Have Ravens Become a Front-Runner for Dez Bryant?
Free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant says he’s interested in staying in the NFC East, but based on reports so far, there doesn’t appear to be a home for him in the division.
Instead, the teams that are “legitimate” possibilities for the 29-year-old veteran are the New Orleans Saints and Ravens, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He indicated Baltimore is the most interested and has been the most aggressive.
"This is a team that has consistently been mentioned as a possible landing spot,” Rapoport said Monday night on NFL Total Access. “They signed Michael Crabtree earlier in the offseason. They still are looking to add a receiver.
“There is a lot to like about the Baltimore Ravens and Dez Bryant. Keep an eye on that one."
As for the NFC East teams, Rapoport said you can’t rule out the Washington Redskins, but other reports indicate the Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants aren’t viable options.
The Giants have Sterling Shepard and are in long-term contract negotiations with Odell Beckham Jr., who is looking to become the highest-paid player in the league. They have just under $5 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com.
The Eagles are also set at wide receiver with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace. They have the second-least cap space in the league at $1.5 million. The Redskins’ projected starters are Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson, who they just signed to a five-year $40 million deal. They are $17 million under the cap.
We talked yesterday about how the biggest factor in bringing Bryant to Baltimore is whether the interest is mutual. It certainly bolsters the Ravens’ chances that few other teams are showing interest, but he could choose New Orleans over Baltimore, an NFC East team could have a change of heart or a new contender could enter the mix.
Crazy things happen all the time in free agency.
Adding Bryant to Crabtree would give Baltimore two physically imposing red-zone targets that combined for 14 touchdowns last year. Neither are known for their blazing speed or playing in the slot, which is still a need, but the Ravens do have burners in Smokey Brown and Chris Moore.
“While the potential Crabtree-Bryant pairing would give Joe Flacco a stupendous red-zone arsenal, it might also leave Baltimore with one of the slowest starting receiving duos in the league,” wrote NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling.
“Considering general manager Ozzie Newsome's lengthy track record of attempting to extract value out of declining receivers, it's easy to imagine Bryant corralling Flacco's passes in 2018. Even before the Crabtree addition, Newsome's affinity for veteran wideouts featured fliers on Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans and Derrick Mason. If Bryant does end up in Baltimore, he'll be traveling a well-worn path.”
Willie Snead Attends Saints’ Workout Program But Hasn’t Signed Contract
Saints restricted free-agent wide receiver Willie Snead reported to New Orleans’ offseason workout program Monday, according to Rapoport, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the table to the Ravens if they’re still interested.
Snead will remain an option until he signs the $1.9 million original-rounder tender the Saints placed on him. As of yesterday, he had not put ink to paper.
The Ravens have reportedly brought Snead to the Under Armour Performance Center twice, and he could help in the slot and return game after Michael Campanaro signed with the Tennessee Titans.
If Baltimore wants to sign Snead, it has until April 20 (three days) to make an offer, and the Saints will have five days to match.
Another slot option is free agent Eric Decker, who the Ravens also brought in for a visit two weeks ago.
Between Bryant, Snead, Decker and the upcoming draft, Baltimore has plenty of wide receiver options and the group could still see plenty of change.
Seven Ravens Sign Exclusive Rights Free-Agent Contracts
Upon their arrival to the offseason workout program yesterday, seven exclusive rights free agents signed their tenders, according to WNST’s Luke Jones.
The group included wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, running back Alex Collins, cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, tight end Vince Mayle, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, and offensive linemen Maurquice Shakir and Matt Skura.
Signing the seven players was essentially a formality because they can’t negotiate with other teams, but the moves are also significant.
Collins, Onwuasor and Skura were all starters last season, and while the Ravens will add competition this summer, all three are currently projected to start again in 2018.
John Harbaugh Congratulates James Harrison on Outstanding Career
It’s usually your biggest foes for whom you have the most respect, and there’s no doubt the Ravens respected former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, who announced his retirement Monday.
Head Coach John Harbaugh congratulated him on an impressive career.
Harrison made life difficult for the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco, who always had to keep Harrison in the corner of his eye.
After he went UNDRAFTED in 2002, Harrison had a brief stint with the Ravens before going on to become an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro for the Steelers. He now stands as the Steelers' all-time sack leader with 80.5. Not bad for a guy who was considered too small to succeed at the position.
Harrison, 39, retired once before in 2014, only to come back and wreak more havoc on the Ravens. Count me among those who hope his retirement sticks this time.
“This one appears to be the official end,” wrote NFL.com’s Kevin Patra.
*C.J. Mosley and Ravens Likely Watching New Linebacker Deals *
As the Ravens continue contract negotiations with linebacker C.J. Mosley, there’s no doubt both sides are looking at other linebacker deals given out across the league.
Yesterday, Rapoport reported that one such deal was finalized between the Minnesota Vikings and Eric Kendricks with a five-year, $50 million extension. Kendricks was the 2014 Butkus Award winner in college and has had a solid start to his NFL career, but hasn’t been to any Pro Bowls and Mosley has made three.
Luke Kuechly set the market three years ago with a five-year, $62 million deal at $12.4 million a year.
Mosley is likely looking for more than $10 million annually, but will he get as much as Kuechly or more? The Ravens and his agent may be having those types of conversations now.