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Late for Work 3/7: Ravens 'Priming' to Spend Big on a Free-Agent Safety 


Eric Weddle's Departure Means a Splash in Free Agency?

Following Eric Weddle's release, the Ravens are tasked with replacing one of their key defensive leaders.

It won't be an easy feat considering the contributions Weddle made over the course of three seasons, but Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit believes the Ravens could be gearing up to spend big for a safety in a loaded free-agent class.

"By releasing Weddle, most likely the Ravens are not trying to save money at safety, they're priming to spend money there long-term (not unlike they did when signing Weddle's sidekick and close friend, Tony Jefferson, two years ago)," Benoit wrote.

"The Ravens, who are young in key spots on both sides of the ball, see themselves not just as contenders in 2019, but contenders for years to come. A smart, versatile safety is vital to their scheme, and Weddle, at this point, might have only a year or two left in the tank. This year's free agent safety class is unusually deep and, more importantly, unusually top heavy."

Benoit isn't kidding. The word loaded is an understatement in this case, as it feels like almost half of the league's starting safeties will hit the free agent market.

As Benoit pointed out, there are long-term solutions that could offer more than just stop-gaps.

Yesterday, Late for Work focused on the possible pursuit of Tyrann Mathieu as a potential replacement,[comma] but Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz also tabbed Earl Thomas, Landon Collins and Lamarcus Joyner as "top tier" options.

"Thomas has built a compelling Pro Football Hall of Fame resume, and it'll be interesting to see how teams view his recent injury woes," Kasinitz wrote . "Collins, meanwhile, is the youngest of this bunch and might be the most costly after piling up three Pro Bowl nods over his first four years in the league."

With all factors considered, the Ravens will have close to $30 million in cap space, according to Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland.

It's enough to pursue the big names, but at what cost?

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote that Thomas "is seeking $13M per year, or more, despite his recent injury history, and he is expected to get darn close to it."

That may be too much for a cap-conscious Eric DeCosta, especially considering the Ravens have unrestricted free agents of their own they hope to re-sign.

Even the big-spending Dallas Cowboys reportedly won't pursue Thomas or Collins because of the cost.

Adrian Amos, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston – Kasinitz's "second-tier" free agent safeties – could be more realistic options.

Amos, a Baltimore native, is coming off a career year with the Chicago Bears. He totaled 73 tackles, two interceptions, and nine passes defended.

Pro Football Focus ranked him as their fifth-best free agent available. 

Ravens' 'Sky Judge' Proposal Gaining Serious Consideration

The Ravens aren't strangers to proposing new rule changes and once again, their influence could affect how the game is played.

The proposal to add a "Sky Judge" is reportedly generating traction.

"Yes, it's clear and obvious that NFL owners need to support a progressive proposal for the sake of restoring integrity to its game," wrote USA Today's Jarrett Bell. "Just consider it another part of the game's evolution, bolstered by technology."

"Besides, the officials on the field usually get it right. It's just in those cases when they miss it, it's a shame that the fans watching at home have a better view – and in high-definition."

Per USA Today, the Ravens' proposal states "the Sky Judge will communicate with the officials on the field through the headset ... (and) advise the Referee of any relevant [penalty] that is clear and obvious in the following situations: Major fouls (15-yard penalties), even when a foul is not called. Fouls for defensive pass interference, even when a foul is not called."

The proposal needs 24 of 32 votes from the NFL's owners to be passed through the first phase.

The Alliance of American Football implemented this position as another set of eyes for officials. They televised and mic'd the conversations, allowing more transparency than ever in that part of the game.

Needless to say, it was a popular decision.

Officials are human, which means mistakes are naturally going to happen. Players, coaches and fans understand that, but when there's no way to overturn or correct the mistake, it becomes frustrating.

Just ask the New Orleans Saints, who, some would say, lost a trip to Super Bowl LIII as a result of a pass interference no-call.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has publicly expressed his wish for the league to do more to help officials and this proposal certainly follows that trend.

"Look how tough it is for these officials," Harbaugh said last week at the Combine. "Really, I know as a coach, what's the worst spot to watch the game from? The sideline. You see the least amount from the sideline. That's why we put coaches in the box. So, we've got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do."

A Look at Three Trade Back Scenarios

Entering his first draft as general manager, there's a strong inclination that DeCosta could trade back and acquire more picks.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah bet dinner on it and DeCosta could follow in the steps of his predecessor Ozzie Newsome – who made six trades in last year's draft.

If DeCosta follows a similar plan, Russell Street Report’s Adam Bonaccorsi highlighted three trades the Ravens could make, starting with the No. 22 overall pick.

Trade 1: Ravens send pick No. 22 to Patriots for picks No. 32, No. 98 and No. 206

Bonaccorsi: "While New England tends to be the trade back team, and not the trade up team, in 2019 they have three picks in the 3rd round … For the Ravens, they gain an extra 3rd round pick and add a 6th to boot."

Analysis: Moving back 10 spots would still keep the Ravens in the first round with the chance to draft a player with the coveted fifth-year option. Having three picks in the third round also sounds enticing.

Trade 2: Ravens send pick No. 32 to Giants for picks No. 37, No. 108 and No. 143

Bonaccorsi: "The Giants currently hold the 6th pick, and I believe both Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray will be gone at this juncture, which isn't great for the G-Men, but also leaves them one of the following players on the board at their pick: Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Quentin Williams, or Rashan Gary.

"For the Ravens, I think wide receiver is where we pegged them to go with their top pick, and sliding down five picks isn't going to crush anybody's hopes and dreams here."

Analysis: Following this scenario, the Ravens don't have a first-round pick but recoup the second-rounder they traded away for Lamar Jackson last season. As Bonaccorsi pointed out, five picks may not seem like much, but some of the top receivers could already be off the board by then.

Trade 3: Ravens send picks No. 97 and No. 113 to Saints for pick No. 62

Bonaccorsi: "Parting ways with the 22nd overall pick may be a tough pill to swallow for Ravens fans ... but being able to add three net picks, with two of them in Round 2, is a huge advantage in a draft that's projected to have a ton of depth in the 30-100 overall range, while still allowing Baltimore to likely land a very good WR…"

Analysis: This plays right into the Ravens' strength of drafting in the middle rounds, where they've been able to find starting-caliber players. Plus, they add a late second-round pick.

Instant Reaction to Nick Boyle's Reported New Deal

Early morning reactions are flying in as the Ravens have reportedly signed tight end Nick Boyle to a three-year deal.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Boyle will receive $18 million with $10 million in guarantees.

It would make Boyle the 15th highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

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