Ravens Nearing Deal With Shareece Wright
UPDATE:The Ravens have signed cornerback Shareece Wright to a three-year contract.
Jimmy Smith will be happy to hear this news.
His best friend and teammate from high school, Shareece Wright, is "nearing a deal" with the Ravens, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. Wright himself implied that he'll have an extended stay in Baltimore.
Wright always viewed his time in Baltimore as a long-term opportunity when he arrived in mid-October last year. After he was released by the San Francisco 49ers, Smith immediately called Wright to recruit him to Baltimore.
The two have openly campaigned to be the starting corners of the future. And just a couple of days before he was scheduled to hit the free-agent market, Wright is close to completing the first step in making their wish come true.
"I came here with the intentions of possibly coming back here," Wright said after the season ended in January.
"Hopefully we can keep him around," Smith added. "He has done a lot for us, and he has the left corner spot right now. [It is] kind of reminiscent of [our] high school days when we used to go down, shut it down in high school."
Wright had a rough debut in Baltimore against his former team in Week 6, giving up two touchdowns. But he improved as the season progressed and settled in with Smith as the top two corners. The Ravens had the best pass defense and second-best defense in total yards during the second half of the year. General Manager Ozzie Newsome took notice, saying the secondary is "trending up."
The defensive back duo had plans to keep their momentum going by training together during the offseason. Wright is expected back in Baltimore on Wednesday to take a physical and finalize the deal, per Zrebiec.
"Working out this offseason, we're trying to be the best corners in the league next year as far as covering guys and playing one-on-one matchups," Wright said in January.
Ravens Still Expected To Add Cornerback Help
Even if Wright's deal is finalized this week, it won't prevent the Ravens from adding cornerback help.
"The Ravens are still expected to add at least one more cornerback either via free agency or the draft, but they view retaining Wright as an important first step," wrote Zrebiec.
Newsome has said on many occasions he never feels like he has enough corners. With Lardarius Webb moving to safety and Kyle Arrington projected as a slot corner if he doesn't become a cap casualty, Newsome will need to stock up.
With the sixth-overall draft pick, Newsome will have the perfect opportunity to find a plug-and-play corner. Most pundits believe that Florida State's Jalen Ramsey will be off the board when the Ravens are on the clock, but Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III is likely to be available.
"In Baltimore, Hargreaves would give the Ravens some much-needed new blood in the secondary," wrote ESPN's Matt Bowen. "With Jimmy Smith under contract through 2019, the Ravens would have two man-coverage corners for the foreseeable future. That creates flexibility with pressure packages and allows the defense to play matchups."
Besides his smaller stature, one of the biggest dings on Hargreaves was his performance in a SEC championship game that a certain someone surely witnessed.
"One reason why the Ravens might not take Hargreaves is his struggles against Alabama, [Newsome] was obviously watching," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Still, he's the best pure cover corner in the draft, and Baltimore's biggest need is at cornerback."
There's also the popular Cyrus Jones, who played at Alabama, is a Baltimore-native and starred at Gillman High School.
"Jones would not only bring speed and play-making ability to a secondary that badly needs it, he could help the Ravens' return game," wrote Zrebiec.
Outside of the draft, Zrebiec also says the free-agent cornerback market is "very good" this year. Below are six names that Zrebiec mentioned:
Prince Amukamara, New York Giants
Nolan Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles
Casey Hayward, Green Bay Packers
Janoris Jenkins, Los Angeles Rams
Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills (won't count against compensation pick formula because he was cut)
Sean Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
King: Osemele About To Get Rich, Will Be 'Swimming' In Guaranteed Money
If you're holding out hope about the Ravens' ability to keep left guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, you might want to skip this section.
That's partly because NFL teams are entering free agency with an "obscene" amount of money, says MMQB.com's Peter King. (I imagine a "Pretty Woman" Richard Gere-type of emphasis on the word obscene.) When combining how much cap space all 32 teams have to spend, it's close to $1 billion.
That's billion with a B.
The Ravens are contributing very little to that billion.
"By the time the market kicks off, 19 teams—by my count—have at least $20 million available to spend if they choose," wrote King.
"A few non-stars, such as Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith and Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele, are going to get rich. And that traditionally has been one of the things about free agency that so many teams hate. Above-average players getting paid like stars."
With the "legal tampering period" opening today, Osemele can start talking with other teams about potential deals. Instead of sticking with the Ravens, King predicts that by just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday – when free agency officially opens – Osemele will be "swimming in guaranteed money."
Evaluating Terrell Suggs And Mario Williams
It didn't take long for fans on social media to wonder if the Ravens would part ways with defensive leader Terrell Suggs after he was arrested Friday morning for driving with a suspended license (due to speeding tickets) and leaving the scene of a single-car collision after saying he fell asleep at the wheel.
That chatter dissipated a bit after the details of his arrest came to light. While even Suggs acknowledged it was a "dumb" thing to do, it shouldn't have any effect on his standing with the team.
"Come on, you're a grown man," said former NFL front-office executive Joe Banner in the video below. "Take care of these things, don't let these things happen, but it certainly isn't affecting your decision to keep him on the team or what type of person he is or any of that kind of stuff."
Banner said he suspects the team has had conversations about Suggs's place on the team, but that's more because of his age coming off Achilles surgery.
Meanwhile, pass rusher Mario Williams was released by the Buffalo Bills last week. He's long been considered one of the best pass rushers in the league, but he only notched five sacks last season in a Rex Ryan defense.
Should the Ravens be interested? Nah, says Hensley.
"I don't see this happening. He's just not a good fit in terms of scheme, age and salary," Hensley wrote. "Williams was upset about dropping too much into coverage in Buffalo, which is what he would have to do with the Ravens.
"He's 31, and the Ravens already have two pass rushers (Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil) over the age of 30. And he's going to be too expensive. Williams will likely command something close to $7 million per season. The Ravens rarely spend that type of money on other teams' free agents. My guess is Williams lands with the Cardinals or Cowboys."
Free-Agent Wide Receivers To Pass And Target
Just say no to the following free-agent wide receivers, who were all released in recent days: Roddy White, Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings.
Because the Ravens want to get younger and faster at the position, says Zrebiec.
But if you want to look at an option that is a better fit for the Ravens, Zrebiec says Brandon LaFell, who was released by the New England Patriots last week, is someone you shouldn't rule out.
"LaFell had an extremely difficult 2015 season, struggling with injuries and drops," Zrebiec wrote. "But he's just one season removed from an 87-catch and nine-touchdown campaign (postseason numbers included). He also happens to be extremely close with Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. LaFell doesn't qualify as the game-breaking, speedy threat that the Ravens really need, but he's a proven veteran who should come reasonably cheap."