Can the Ravens Afford to Keep Pernell McPhee and Jimmy Smith?


Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) reacts after making a sack in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The best teams in the NFL are the ones that draft and develop their own talent.  Free agency typically features at least one big name player who prices himself out of his team’s range, and competitive teams often let them walk.  While many fans don’t like this, it is the reality of the modern day NFL.

Salary caps ensure that our favorite sport remains a competitive one, but they also ensure that teams must make tough decisions almost every season.  The Ravens will likely have two such tough decisions on their hands in the next two offseasons when Pernell McPhee and Jimmy Smith’s contracts will be up.

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In each of the last two years, the Ravens have let contract year superstars go in Paul Kruger and Arthur Jones.  Much like those two guys, Pernell McPhee is following the mold.  He is having a career year after struggling to get on the field to this point.  And even though he is largely a pass rush specialist, there is a big market for such players.

And for good reason.  Guys that can consistently get to the quarterback are valuable in today’s NFL.  As we have seen in the first seven games this season, a disruptive pass rush throws off a quarterback’s timing and forces them out of the pocket, and it helps to mask deficiencies in coverage.

While McPhee’s contract is up after this season, cornerback Jimmy Smith will remain under contract through the 2015 season after the Ravens wisely exercised his 5th year option.  The problem is, cornerback is quickly becoming one of the most valuable positions in the pass happy NFL, and top flight corners are raking in the cash with huge contracts.

The Ravens will certainly try and work on an extension for Smith next offseason, but they may be forced to pay him more than they would like.  Even though Smith came into the league with some character concern issues and was arrested this past offseason, he has otherwise kept his nose clean and is quickly becoming one of the best corners in the league.

We think (and hope) the Ravens will retain Smith.  We don’t share the same optimism for McPhee.  The team will be loathe to pay him for his sudden “contract year” breakout, and for good reason.  We love the guy, but it will be hard to justify forking over Arthur Jones money for a player who had 9.5 sacks in three combined seasons prior to this year’s sudden “emergence.”