Exactly a week since the market opened, the Ravens have lost five unrestricted free agents (Tyrod Taylor, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Pernell McPhee and Darian Stewart), traded a key defensive starter (Haloti Ngata), re-signed two of their own free agents (running back Justin Forsett and defensive back Anthony Levine), and signed one outside unrestricted free agent (safety Kendrick Lewis).
Knowing the Ravens' history in free agency and their tight salary cap situation, it’s not surprising that the team has suffered such heavy losses. If there is one surprise, it’s that the Ravens have yet to address their two biggest needs: wide receiver and cornerback.
Here’s why the Ravens have had a hard time adding a cornerback despite bidding on several of them, including Cary Williams and Perrish Cox: Even the second-tier free agent cornerbacks are signing deals worth at least $5 or $6 million annually. That’s a lot of money for a Ravens’ team that has precious little salary cap space.
It appears that it’s going to be really difficult for the Ravens to make any meaningful addition at that position in free agency. The top remaining free agent corners include Patrick Robinson, Rashean Mathis, Alan Ball, Charles Tillman and Tarell Brown.
Rather than overpay a potential No. 3 or 4 corner, the Ravens are probably better off drafting one early and hoping that Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson have put their health issues behind them. Rashaan Melvin also should improve.
How long-term is commitment to Forsett?
You had to feel good for running back Justin Forsett, who got the contract extension with the Ravens that he has long been seeking. He certainly earned it.
However, Forsett, who has been on five teams over the past seven years, knows there’s no such thing as a long-term commitment in the NFL. He also surely understands that he’s going to have to have another really good year to secure his future with the team.
His three-year, $9 million deal, which includes $3 million in guaranteed money, carries a $1.6 million salary cap hit for the 2015 season and a $3.7 million hit for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. If he struggles in 2015, the Ravens could theoretically get out of the contract after one year without a significant hit to their salary cap.
Not that this is going to happen – Forsett sounds as motivated as ever to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke and other teams were foolish to not make him a higher priority in free agency.
Don't read too much into visits
It’s usually a pretty good policy to not read too much into pre-draft visits. Teams are allowed to bring in as many as 30 players and it makes sense for them to do their due diligence on a wide variety of prospects. Some teams even bring in prospects as a smoke screen, hoping to make other teams in front of them think they are interested in a certain guy so the player that they are really targeting falls to them.
But the news that Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray will visit the Ravens, which was reported by my colleague Aaron Wilson, is interesting nonetheless.
Most people believe it’s a foregone conclusion that the Ravens draft either a cornerback or a wide receiver with their first-round pick. That still might be true, but at some point relatively early in the draft, the Ravens figure to take a pass rusher.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are 32 and 31 years old, respectively. Pernell McPhee is now with the Chicago Bears and Courtney Upshaw is eligible for free agency next year. There is a clear need for a young pass rusher to join the Ravens’ outside linebacker rotation.
Ray, tough, is projected as a top-10 pick, while the Ravens are due to pick 26th. Would the Ravens move up that far to be put themselves in position to take Ray? I highly doubt it.
The Ravens should have at least 10 picks, so they should be able to move around a little bit in the draft, even though compensatory selections cannot be traded. I could see them parting with a couple of mid-to-late rounders to move up a couple of spots.
But to move from 26th to within or close to the top 10 would probably require the Ravens part with a future first-rounder, as well.
That doesn’t sound like something the Ravens would do, although they did talk about making a move into the top 10 last year to try and get in position to select outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who ultimately went fifth overall to the Oakland Raiders and had a promising rookie season.