The franchise tag deadline has passed the salary cap has been finalized. What will the Baltimore Ravens do in the offseason following these revelations?
The 2021 offseason has officially begun. Ten players, including fan-favorite Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin, were franchise tagged by their respective teams, and the NFL set the 2021 salary cap at $182.5 Million. What does this mean for Baltimore’s offseason plan?
With the NFL setting officially the salary cap at $182.5 million, the Baltimore Ravens’ salary cap should be around $20 million, barring any contract restructures, trades, cuts, etc. The Ravens need to address multiple positions, notably wide receiver, edge rusher, and offensive line. In this article, the likely offseason scenarios Baltimore can take in the following months will be addressed and analyzed.
Wide receiver – notable player(s) currently on the roster: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay
For months, both renowned analysts and avid fans have speculated that the Ravens could sign a top receiver in free agency to address the team’s biggest need for the past few years. A potential splash wide receiver signing was not likely to happen, as ESPN reporter Jamison Hensely reported that “the expectation is” that Baltimore will not pursue a tier-one receiver, but rather multiple tier-two receivers.
This revelation was disappointing, but as many people in the community noted the move was not a surprise, as the Ravens have never broken the bank in free agency, especially at the receiver position being a heavy run-first team.
The chances of Mr. Hensely’s reporting being accurate has gone through the roof, as following Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin, two of the top three receivers who could’ve been available in free agency, being franchise-tagged, the value of Kenny Golladay, the lone tier-one wide receiver left, has seen his value skyrocket.
As such the likelihood of him landing in Baltimore has plummeted, while the likelihood of Corey Davis or JuJu Smith-Schuster, the two best tier-two receivers, coming to the Ravens has shot up significantly.
With the NFL setting officially setting the salary cap at $182.5 million, Baltimore’s salary cap should be around $20 million, barring any contract restructures, trades, cuts, etc. Davis’s market value is $9.8 million according to Spotrac.com whereas Smith-Schuster’s $16.1 million, albeit he’s probably going to get well short of that number for multiple reasons, including his production falling, unnecessary attention, and questions about him being a true number one receiver.
Both Davis and Smith-Schuster fit well into Baltimore’s system, as could very well be the big, physical receiver that the Ravens have been longing for and missing for years. Furthermore, both are adept at blocking and have been on a run-heavy for their whole careers.
If the Ravens miss out on these two talents, watch for Baltimore to sign a veteran, such as Marvin Jones or A.J. Green, on a low-risk, high-reward contract. It’s also worth noting that a trade for Allen Robinson, now on a one-year contract could be possible.
Free agency could bring a disaster to the Ravens historically dominant pass rush, as the team’s top two edge rushers, Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon, are free agents and will most likely leave the team.
The most likely route Baltimore will take to address their potentially open hole at such a critical position will be to draft one, such as Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Miami’s Jaelen Philipps, or Texas’s Joseph Ossai, one of which is likely to fall to Baltimore’s first-round draft pick at 27.
Drafting an edge rusher is by far the likeliest route that Baltimore will take, as each of the top edge rushers, Shaq Barrett, Yannick Ngackue, and Matthew Judon will likely receive north of $15 million per year.
Even though the Ravens don’t currently have a lot of cap space, they could easily create more by restructuring one or both of Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Stanley’s contracts, and as such could potentially bring one of the top edge rushers into Charm City.
If this occurs, then the odds of the Ravens re-signing Yannick Ngakoue are overwhelmingly high compared to the rest, as Shaq Barrett is both more expensive and likely heading back to the Buccaneers, where he just won a super bowl, and Matthew Judon has publicly displayed his discontent with the Ravens organization, going as far as personally attacking longtime ESPN and respected Ravens press room member Jamison Hensely.
The offensive line positions are crucial for the Ravens to have a deep playoff and the easiest for them to address, as Baltimore has historically been one of the best team’s in the NFL at developing offensive linemen. The Ravens could address this position in-house and by free agency or by drafting a promising offensive linemen prospect.
If Baltimore opts to go with the first route, then the up-and-coming guard Bradley Bozeman, who’s been improving every year since being drafted out of Alabama a few years ago, would move to the center position, a possibility that the Ravens’ front office mentioned in their recent pre-offseason press conference and has most-likely explored in the past.
If this occurs, then Baltimore will most likely sign one of the top offensive linemen in free agency, such as Joe Tunney and Corey Linsley, or even trade for Andrew Norwell, who the Jaguars are rumored to be shopping.
All of these free agents would improve the Ravens offensive line significantly, and would likely come at an affordable price given the Ravens current cap-space situation.
In the second potential route, Baltimore would address their offensive line issues by drafting a promising prospect, such as Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis and Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, two talented players who are frequently linked to the organization who will likely go in the second round of the upcoming draft.
Both options are very likely to occur, and a mix of the two, such as drafting a guard, signing a center, or vice-versa, would be a great option to fix the Ravens offensive line, a unit which has struggled immensely in all of Lamar Jackson’s three career playoff games.