Tough Decisions Await Ravens as 'Battle Royale' Gets Underway at Wide Receiver
This must be one of John Harbaugh's favorite times of the year.
As perhaps the most competitive guy on the planet, he's got to love the "battle royale" that's about to ensue at wide receiver after he and General Manager Ozzie Newsome completely transformed the position. There will be 12 (once reported undrafted rookies sign contracts) players vying for five or six spots.
Cue Harbs tenting and tapping his fingers like Mr. Burns while saying "EXCELLENT" in a devious voice.
That competition will soon turn into roster-cut decisions, however, which won't be very fun for the head coach.
"The receiver] change is now complete and it’s likely [far more drastic than anybody expected," The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
Of the 13 receivers that were on the 90-man roster last year, Zrebiec points out that only four remain, including Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White. None have a guaranteed spot on this year's team, although Moore may have the best shot.
"Training camp is still about 2½ months away, but it's easy to look at the numbers and realize the tough decisions Harbaugh's coaching staff will have to make with the composition of the wide receiver group," Zrebiec wrote.
He sees three players as locks to make the team, and a group of three as near-locks. That's seven already, leaving the others with an uphill battle.
Here's a quick overview of each:
Locks (barring injury)
Michael Crabtree: Signed in March, veteran leader and No. 1 option
John "Smokey" Brown: Signed in March, speed guy penciled in to start opposite Crabtree
Willie Snead:Signed last week,* *slot receiver
Likely to make team
Chris Moore: 2016 fourth-round draft pick, top kick returner and key special teams contributor
Jaleel Scott: 2018 fourth-rounder; jump-ball specialist and red-zone target, unlikely to be cut as a draft pick
Jordan Lasley: 2018 fifth-rounder, massive college production despite drops and suspensions, unlikely to be cut as a draft pick
Breshad Perriman: 2015 first-rounder, Ravens reportedly declined his fifth-year option, team must decide whether to pay him a $649,485 bonus if he's on the roster by the third day of training camp
Quincy Adeboyejo: 2017 undrafted free agent, stood out in training camp before injuring his knee in the preseason, spent most of the year on the practice squad, activated in Week 17
Tim White: 2017 undrafted free agent, playmaker in training camp, suffered season-ending thumb injury in preseason opener
DeVier Posey: Signed in February out of the Canadian Football League, named Grey Cup MVP
Jaelon Acklin: Signed as an undrafted free agent last week out of Western Illinois, per reports
Andre Levrone: Signed as an undrafted free agent last week out of Virginia, per reports
Players That Got Away From Ravens in Draft: WR James Washington and RB Mark Walton
Remember when Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said he got "kind of angry" a couple times during the draft when a player he liked was picked just before the Ravens were on the clock?
He admitted one of those times was when a running back was taken, but didn't elaborate on the other.
Zrebiec said his understanding is the missed running back was Miami's Mark Walton, who was taken six spots ahead of the Ravens in the fourth round by the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.
He "assumes" the other player that got away was Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington, who was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers five picks before the Ravens' first pick of the third round. Baltimore ended up trading out of the spot.
"The Ravens are left to hope that it won't bite them badly, as it did in 2010, when they chose offensive lineman Ramon Harewood in the sixth round one spot ahead of where the Steelers got Antonio Brown, or it did last year, when the Ravens selected outside linebacker Tyus Bowser in the second round, bypassing receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who went to the Steelers 15 picks later," Zrebiec wrote.
The difference with Washington and Walton compared to Smitch-Schuster and Brown is that the Ravens didn't pass on those players this year, but they were just taken right in front of Baltimore.
Teams Unwilling to Give Dez Bryant League Minimum Deal
Dallas Cowboys free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant remains on the market after the NFL Draft and after the Ravens reportedly offered him a contract that was in the neighborhood of Crabtree's three-year, $21 million deal.
Bryant reportedly wanted a one-year prove-it deal, but ESPN's Adam Schefter said on NFL Live that the nine-year veteran is having a hard time getting teams to even offer the league minimum.
"That makes it all the more surprising that Bryant turned down an offer from the Ravens," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith. "If most teams aren't even willing to pay Bryant $1 million, why turn down an offer of $7 million?
"If Bryant is truly willing to play for anything to stay in the NFC East, and Washington, Philadelphia and the New York Giants are all unwilling to offer him even the league minimum, that says a lot about what teams think the 29-year-old Bryant has left at this point in his career."
How Will Ravens Fit Rookie Contracts Under the Cap?
The Ravens reportedly have about $8.7 million in cap space.
Yet, to sign all their rookies before camp gets underway this weekend, it will cost about $9.6 million.
How will they fit everyone under the cap?
"The rookie cap is not a separate, distinct pool, but rather, a separate calculation and there is not a dollar-for-dollar correlation between the rookie cap and the overall cap," wrote Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland. "So, while all of the salary cap numbers of a team's draft picks must fit under the team's rookie salary cap, very rarely will all of that amount actually impact the team's overall salary cap.
" …* *So, because of the low base salary and the small signing bonuses that many of the lower-round draft picks receive, those draft picks will most likely not be amongst the top 51 cap numbers on the team (assuming the team has at least 51 players signed or tendered). As such, under the Rule of 51, those players' base salaries of $480K will not count against the teams overall salary cap and only the player's bonus proration will count toward the team's overall cap."