town don't like the idea of a Ravens-Marshall marriage.
The playmaking 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver makes sense on the field, of course, but his off-the-field issues are a concern. Even if he becomes a salary-cap casualty, Marshall has domestic violence in his past, and General Manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear that anyone with such backgrounds would have a hard time becoming a Raven.
"The Baltimore Ravens need a wide receiver. They need a top target for Joe Flacco. They want a playmaker on the outside," wrote The Baltimore Wire's Joe Serpico. "What they do not need is Brandon Marshall."
If the Ravens lose wide receiver Torrey Smith to free agency and want to replace him with a veteran, there could be less-risky options such as Andre Johnson or one of nine other big names that could be cut.
Cary Williams Continues Free-Agency Tour, Maintains Interest In Ravens
Former Philadelphia Eagles and Ravens cornerback Cary Williams reportedly visited the Seattle Seahawks yesterday and will visit the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, pending weather conditions.
There are no reports of Williams visiting with the Ravens, but he seems to have interest.
"Williams has maintained interest in possibly returning to the Ravens, with whom he earned a Super Bowl ring as a starter three years ago, and the feeling is mutual," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
"Whether Williams ultimately rejoins the Ravens or signs with another team will depend on the price, and the Seahawks are getting the first visit. The Ravens remain in a tight salary cap situation with $4.6 million available under the limit of $143.28 million."
Ravens Methodical In Free Agency
While it's usually a blast to be a Ravens fan in January, it's rarely exciting in March.
That's because of the "methodical" – and successful – way the front office navigates through free agency as opposed to risky big splashes with other teams' players.
"The Ravens don't have the salary-cap room to be big spenders in free agency, and it's simply not the way this franchise has done business, especially over the past five years," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "This is a team that prefers to focus on signing its own free agents instead of ones from other teams because it's a sounder investment to give millions of guaranteed money to players you've known for four years.
"This is also a team that targets salary-cap casualties over unrestricted free agents (players who have finished out their contracts) because players who've been cut don't reduce the number of compensatory picks for the next year's draft."
Here are some intriguing notes that Hensley dug up:
- Since 2010, the Ravens have signed 16 players from other teams in the first wave of free agency, and 12 of them have been cap casualties. Only one free agent, Elvis Dumervil, got more than $4 million in guaranteed money.
- Since 2010, $29 million of guaranteed money has gone to free agents from other teams, while $93 million was given to Joe Flacco, Marshal Yanda, Dennis Pitta and Terrell Suggs.
- Since the league started awarding compensatory picks in 1994, the Ravens have received the most of all 32 NFL teams. Their 41 awarded picks are eight more than any other team in the league. The key to their success is letting their own unrestricted free agents walk (such as Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Arthur Jones and Cary Williams), while mostly picking up cap casualties (such as Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels, Justin Forsett and Vonta Leach).
- The Ravens have only signed four unrestricted free agents the past five offseasons: Ricky Williams, Corey Graham, Sean Considine and Darian Stewart. Only Graham got more than $1 million in guaranteed money.
- Torrey Smith is ranked No. 2 on the top free-agent wide receivers list, only behind the Packers' Randall Cobb. [NFL.com]