Ravens columnist John Eisenberg looks back on the unusual week, including Ryan Grant’s voided contract, newly signed wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown, Brandon Williams’ restructure and veteran cuts.
John Eisenberg Baltimore Ravens Columnist
“My thoughts on various Ravens’ moves during an unusual first few days of free agency:
Agreeing on a reported four-year deal, $29 million with receiver Ryan Grant and then voiding the deal because of a failed physical.
“GM Ozzie Newsome said Friday that it was a medical decision, not a football decision, and also said he and the coaches had “a role” in mind for Grant in the offense. That makes it sound as if the Ravens are sorry they backed out, but Grant’s tentative deal was widely panned as one of the best examples of a wide receiver market gone bonkers, and if you ask me, yes, it was too much for a guy with less than a thousand career receiving yards.
Signing wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a reported three-year deal.
“Friday night’s signing is the biggest step in the right direction the Ravens have taken this offseason. Although Crabtree’s production declined a bit in 2017, he’s a tough, accomplished veteran who should fit right in. Most importantly, he has a track record of making plays, which is exactly what the Ravens need. If the contract details reported by ESPN are accurate ($21 million, with $11 million guaranteed) the Ravens got him for less than they offered Grant, whose track record pales in comparison. Definitely an upgrade.
Cutting Jeremy Maclin.
“The Ravens wouldn’t be seeking to overhaul their pass-catching corps if Maclin’s single season in Baltimore had gone better. You can’t blame him entirely for what happened. Joe Flacco’s back injury kept them from practicing together until the week before the season opener, hindering their ability to develop a rapport. But I don’t blame the Ravens for moving on from a fairly expensive guy who is turning 30 and on a streak of two straight underwhelming seasons.
Signing wide receiver John Brown to a one-year contract.
“Injuries pretty much ruined his last two seasons in Arizona, but he showed plenty of talent before that, enough for the Ravens to gamble that he’s finally healthy at age 27 and ready to become a major contributor. The fact that he wanted a one-year deal indicates he’s hungry, and it worked for the Ravens, too, limiting their risk.
Restructuring defensive tackle Brandon Williams’ contract.
“The Ravens freed up a sizable amount of salary-cap room, basically enough for another player, by converting most of Williams’ 2018 salary to a bonus payable later. The extra room enables them to try to get better now, but it comes with a too-familiar cost. The more cap obligations they kick down the road, the longer they’ll deal with limited room. Ugh. I know why they did it, but moves like this should be a last resort.
Picking up cornerback Brandon Carr’s 2018 option.
“Whenever the possibility of the Ravens not doing this was raised, I gave that idea a thumbs down. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the Ravens need all the healthy, able cornerbacks they can get. With Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young both coming back from major injuries, there are too many questions for the Ravens to part with a durable veteran who played solidly for the most part in 2017.
Cutting cornerback Lardarius Webb.
“Webb’s long tenure almost ended when he was cut a year ago, but he agreed to return in 2017 on a smaller deal, in a utility role. I don’t foresee that happening again. The Ravens have invested quite a bit on their secondary through free agency and the draft, improving the unit’s depth. As he departs, Webb warrants applause for what he gave to the franchise for almost a decade.
Cutting tackle Austin Howard.
“Howard held up well for the most part at right tackle in 2017, but the Ravens chose James Hurst over him as a piece of the O-line puzzle going forward. Their rationale makes sense to me. Hurst, 26, is four years younger, durable and more versatile. Basically, the Ravens’ track record of being able to develop capable lineman made Howard expendable.
Cutting running back Danny Woodhead.
“This was an easy call. Injuries limited him in his single season in Baltimore, as they did throughout the latter stages of his career. The Ravens have enough young backs that he became expendable, and they were on to something, as Woodhead announced his retirement Friday.”