As next wave of free agency begins, don't expect dramatic moves by Ravens

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. talks his new teammates during Lardarius Webb's charity softball game at M&T Bank Stadium. (Baltimore Sun video)

The NFL had the Ravens and teams with a similar free-agent philosophy in mind when the league shifted a key date this year.

Instead of having the compensatory draft pick formula count against teams when they signed unrestricted free agents prior to June 1, the league moved the date up to Tuesday.


It was a move intended to motivate teams to sign unrestricted free agent veteran players shortly after the NFL draft. The Ravens have picked up only one veteran player whose contract expired this offseason: safety Kendrick Lewis, who signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract in March.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry said "this is not going to be the new June 1," but some players should receive contracts earlier than in previous years.


"Typically in the past, after June 1, that's when you would sign veterans. There was always a lull with the old date, a lull until training camp when veterans would find jobs," said Corry, who writes about the business of football for National Football Post. "I don't think this will have a dramatic effect with the new time."

The Ravens have stockpiled the most compensatory draft picks of any NFL team since the league started the program in 1994. They've received 44 compensatory picks, nine more than the Green Bay Packers. The Ravens have received the maximum of four compensatory picks in each of their past two drafts.

Under the NFL collective bargaining agreement, a team that loses more — or better — free agents than it signs during the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The Ravens are expected to receive picks to compensate for the losses of wide receiver Torrey Smith, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

With the exception of the nickel cornerback position, the Ravens' roster is well-stocked following a draft where they landed wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round, tight end Maxx Williams in the second round and defensive lineman Carl Davis in the third round.

Sources with knowledge of the Ravens' thinking predicted that the team won't sign many veterans, but will seek to add a cornerback through free agency or a trade.

When the draft concluded, general manager Ozzie Newsome said he wasn't done building the roster. The Ravens are at the NFL roster limit of 90 players.

"We're not done putting this team together right now," Newsome said. "There's still maybe four months before we have to play Denver."

Two years ago, the Ravens signed middle linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year contract in June, when the compensatory pick formula didn't apply. Smith emerged as a capable and modestly-priced replacement for retired linebacker Ray Lewis — Smith led the team in tackles after signing a one-year, $2.125 million contract.

"I don't think they're going to find their Daryl Smith this year," Corry said. "Two years ago, he was one of their best moves and he didn't cost them a compensatory draft pick. If Smith was a free agent this year, that's a guy that would show how this thing can work for teams because he would have gotten a job much quicker. The Ravens have been great with the comp pick formula over the years. They work the system well."

Prior to acquiring Williams in the draft, the Ravens likely would have looked into the the possibility of signing former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham once he's healthy. Instead, the Ravens' most pressing need is at cornerback, but there appear to be few upgrades available on the free-agent market.

Oakland Raiders free agent cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers haven't drawn interest from other NFL teams. Brown, 30, had 55 tackles last season for the Raiders. Rogers, 33, is a bit old for a cornerback and is coming off a season in which he started seven games and had no interceptions.

The Ravens already filled their backup running back position by drafting USC back Javorious "Buck" Allen in the fifth round and haven't been inclined to go after Pierre Thomas or Steven Jackson — who wouldn't have counted against the compensatory pick formula because they were released by the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.


Among the most proven veteran players still available: quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Wes Welker, who has a history of concussions, linebacker Brandon Spikes, Gresham, Jackson, running back Chris Johnson, who's recovering from a gunshot wound, and offensive tackle Joe Barksdale.

"If you're happy with what you've drafted, then this date could be irrelevant for the Ravens and several other teams," Corry said. "A couple vets, like Vick, are going to be judicious and wait for an injury to pick a team.

"I think this was a well-intentioned move from the NFL to try to get people jobs, but that doesn't mean it will have the effect. I like the intent behind the change. For certain franchises, it will spur movement. The Ravens just might not be one of them."


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