The Ravens' top decision makers are spending most of this week in Florida for their annual offseason meetings at the home of owner Steve Bisciotti.
The group, which includes team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and head coach John Harbaugh, will review the roster, go over the team’s salary cap situation and formulate a plan for rest of the offseason.
Inevitably, Jacoby Jones’ name will come up at some point in the discussions. The wide receiver and kick returner, is viewed as a potential offseason release, given his diminished role as a wide receiver during the 2014 season.
Jones caught just nine passes for 131 yards in 16 regular-season games for the Ravens and he wasn’t even targeted among Joe Flacco’s 45 passing attempts during the team’s divisional round playoff loss to the New England Patriots. Nine Ravens had more receptions than Jones during the regular season.
He still made a difference as a kick returner, averaging 30.6 yards per return, the second most in the NFL, and scoring on a 108-yard return in a regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he also mishandled two punts and was rendered a non-factor in some games as teams came up with creative ways to avoid kicking him the ball.
The question that the Ravens have to answer is whether Jones, who will turn 31 in July, is more a luxury at this point than a necessity. Jones, who signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Ravens last March that includes $4.5 million in guaranteed money, is due to make a base salary of $2.5 million in 2015. He’ll cost the Ravens approximately $3.4 million against the salary cup.
But the reality is that the Ravens would be gaining just $750,000 of cap space if they release the 30-year-old unless they do it under the designation of a post-June 1 release. In the latter case, they’d get $2.5 million in cap space but not until after June 1. Free agency starts March 10.
So, the Ravens’ decision is every bit a performance one as a financial one, and it’s not as simple as it appears given Jones’ struggles this past season.
Is the modest salary cap savings worth losing one of the most electric return men in the NFL? The Ravens have other potential return men on the roster – wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill) immediately comes to mind – but none have Jones’ game-breaking ability?
Can the Ravens afford to lose both Jones and pending free agent wide receiver Torrey Smith? Smith and Jones are really the Ravens’ only two deep threats and losing both of them would hamper the team’s ability to stretch the field.
Those are two questions the Ravens' top decision makers will have to answer. Letting Jones go may make sense when you look at his drop on the wide receiver depth chart, but it's a little more complicated than that.