Pay Brandon Williams Now Or Later?
Often times, General Manager Ozzie Newsome likes to get ahead of contract negotiations a year before a key young player's deal expires.
See cornerback Jimmy Smith as an example. An early deal gave long-term stability to Smith and potentially saved the Ravens millions. Had the team waited until Smith hit the free-agent market, other cap-rich teams could have driven up the price like the Oakland Raiders did with Kelechi Osemele.
Enter defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
Williams is entering the final season of his four-year rookie deal and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2017. With a reported $12.25 million in cap space – an unusually high amount for the Ravens at this time of year – Newsome can afford to spend a little now.
Should Newsome try to strike a deal now or wait to see what Williams does this season?
Williams is believed to be on the cusp of a Pro Bowl season, and if he succeeds in his fourth year, that could certainly drive up his price. Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi understands the logic of paying Williams now, but believes the Ravens can afford to wait.
"Don't pay him now," he wrote. "Pay him later, if you want to.
"Why not let that dangling carrot of incentive (free agency) hang out there and harvest the productivity of Williams' contract year. And if he does deliver and other teams back up their Brinks trucks – let them! The Ravens would receive a handsome compensatory pick as a consolation prize. Besides, Newsome and his trusty scouting department have always been able to find those big-bodied diamonds in the rough in Day 3 of the draft."
In addition to his faith in the Ravens' ability to draft a replacement, Lombardi also points out that the Ravens already have potential players on the roster that could help take over, including Timmy Jernigan, Carl Davis and rookie Willie Henry.
While I appreciate Lombardi's perspective, I would attempt to strike a deal now.
I don't think Williams is as easily replaced as Lombardi suggests. He has a special combination of size, athleticism and work ethic. And the value of a suffocating run stuffer that forces opposing offenses into one-dimensional passing attacks can't be overstated.
All three players mentioned as replacements have potential, but Williams is doing what they hope to do as a durable 16-game starter. He appears to be entering prime Pro Bowl years (plural) and was one of the big reasons the Ravens could smoothly transition away from Haloti Ngata.
And if the Ravens can get Williams at the right price now, why not at least make an offer and see if they can lock him up? Instead of replacing Williams, the Ravens could have a deep and talented defensive line led by one of the most underrated linemen in the league.
If an agreement can't be made now, then no harm done. I agree with Lombardi, the Ravens will still be in a strong position next year.
"When you consider who the Ravens have on deck if Williams follows the Benjamins out of town, plus their organizational ability to find and develop interior defenders like the Atlanta Braves once developed pitchers, the more prudent thing to do with the behemoth tackle is sit back, reap the benefits of a very motivated player and make a more informed decision in 2017," Lombardi wrote.
Justin Tucker Negotiations Heating Up
You know what they say: deadlines spur action. And there appears to be plenty of action heating up in the Justin Tucker contract negotiations.
The Ravens and Tucker's agent, Robert Roche, have been periodically talking about a new contract for months, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. With the deadline now just four days away, the frequency will pick up.
"The sides plan to engage actively again this week," reported CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
La Canfora placed odds on the NFL's seven franchised players getting long-term deals, and he's very confident in a Tucker contract.
Denver Broncos and Von Miller: 95 percent
Baltimore Ravens and Justin Tucker: 75 percent
Kansas City Chiefs and Eric Berry: 50 percent
L.A. Rams and Trumaine Jackson: 10 percent
Chicago Bears and Alshon Jeffrey: 5 percent
New York Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson: 3 percent
Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins: 1 percent
The same optimism abounds throughout the league for Tucker and the Ravens. The only scenario in which CBSSports.com analyst and former agent Joel Corry sees a deal falling through is if Tucker demands something huge.
"It shouldn't be a hard deal to do unless Tucker wants to redefine kicker salaries," Corry told Zrebiec. "You have a guy that's the second most accurate kicker in the history of football. He's in the discussions as the best kicker in the game. You can say [the New England Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski] is the best, but Tucker is right behind him. So you have to pay him at the top of the market.
"He's justified in asking to be the highest paid kicker in the league. If you're the second most accurate kicker in the history of the league, you can make that argument."
While the four-year, $17.2 million contract extension that Gostkowski received last year could be used as a template, there aren't any reports that suggest Tucker is demanding an unreasonable number. If the two sides don't reach a long-term deal by Friday, Tucker will play on the one-year franchise tag worth $4.572 million.
"It should get done," Corry said. "I don't know if it will be on the 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th, but it should get done."
Ravens Quarterback 'Situation' Ranked No. 25?!?
No. 25? Really?
The folks at PFF ranked all 32 teams' quarterback "situations" and the Ravens came in at No. 25.
This is beyond me. I get that the rankings include backups, but Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP.
He's ranked just below Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 24), Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions (No. 23), Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears (No. 22) and Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins (No. 21).
Here's PFF's rationale for essentially writing off a Super Bowl winner:
"Joe Flacco's career is a study in the importance of timing," wrote Sam Monson. "He managed to string together the best run of his career to take the team to the Super Bowl, and ultimately parlayed that into a big-money contract that he hasn't been close to justifying since.
"Flacco has talent, but more than many QBs, he needs to be surrounded with the right supporting cast to excel, and even then you are at the mercy of his greater-than-average variance in form. 2015 was arguably the worst season of his career, and saw him complete fewer than 50 percent of his passes when pressured and throw twice as many interceptions (eight) as touchdowns (four) on those plays. This was a big reason the Ravens looked to the O-line early in the draft. Behind him, Ryan Mallett has had brief opportunities in his NFL career so far, but has yet to look like a viable NFL QB."
The argument that Flacco needs the right supporting cast to excel more than other quarterbacks is hilarious to me, seeing as the Ravens have never been known as a team with elite wide receivers. Baltimore has actually been bashed for not having enough receiving talent. I'm not knocking the likes of Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason or Steve Smith Sr., but they weren't/aren't getting much media love as Ravens players. So it seems funny that they're now being used against Flacco.
Flacco played with the league's 17th-ranked defense in 2012. The top three wide receivers were Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones – all solid and really good in the playoffs, but they weren't generating media buzz during the season. At tight end, Dennis Pitta was just emerging and few people on a national level really knew about him. Ray Rice was a Pro Bowl running back, so I'd agree that he was a major asset to Flacco that year.
Ravens, NFL Teams Catch Pokemon Fever
I admit, I don't know the first thing about Pokemon. But I do know that the Pokemon fever is taking over the world (there might be some hyperbole in that statement).
Apparently Pokemon – a game in which users explore a map to find Pokemon to catch – is the most downloaded app in the App Store. And now it is taking over NFL team accounts. Here's a fun exchange between the Ravens, Bears and Vikings – all of which I don't understand as a person that's never watched or played Pokemon.