The Ravens badly need some speed on the outside. After just 39 catches last season for the Minnesota Vikings, Wallace needs to find an offense that better suits his skill set and a quarterback who loves to take shots downfield. Enter the Ravens and Joe Flacco.
But the big question is whether the two sides can agree financially. Will the Ravens be willing to pay Wallace more than the $3 million per year that their current top receiver, Steve Smith Sr., is due to make in 2016? Will Wallace be willing to accept a deal in that range after being due $11.5 million from the Vikings before he was released? Those are questions that might be answered as early as Monday.
It’s worth mentioning that when the Ravens get a free agent in the building whom they covet, they usually close the deal. We’ll see Monday how much they covet Wallace.
Keeping up with Kaepernick
You can bet that Ravens officials are keeping an eye on what happens with Colin Kaepernick, and have their fingers crossed that the San Francisco 49ers don’t trade the much-maligned quarterback to the Cleveland Browns.
If they did, that likely would take the Browns out of the running for a quarterback with the second overall pick. It also could mean that no quarterback would go in the top five of the draft, decreasing the likelihood that one of the top defensive prospects would fall to the Ravens at No. 6.
Assuming the Dallas Cowboys don’t take a quarterback at No. 4 overall — and their owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, insists they won’t — that would leave the 49ers (No. 7) as the only team in the top 10 with a potential need at quarterback. There would be little incentive for the 49ers and St. Louis Rams (No. 15) to trade up in the first round if they can stay where they are and have a shot at one of the draft’s top two quarterbacks: California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ early free-agent haul includes safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara. Why does that matter to the Ravens? The Jaguars, who have the fifth overall pick, are the team most often connected to Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey in the various mock drafts.
Would the Jaguars, who came in second for coveted free-agent pass rushers Olivier Vernon and Robert Ayers, bypass Ramsey in favor of Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner? I wouldn’t count on it, and I’m not even sure Ramsey will still be on the board at No. 5 But it would be the ideal scenario for the Ravens if he were.
Nobody should be surprised that the Ravens are in the market for a safety, whether that’s Eric Weddle or somebody else. Yes, they currently have eight safeties on their roster, including converted cornerback Lardarius Webb, whom team officials have already anointed as the front-runner to start at one of the two spots. In January's “State of the Ravens” address, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome mentioned that safety is a need. That was an obvious message that the Ravens are trying to find upgrades for the safeties they already have.
Reunion at cornerback?
It’s been all quiet on the free-agent cornerback front so far for the Ravens, and the number of available corners is shrinking by the day. At some point, you wonder whether the Ravens will turn to old friend Cary Williams to provide some size and depth on the outside.
It’s been a rough go for Williams since he was a key starter on the Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning team in 2012. He’s been with three other organizations since and is now a free agent. Perhaps returning to the place where he resurrected his career would be a stabilizing force. As for the Ravens, he could be a low-cost, low-risk move at a position where they need more depth.
Tight (end) squeeze
Moving Darren Waller from wide receiver to tight end makes sense on a number of levels. Waller is 6 feet 6 and 245 pounds, meaning he should be able to hold up physically. He also ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine last year, so he should be able to create some mismatches in the middle of the field.
And while there is no guarantee that Waller makes a successful transition to tight end, he would have been at risk of being caught in a numbers game at wide receiver this season. The Ravens’ wide receiver depth chart includes Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, Kaelin Clay, Daniel Brown, Chuck Jacobs and Cam Worthy.
The Ravens also are expected to add two receivers this offseason, probably a veteran in free agency and a rookie in the draft. It was going to be tough for Waller, also a very good special teams player, to crack the top five of that receiving group.
By the way, I do recognize that the Ravens have eight other tight ends on the roster, so it won’t be easy for Waller to make the team at that spot either. But let’s face it: Nick Boyle is suspended for the first 10 games; Dennis Pitta’s NFL career could very well be over; Crockett Gillmore's early-season availability is far from a sure thing; and Chase Ford, Harold Spears and Konrad Reuland likely will enter training camp as long shots to make the team. So there's probably a little easier road at tight end for Waller.