Joe Flacco, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Jimmy Smith and Za’Darius Smith have gotten the lion’s share of attention this offseason, and for good reason.
But the Ravens have some under-the-radar roster decisions to make before free agency begins on March 13.
Remember, the first deals the Ravens knocked out last year were a one-year contract for defensive end Brent Urban and four-year deal for offensive lineman James Hurst. It’s not always the glamorous free agents that get inked first.
Here are five under-the-radar Ravens roster decisions remaining:
What to do with Urban?
Last offseason, the Ravens gave the massive and talented Urban one more shot to stay healthy and prove himself, inking him to a one-year deal for a reported $1.1 million. Urban delivered by starting all 16 games and making a career-high 27 tackles. He had one ½ sack. It wasn’t the breakout that some pundits predicted in 2017, when Urban suffered an early-season Lisfranc foot injury, but it was a very solid campaign. Urban was a strong piece of the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
Now will the Ravens reward him with a longer-term deal? Or will they rely on some of their other up-and-coming defensive linemen? Baltimore Chris Wormley, Zach Sieler and Willie Henry ready to step into bigger roles. None exactly measure up to the 6-foot-7 Urban, though Sieler, a 2018 seventh-round pick who impressed in the preseason, is probably the most in that same mold.
Tender Alex Collins? At What Level?
Running back Alex Collins was one of the best stories in the NFL in 2017, when he emerged from the Seattle Seahawks’ scrap heap to become the Ravens’ lead back who nearly Irish danced his way to 1,000 yards. Collins was determined to follow it up with another strong campaign, but that didn’t materialize. While he still found the end zone eight times and started 10 games, his average yards per carry went from 4.6 in 2017 to 3.6 in 2018.
The Ravens placed him on injured reserve and undrafted rookie Gus Edwards exploded onto the scene in tandem with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Kenneth Dixon also returned from a long list of injuries to be a major contributor in the Ravens’ playoff run.
So where does that leave Collins, who is now a restricted free agent? Do the Ravens put an original-round (fifth) tender on him? A higher tender to ward of any poaching? No tender at all and let him walk?
The Ravens also have two other running backs – Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery – scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
Two Other Top Restricted Free Agents
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce was graded by Pro Football Focus as Baltimore’s best defender last year. Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was the unit’s top playmaker down the stretch. Both are scheduled to be restricted free agents this offseason.
The Ravens will surely want to keep both young defensive standouts, but what are they willing to pay? According to OvertheCap.com, the first-round restricted free agent tender is expected to cost teams $4.4 million, second round is $3.1 million and original round is $2 million. Pierce and “Peanut” were both undrafted, and will likely get first- or second-round tenders.
Tackling the Tight End Position
The Ravens have high expectations for Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst to lead their tight end corps for years to come. With Bobby Engram moving to coach the tight ends, new Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said they will get more training as route-runners and pass-catchers, which could make them even more dangerous as receivers.
However, Baltimore still has a great need for blocking tight ends in its Jackson-led system, and both Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are slated to be unrestricted free agents. Do the Ravens re-sign either of them? One? Both?
Securing Lamar Jackson’s Backup QB
This hasn’t exactly been totally overlooked, but it deserves mentioning here. The Ravens don’t subscribe to the theory that Jackson is more susceptible to injuries because of his running style so long as he follows coaching on how to avoid big hits. With that said, General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear that he places a high value on the backup quarterback.
Bringing back Robert Griffin III has been something talked about as a possibility by both the Ravens and Griffin, and it makes a lot of sense considering he would allow the Ravens to keep the same system in case of emergency, played well and fit in well last year and can be a good mentor for Jackson in a variety of ways. But it remains to be seen what other opportunities Griffin will have elsewhere.