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Mailbag: Why Haven't the Ravens Made Any Additions?

GM Eric DeCosta
GM Eric DeCosta

Mink: This could age really quickly if the Ravens make a move soon after free agency's doors open at 4 p.m. today. The reason for the Ravens' lack of (reported) additions so far is tied to their salary-cap space and Lamar Jackson. The situation is a delicate balance.

According to Brian McFarland of Russell Street Report, who is the Baltimore media's trusted source on salary-cap matters, the Ravens will have about $10.3 million in salary-cap space when free agency officially opens. That will likely change after their plan for handling their restricted free agents is announced.

The Ravens have created that cap space with the release of Calais Campbell, trade of Chuck Clark, and reported contract restructures of Kevin Zeitler, Gus Edwards and Michael Pierce. Baltimore reportedly could clear more space with restructures of other veterans' contracts, but they'd likely rather not do that unless they have to.

Baltimore doesn't have a lot of cap space but does have some flexibility. As we've been saying for a long time, a lot of this is contingent on what happens with Jackson. The Ravens don't want to blow through their cap space and handicap their ability to match an offer sheet from another team. At the same time, they want to improve their wide receiver corps. So it's a matter of getting a feel for what the market is on Jackson once he can start negotiating with other teams (4 p.m. today), while also being able to pounce in the wide receiver market so the Ravens can have better targets for their star quarterback assuming he's still in Baltimore in 2023, as the Ravens hope.

The fact that the wide receiver market has been a little slower than usual to materialize and hasn't exploded in price is a good thing for the Ravens, who may want a little more clarity on their quarterback's situation before making a move.

Downing: Let's run through how the process works regarding Jackson and the non-exclusive franchise tag. Beginning today at 4 p.m., teams can start talking with Jackson about a potential contract. To enter into those negotiations, Jackson doesn't need to sign anything. He's just able to talk with other teams around the league. During those negotiations, teams can get a feel themselves for the contract Jackson is seeking, and they can decide whether to make him an official offer sheet. If a team provides Jackson with an offer sheet that he likes, he could sign that offer sheet and the Ravens have five days to decide whether to match the deal. If the Ravens match it, he would remain in Baltimore. If the Ravens decline to match, Jackson would go to that other team and the Ravens would get a pair of first-round picks in return.

The other possibility, which could happen at any time, is that Jackson decides to sign the franchise tag. Then he would be in position to play in Baltimore in 2023 at a price tag of $32.4 million. The two sides could still work towards a long-term deal, and they have until July 17 to get that done before Jackson would have to play this season on the tag. The other possibility is Jackson could sign the tag at any time and be traded for any compensation package, although General Manager Eric DeCosta has consistently said he's not thinking about a trade. Historically speaking, most players on the franchise tag wait to sign their tag until closer to the season, typically at some point in training camp.

Mink: Don't forget that there's certainly a chance that Calais Campbell returns. General Manager Eric DeCosta was clear about stating that the door is open. It was a pure business decision to release him, as Campbell is highly respected for his work on and off the field. I imagine the two sides will stay in touch with the hope that they can reach an agreement down the line.

If the Ravens don't re-sign Campbell, they're still in decent shape on the defensive line. Every other player from last year's loaded group is returning, and it would give young players such as Travis Jones, Justin Madubuike, and Broderick Washington more opportunities to shine.

The Ravens already brought back Brent Urban, who was a pending free agent, so they have some veteran experience that can step in. They could still add a veteran at a more modest price, but I imagine the solution would be to give the younger players more snaps and probably draft another one in the middle or late rounds to add to the pipeline.

Downing: Devin Duvernay is an interesting extension candidate. He's made two-straight Pro Bowls as a returner, and he's heading into the final season of his rookie contract. He carries a fairly significant cap hit this year of $4.5 million, and the Ravens could flatten that out a bit by working out a long-term deal.

The Ravens have indicated that they want to add to the receiver room this offseason through free agency or the draft, so that could impact whether they want to work out a long-term deal with Duvernay. Part of the decision could also depend on whether the Ravens need the cap space to sign other players, and a long-term deal could free up that space. The speedy wideout is a versatile player who has flashed ability over his first three NFL seasons, and I wouldn't be opposed to signing him to an extension if the money is right.

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