Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Free Agency Blueprint
The Baltimore Ravens are never big spenders in the free agent market. They re-sign their key players, they draft well and sign under the radar free agents that they feel can make a surprising impact. This method is tried and true; just ask the Miami Dolphins if their spending sprees have worked out? But free agency is something a 5-11 team has to participate in at least a little bit.
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The Ravens free agency blueprint is more of a to do list. The Ravens probably won’t be able to go after the biggest name on their wish list (though I think they may try to make one big signing). Before they can zone in on players they could bring in the Ravens have to free up cap space while retaining their key players.
The list of Ravens free agents this offseason is rather long but there are only two players that are absolutely needed for the future. These players of course are Kelechi Osemele and Justin Tucker. The Ravens have a field goal kicker they can rely on and because his accuracy has been historic his price tag will not be cheap. Osemele has had experience at left tackle that didn’t go poorly, that also raises his asking price.
The Ravens need to save some cap space and the big elephant in the room is Joe Flacco’s contract. While Flacco’s cap hit hasn’t reached undoable levels in the first couple seasons of his $120.6 million contract his cap number is nearly $30 million for 2016. The Ravens first objective is restructuring the contract of their franchise quarterback so they have a little financial breathing room.
Cutting left tackle, Eugune Monroe (who has been off and on injured since he came to Baltimore in 2013) would save a little bit of cap space. The risk of doing away with Monroe however is to great without locking up Osemele who is the unofficial plan B for the Ravens at left tackle.
Once Flacco’s number is down the Ravens can start thinking about offers they would like to give to Tucker and Osemele. If the situation sounds grim, be thankful the Ravens already worked out an extension for Marshall Yanda so they don’t have to choose which guard to keep (like they did when they chose Yanda over Ben Grubbs).
The contract details with Osemele and Tucker will be key into what the Ravens are able to do next. It seems likely that the Ravens will be able to work out a deal with Osemele. In true Ravens fashion, it will probably be at the last minute when everyone is freaking out about his potential departure. Osemele’s contract will most likely be back loaded, which helps us in the immediate future but is potentially burdensome in the more far off future.
Tucker’s deal may not be as expensive as once thought. While there are many accolades on the Tucker resume, he also struggled hitting field goals beyond 50 yards this season. He was 4-10 on such field goal attempts this season. In his first two seasons, Tucker was just about automatic from any distance. In the past two seasons he has been less accurate on the long tries. It won’t be cheap but it will be an achievable number for the Ravens.
The Ravens will be tight against the cap so don’t expect a big name to come to Baltimore. In a perfect world the Ravens could afford a guy like Josh Norman to pair with Jimmy Smith in the secondary. Or maybe Russell Okung to play left tackle next to Osemele. If Ozzie Newsome were able to pull of either move he would give Ravens Nation a lot to be excited about, but there must be other options.
At the cornerback position names like Prince Amukamara and Brandon Boykin are more realistic options. The Ravens aren’t afraid to make sensible moves in free agency, Daryl Smith and Steve Smith Sr. are proof of that. The Ravens have other players they should try to retain but they only have two unreplaceable starters in Osemele and Tucker.
It would be nice to hold on to Kamar Aiken, who is a restricted free agent. I’d also expect to see under the radar players like long snapper Morgan Cox and defensive back, Brynden Trawick and linebacker, Zach Orr back in purple next season. This may be the end of the line for Courtney Upshaw who had a disappointing 2015 campaign and is a unrestricted free agent.
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We’ll keep you in the loop this offseason. Right now we are at a point where we can only speculate what the Ravens will do based on the information we know to be true. I hope this gives you a clear blueprint to the first stage of the Ravens offseason.