Most of the attention has been on rush linebacker Terrell Suggs' future because he'll cost the Ravens more than $12 million against the salary cap next season. However, there are probably other Ravens whose futures in purple are a bit more tenuous than Suggs'.
It would be extremely surprising if Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who would count $2.3 million against the cap and had a limited role this season, is back next year. Weak-side linebacker Jameel McClain ($4.4 million) and punter Sam Koch ($2.8 million) may also be in jeopardy.
Defensive end Chris Canty ($3.2 million) is another question mark, though if the Ravens lose free agent Arthur Jones, It would be tough to replace both Jones and Canty.
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Speaking of Jones, I know a lot of people consider him a must re-sign for the Ravens, but I just can’t see it happening.
After having the best season of his career, Jones is in line for a nice payday this year, and he’ll have earned every bit of it. He’s improved every year and made himself into a real solid player. However, with the money the Ravens owe nose tackle Haloti Ngata and their other financial commitments, I don’t see how they’ll win a bidding war for Jones.
I think it will play out a lot like Dannell Ellerbe’s free agency last year or Cory Redding’s from a couple of years ago. The Ravens will maintain interest and consider re-signing Jones a priority, but they’ll realize pretty quickly that their offer won’t be competitive with what Jones will get elsewhere.
I hope I’m wrong, because Jones is one of the classiest and most accountable athletes I’ve ever covered.
With limited flexibility under the salary cap, the Ravens are only going to be able to devote so much money to fixing their struggling offensive line.
Even if they re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe – and both sides seem to want to make that happen – they are still going to have questions at center, where Gino Gradkowski has yet to prove that he’s the long-term answer; at left guard, where Kelechi Osemele is coming off back surgery; and at right tackle, where free agent Michael Oher isn’t expected to return.
So, it seems inevitable that they are going to need one of their young offensive linemen to step up next season and prove themselves capable of handling a starting role.
Rick Wagner, a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin, played in all 16 games as a rookie, mostly limited to special teams and the “jumbo” package. There’s a long offseason ahead but with it unlikely that the Ravens can afford to sign two free agent offensive tackles, Wagner may well be the favorite to start at right tackle next season.
Getting back to Oher -- I know I’m going to get ripped for this -- but I’m still surprised how much vitriol the mere mention of his name stirs up among Ravens’ fans.
Sure, he never developed into the dominant left tackle that the organization had hoped for when they selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft, and his weekly false start penalties were frustrating.
But he was also a guy who has started every game of his Ravens career, his 80 consecutive starts representing the third-longest streak in franchise history.
He moved from right tackle to left, back to right, back to left and then back to right without complaint. And though he struggled this year, he played extremely well during the Super Bowl run last year against some really good pass rushers.
He was dominant against Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil in the AFC divisional playoff game last year. That should count for something.