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Mailbag: More Targets for Salary-Cap Help Extensions?

Left: RB Gus Edwards; Center: FB Patrick Ricard; Right: DT Brandon Williams
Left: RB Gus Edwards; Center: FB Patrick Ricard; Right: DT Brandon Williams

Mink: The Ravens already did this with tight end Nick Boyle, freeing up a reported $2 million in salary-cap space. I don't see a lot more candidates, but three possibilities could be defensive tackle Brandon Williams, fullback Patrick Ricard and running back Gus Edwards.

Williams's contract is a number likely heavily examined this offseason considering he's set to carry a heavy $14.4 cap hit. The Ravens would save about $7.5 million by parting ways with Williams, but who would replace him? Baltimore's defense has struggled to stop the run whenever he's been out of the lineup. Though there's always questions about the value of a two-down run stuffer, the Ravens hang their hat on that aspect of their defense. So Williams is valuable. The other option would be to extend him to help ease some of the 2021 cost and pave the way for Williams to potentially retire as a Raven. He's about to turn 32 years old but hasn't shown any real ill effects of age.

Ricard is in the Boyle mold in that he is a relatively young player that has more value in run-heavy Baltimore than elsewhere. Ricard is set to carry a nearly $4 million cap hit in 2021, and maybe that could be dropped a little with another year or two tacked onto his deal that's set to expire in 2022.

Edwards is a restricted free agent who is likely in position to get a second-round tender, which is projected to be around $3.38 million, per The Ravens could potentially get a team-friendly 2021 salary-cap hit with a multi-year extension for a highly productive player that figures to be a big part of the rushing attack moving forward. Every little bit of salary-cap space helps.

Downing: The first step is determining whether Orlando Brown Jr. is going to be part of that line. Brown has reportedly asked to be traded to a team where he could play left tackle, and it would be a blow to the offensive line to lose the two-time Pro Bowl tackle. If the Ravens trade Brown, then finding a right tackle could become a priority in free agency or the draft, depending on whether the Ravens feel comfortable with having Tyre Phillips step into the right tackle spot. If Brown remains in Baltimore this season, then the Ravens' tackles are set and they can focus their efforts on upgrading the interior of the line. I look at center as a spot where the Ravens could use a veteran player. Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari both played well at times, but they also both had issues snapping the ball in key moments. If the Ravens have a chance to add a veteran center through free agency, similar to what they did with Matt Birk a decade ago, then that would be a great addition.

Mink: The first day that teams can assign the franchise tag is less than a week away (Tuesday, Feb. 23). Last year, Matthew Judon got the franchise tag from the Ravens, costing them a reported $16.8 million. If Baltimore were to place it on him again, however, it would reportedly jump to more than $20 million.

Thus, the Raven that is more likely to get the tag this year is Yannick Ngakoue – Baltimore's other premier pass rusher. According to Pro Football Focus' 2021 franchise tag projections, defensive end would be at $15.9 million. Ngakoue didn't want the tag in Jacksonville, but he was willing to play on a one-year deal in Minnesota, and he could have a different outlook on being tagged by Baltimore, especially when many free-agent pass rushers will be competing for a smaller pool of money this offseason with a decreased salary cap. Still, the Ravens will have to determine whether it's worth putting the tag on anybody, or whether they could retain Ngakoue or Judon at a cheaper price than the tag.

Downing: Absolutely. Duvernay is a natural slot receiver and he showed some nice flashes as a rookie. Veteran Willie Snead is a free agent after three seasons in Baltimore, and Duvernay is the logical choice to move into the starting slot role. Duvernay had 20 catches for 201 yards as a rookie. The Ravens also used him on jet sweeps out of the backfield, and he carried four times for 70 yards. Duvernay has great speed, strong hands and a willingness to go over the middle of the field. That's a good combination for a slot receiver. I heard from plenty of fans early last season clamoring to see more of Duvernay, and we'll likely get a heavy dose of him (on offense and as a returner) in 2021.

Mink: There's plenty of buzz about Brown trade scenarios. The one that seems most alluring is with the Los Angeles Chargers, who have been looking for a left tackle for a while and have a fantastic young quarterback in Justin Herbert they need to protect better. The Chargers have the 13th-overall pick in this year's draft. If the Ravens were to get that pick, they could use it on a top wide receiver such as Jaylen Waddle or perhaps DeVonta Smith. Or maybe tight end Kyle Pitts? It's also been floated out that the Ravens could do a package pick-and-player deal and go after a wideout such as the Chargers' Mike Williams or Jacksonville's D.J. Chark. This is all assuming the Ravens would use a potential Brown trade to upgrade their receivers and not some other position.

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