The Baltimore Ravens currently have 16 free agents, 13 of them being unrestricted. With NFL free agency beginning tomorrow afternoon, many players will be eager to test the market. Whether they’re looking for a bigger contract, more playing time, or championship contention, each player has different incentives for signing with a team. Let the free agency frenzy begin!
RB Ray Rice – He’s been tagged and will stay with the Ravens for another year until they can sign him long term. Don’t worry about seeing him in another uniform during 2012.
Restricted Free Agents
CB Lardarius Webb – One of the best up and coming corners in the league, the Ravens want and need Webb. There’s been rumors that the Patriots are willing to give up a first round pick and a large sum of money to get him but it think it’s just smoke and mirrors. The Ravens will sign him.
CB Cary Williams – The Ravens have their two starting corners in Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. They’ll sign Williams too in order to solidify the position. His big physical presence served him well in 2011 and the Ravens want to keep him. With three great corner backs locked up, the Ravens go from having one of the worse secondaries to an excellent one in a couple of years. So long Frank Walker!
LB Dannell Ellerbe – The Ravens will lose some of their linebackers in the free agent frenzy but Ellerbe stays in Baltimore. He’s shown that he can play and is getting better under the tutelage of Ray Lewis.
Unrestricted Free Agents
C Matt Birk – Not only is he not retiring but he’s also plans to keep playing for years. Signing the veteran keeps the o-line anchored by a veteran who knows his stuff. Birk loves Baltimore too much to go anywhere else.
C Andre Gurode – Gurode is tricky but I think he’ll go somewhere else. He was signed primarily as an insurance policy to Birk and the Ravens can easily draft or sign a younger center for backup at a lower price.
G Ben Grubbs – As sad as it is for me to say this, there’s no way the Ravens can keep Grubbs. Their cap space is too tight and his cost is too high. They’ll need to draft an interior lineman or sign a veteran to replace him. There’s also talk of moving some guys around and putting Jah Reid at guard. We’ll see how it unfolds but Grubbs is one of the top free agents this year and will be chasing the top dollar.
LB Jarret Johnson – Although he’s aging, Double J is one of the best outside linebackers in the game. With the ability to set the edge and rush the passer, many will look to sign him in order to solidify their linebacking corp. The young Paul Kruger has skills similar to Johnson but still lacks finesse in run support. He’ll have to work on it in the offseason to make the transition without Johnson easier.
LB Jameel McClain – Playing in the shadow of Ray Lewis is tough, but the young linebacker has caught some attention around the league. I see a situation similar to Bart Scott a couple of years back. Scott was made better by the players around him in Baltimore and when he went to New York, his level of play declined. McClain is a good player but will suffer when signed by a weaker defensive team in dire need of an inside linebacker.
LB Brendon Ayanbadajo – A special teams stud, Ayanbadajo also possesses some skill at linebacker. He’ll draw a lot of intrigue from other teams but something tells me the special teams guru in Harbaugh will want to keep him. It’s up in the air but he’ll probably sign somewhere else.
LB Edgar Jones – He’s not a whole lot more than a backup and is replaceable. The Ravens won’t re-sign him.
TE Kris Wilson – With the immersion of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, the future of the tight end position is looking good for the Ravens. The Ravens will grab someone in the later rounds of the draft or in free agency at a low price to back them up but will let Wilson go.
DT Cory Redding – Redding was great in Baltimore and emerged as a defensive superstar. He’ll be targeted by many teams but the Ravens don’t have to worry as young stars Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones can take over his duties.
DT Brandon McKinney – The Ravens might hold on to McKinney as a backup but Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones are the next generation for the Ravens. It won’t hurt to lose him if he signs somewhere else.
DB Haruki Nakamura – Nakamura’s played both safety and corner but is better suited as a safety. With Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard already penciled in at the starting safety positions, Nakamura would serve as insurance to the injury prone Ed Reed. I think he re-signs with the Ravens
S Tom Zbikowski – Zbikowski is a strong physical presence in the secondary. Many teams are interested in him and I believe he’ll be signed somewhere else. Nakamura and Zbikowski are similar but I think Nakamura will be more valuable down the road. He’s more athletic and better suited for the safety position that Zibby.
And there you have it, my predictions for the Ravens free agents. Stay tuned for who I think the Ravens will pursue. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Topics: Andre Gurode, Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Ravens Free Agency, Ben Grubbs, Brandon McKinney, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Cary Williams, Cory Redding, Dannell Ellerbe, Edgar Jones, Haruki Nakamura, Jameel McClain, Jarret Johnson, Kris Wilson, Lardarius Webb, Matt Birk, NFL, Nfl Free Agency, Ray Rice, Tom Zbikowski