Free Agency started only a few days ago and some of the most important decisions for the Ravens have already been made. Seeking to retain some very important core players, the Ravens made their decisions and managed to keep some of the most important players on the roster.
The first move was a restructuring of Terrell Suggs’ contract which I discussed earlier here. The 4 year extension allows Suggs to remain a Raven for life and also helped the Ravens free up around $5 million in salary cap space. It also helped that the NFL decided to raise the cap number this year by another $10 million.
Next came the cuts of veteran FB Vonta Leach and MLB Jameel McClain. Those moves saved the Ravens just about another $5 million in salary cap space. Though Leach is regarded as the best blocking full back in the game, he was getting to be a pricey one dimensional player whom the Ravens were starting to phase out of the offense. With about five games left in the season, Leach found himself on the bench while the Ravens attempted going more and more with a single back set. They already have a more versatile FB who also plays special teams in Kyle Jusczyk. McClain was known to be a stout player against the run, but he was a liability in pass coverage and is also coming off of a spinal chord injury. Would it have been nice to keep him? Certainly, he has some experience and if the Ravens can’t bring back Daryl Smith, the inside linebacker spot has a slew of younger players with not a lot of experience.
Corey Graham; who played nickel back and as the slot corner, has moved on and signed a 4 year $16 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. Up and coming DE Arthur Jones was signed by the Colts to a 5 year, $33 million deal. SS James Ihedigbo also seems to be on the way out as Elam is more of a SS and Ihedigbo doesn’t fit the scheme as a FS.
So much for the losses, now to the players the Ravens retained.
The first player to be signed to a new deal was playmaking and go to TE Dennis Pitta. After suffering from a dislocated hip, it was amazing to see him come back and play at the high level he did last season. The offense sorely missed him and was compounded by the loss of Anquan Boldin. Having Pitta back gives Flacco a level of comfort and a guy he trusts in crucial situations. Hopefully Pitta can remain healthy. Five years and $32 million is riding on his durability.
The next player to be kept in house was newcomer LT Eugene Monroe. After Bryant McKinnie proved to have lost just about the last bit of useful football, the Ravens traded to acquire Monroe from the Jaguars. Monroe showed to be one of the more dependable offensive linemen in the league and the Ravens were very keen to keep him going forward. The 26 year old gets a 5 year deal worth $37.5 million to help keep Flacco upright for a few more years.
The last big signing so far was a player the Ravens considered to be a luxury and were not sure if they could keep given the reality of free agency. Just yeseterday however; in a rather bizarre turn of events while he was speaking with the New York Giants, WR and return specialist Jacoby Jones decided to take less money to come back to the Ravens. The 4 year deal for $14 million means the Ravens get to keep one of the most explosive players on their roster not only on the returns, but also provides that deep threat in Gary Kubiak’s new offense.
The Ravens are still in contact with Daryl Smith, and have also been in contact with Julian Edelman and Steve Smith. Which players they are able to obtain leading up to the draft should give us a much better idea of where they are going with their fist pick. I was leaning towards a playmaking WR or TE, but if the Ravens manage to ink another free agent WR, I could see them going after TE Eric Ebron if he’s still waiting at pick 17. They could also still go WR with their top pick, or look to bolster the defense with the best player available.