The Ravens got Joe Flacco’s deal restructured. They then released linebacker Daryl Smith and defensive end Chris Canty which frees up another $6 million or so in cap space.
But the team is still strapped for cash enough to rule out any big-money plunge into the free agent market.
So what’s affordable out there, and even more important worth pursuing?
The Ravens need help at edge rusher, defensive back, offensive line and wide receiver.
Realistically they are looking to spend about $4 to $6 million tops on one quality free agent.
What’s available and affordable in what is a lackluster pool of free agents this year?
John Clayton of ESPN.com posted a few thoughts on the current free agent market which certainly apply to the Ravens’ market position:
“You might think things will go crazy in free agency, but they really don’t. Last year, for example, plenty of money was available, but only 22 unrestricted free agents received $6 million or more per year. Six million is more than a normal starter is going to get. Five unrestricted free agents received more than $10 million per year, and I don’t see that many from this class….Sure, Malik Jackson of the Denver Broncos might get $13 million to $15 million a year if the Broncos don’t re-sign him. The franchise tags eliminated a lot of free agents who could have gotten big contracts.”
“There will be plenty of big bidding battles in the $4 million range, which could bump up values for those players. The bidding will be big there because $4 million is a fair price for a starter. It might not bump up the market for the running backs and run-stopping defensive tackles. Those two positions have been pretty well locked in at around $4 million. Other positions might benefit, particularly along the offensive line and maybe at corner or wide receiver. Last year, 21 unrestricted free agents got between $4 million and $5.99 million per year.”
Here are three free agents Phil Sheridan thinks are affordable quality players and potential good fits for the Ravens as well as for his hometown Philly Eagles:
“Wide receiver Marvin Jones may wind up out of the price range, but they should kick the tires on him. The 25-year-old Jones probably is the most attractive free agent wide receiver on the market, now that Chicago has tagged Alshon Jeffery. Jones caught 69 passes for 848 yards for the Cincinnati Bengals last season.”
“Safety George Iloka would be an excellent addition. The Cincinnati Bengals safety is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He can play strong safety … Iloka is good in coverage and against the run. He also is just about to turn 26, so he will just be entering his peak seasons.”
“Offensive guard Brandon Brooks has played on both sides of center during his four seasons with the Houston Texans. He has played more at right guard, but could take over LG if Osemele is re-signed and moves to left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 343-pound Brooks was drafted in the third round in 2012 with a pick that originally belonged to the Eagles.”
Marvin Jones makes the most sense to me if he’s not too pricey. He would be an immediate upgrade in terms of of both speed and route-running and add much-needed depth to the Ravens’ receiving corps.
Unfortunately, there’s not much out there worth pursuing in the crop of guys who have just recently been released by their respective teams. I’ve heard rumors that Ozzie might be interested in WR Roddy White, the 11-year veteran from Atlanta. I doubt it, however, since White seems to be on the decline physically.
This list is growing as I am reporting it, but here are the players recently cut by their teams for cap space or declining production issues:
Chicago—2/16/2016: Released LT Jermon Bushrod.
New York Jets—2/22/2016: Released CB Antonio Cromartie.
Oakland—2/9/2016: Released FS Nate Allen.
San Francisco—2/22/2016: Waived TE Brian Leonhardt.
Seattle—2/7/2016: RB Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement.
Tennessee—2/9/2016: Released FS Michael Griffin.
Ravens scouting department is overworked right now—not only do they have to get their draft board data in order, but they must file reports on every available free agent—a list which due to the cuts is growing larger every day.