What's Next For Ravens In Free Agency?
The Ravens started the process of creating salary cap space Tuesday by releasing veteran defensive backs Shareece Wright and Kendrick Lewis.
"They just can't be the only ones this week," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "In the big picture, this was just a baby step forward for Baltimore."
So what's next?
Hensley reported that moves are likely to come with safety Lardarius Webb, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson, center Jeremy Zuttah, cornerback Kyle Arrington and wide receiver Mike Wallace.
"Baltimore will look to reduce cap numbers for all of those players, whether it's by cutting them or through pay cuts or extensions," he wrote. "The Ravens could be hesitant to part ways with certain players until they know they're getting their replacement."
Those are some of the most expensive players on the roster, and the Ravens would clear significant cap room by parting ways with them or reworking their contracts. The holdup on making any of those moves yesterday, if they are planning to at all, could be that General Manager Ozzie Newsome wants to get a clear picture of how much cash he needs to have on hand when free agency opens Thursday at 4 p.m.
"Baltimore needs more cap dollars if it wants to turn an 8-8 team into a playoff team," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens' shopping list should include wide receiver; cornerback; right tackle, if Rick Wagner signs elsewhere as expected; safety, if Lardarius Webb is cut; inside linebacker; and perhaps running back, if the price is right."
In addition to cutting Wright and Lewis Tuesday, the Ravens also reportedly made some moves by tendering five of their six restricted free agents. According to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore assigned original-round tenders to running back Terrance West, wide receiver Michael Campanaro, offensive linemen James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, and safety Marqueston Huff.
Each of those tenders carries a salary of $1.797 million for 2017, and significantly cut into the Ravens' salary cap space," Zrebiec wrote. After making the cuts and extending the tenders, the Ravens reportedly have about $10 million in cap room.
The decision to extend original-round tenders to those restricted free agents "would seem to indicate they expect to make a lot of cap space before Thursday," wrote Russell Street Report salary-cap expert Brian McFarland.
Now, Newsome has to get to work making those cap-saving moves over the next day.
"After being quiet for most of the offseason, the Ravens could have a busy two days leading up to the start of free agency," Hensley wrote.
Clayton: WR Brandon Marshall A Natural Fit For Ravens
UPDATE:Brandon Marshall has agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the New York Giants, according to ESPN.
* *Retired receiver Steve Smith Sr. said at the combine last week that he thought former Jets wideout and current free agent Brandon Marshall would be a "great fit" with the Ravens.
ESPN veteran NFL reporter John Clayton feels the same way.
Clayton made a number of predictions about what will happen in the coming days of free agency, and he sees a Marshall-to-Baltimore connection.
"Marshall, released by the New York Jets, would fit nicely in the Ravens' offense on the other side of Mike Wallace," Clayton wrote. "The Ravens did a great job developing Kamar Aiken, but he could get a nice deal to leave in free agency. Marshall, who soon will turn 33, is more accomplished as a wideout and could help make the Ravens a playoff contender."
Marshall is coming off a season in which he caught 59 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns, but he's just one year removed from posting 109 receptions, 1,502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. The news around Marshall has been relatively quiet since his release last week, but he's the most experienced receiver on the market and is expected to draw interest from plenty of suitors.
Tyrod Taylor To The Browns?
Clayton also thinks the Ravens will have a familiar face to go up against twice a year in Cleveland. He predicts that the Buffalo Bills won't pick up the contract option for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and the former Raven will end up in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns.
"Taylor will have suitors, but the Browns could give Taylor a short-term deal, with the idea of drafting a quarterback and dipping their toes into next year's free-agent market, when Kirk Cousins could potentially be available," Clayton wrote.
Taylor was a sixth-round draft pick of the Ravens in 2011. He backed up Joe Flacco for his first four seasons, then went to Buffalo in 2015, where he won the starting job and made the Pro Bowl.
The Bills signed Taylor to a $92 million extension just last year, but they have since gone through a regime change and have the ability to get out of the contract. If Buffalo lets Taylor walk, the Browns could pursue him as the solution to their quarterback search of the last two decades.
Browns Want To Bring Juszczyk Back Home
Kyle Juszczyk grew up rooting for the Cleveland Browns, and now the division rival reportedly wants to bring him back to Ohio.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported early Wednesday morning that the Browns are "very interested" in signing the fullback out of Harvard.
The main figures in Cleveland's front office who went to Harvard are Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown and Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta. Brown has the final say on building the team's roster.
The top end of the fullback market is about $2.5 million a year, but Zrebiec reported that Juszczyk's agent Joe Linta will "surely ask for far more than that given Juszczyk's many roles," and that the two sides were "significantly apart" on a deal as of last weekend.
Wagner Expected To 'Blow The Lid Off' Right Tackle Market
The possibility of keeping right tackle Rick Wagner in Baltimore seems to get slimmer by the day.
Wagner is able to negotiate with any team he wants now that the league's "legal tampering" period has opened, and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo said that the former fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin is "set to blow the lid off the right tackle market."
Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga is currently the highest-paid right tackle in the league at $6.75 million annually, but Garafolo predicted that Wagner will ultimately sign a deal for more than $8 million per season. That would be the third-highest average salary on Baltimore's roster, behind only quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the combine last week that the Ravens had extended a "very competitive" offer to keep Wagner, but now it looks like he could end up following in the footsteps of fellow offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, who turned down a contract from the Ravens and received a huge deal in free agency.
Wagner, 27, has been the team's starting right tackle for the last three seasons. He's been a quality player during that time, and graded out as the league's ninth-best right tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Based on various reports, Wagner is generating interest from the Browns, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.
Latest On WR Pierre Garcon
Former Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon has been a popular projection by local reporters as a fit for the Ravens in free agency.
But as the market is about to open, there have been no rumors connecting Garcon to Baltimore.
Clayton, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk think Garcon will end up on the West Coast with either the San Francisco 49ers or Los Angeles Rams. Both teams have ample cap space, a need at receiver and a connection to Garcon with their new head coaches.
"The Rams and 49ers are among the usual suspects considering the coaching ties he has with Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, and the fact both teams need receivers," Gantt wrote.
Shanahan and McVay were both offensive coordinators for the Redskins during Garcon's time in Washington.