Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't really make any big revelations at his news conference Wednesday. The fact that the Ravens will franchise kicker Justin Tucker without a long-term deal by March 1 was considered a formality.
In other cases, you can sort of read in-between the lines at his comments and get a little bit of a better sense of how this offseason will play out. Here is my attempt to do just that:
Newsome: "Just as I stated at the end of season press conference, we are in a position that we can be very active in free agency without having to get something done with Joe [Flacco]. But if that possibility happens, it will be good both for the Ravens and for Joe Flacco."
My take: I've said this before, but you don't actually expect Newsome to come out and say: "We are desperate to rework Flacco's current and $28.55 million salary cap hit this year," do you? The Ravens have little to no leverage as it is, and there's no way a comment like that would help in negotiations with Joe Linta, Flacco's agent. The Ravens obviously have a plan to construct a roster around Flacco's current cap number. But they know that plan would likely force them to release several players that they don't want to let go. Newsome knows that the team's ability to make meaningful roster improvements this offseason hinges partly on its ability to rework Flacco's deal. Linta and Flacco know that as well. Linta and Ravens chief negotiator, Pat Moriarty, are meeting in Indianapolis this week. I wouldn't expect a new deal, but I still think it's almost a necessity before free agency starts on March 9.
Newsome: "We've had some discussions but we will franchise Justin [Tucker] if we do not get a deal done. Even if we do franchise him, we will continue to work to negotiate to try and get a deal done."
My take: Again, this just made too much sense from the very beginning. The Ravens have used the franchise tag as a precursor to long-term deals with Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata among others. The bet here is that it happens with Tucker, too. Moriarty will meet with Tucker's agent, Robert Roche, this week. But at the very least, the franchise tag buys the Ravens some time in the negotiations.
Newsome: "Again, if we can bring back our full team from last year, we would. But we just don't know. History says we'll get some [free agents] signed and then some will go to some other clubs. When that happens, you know what, I wish them well."
My take: It will be business as usual for the Ravens in free agency and they'll lose many of their 10 unrestricted free agents (not counting the soon to be franchised or extended Tucker). It's very hard to see the Ravens retaining their top two free agents, Kelechi Osemele and Courtney Upshaw, unless they take lesser deals to stay. Other free agents, like cornerback Shareece Wright, linebacker Albert McClellan and long snapper Morgan Cox, are more realistic targets to re-sign. Annual offseason losses is just the reality in today's free agent NFL and Newsome and company don't spend a whole lot of time fretting about it.
Newsome: "I saw [Breshad Perriman] in the facility before I left. He has a smile on his face and I'm hoping that he can continue to improve in his rehab and once the offseason program gets here, we'll get a chance to see what he can do."
My take: Perriman, who missed all of his rookie season after sustaining a knee injury on the very first full-squad practice of training camp, struggled mightily to deal with his injury and the fact that he couldn't get on the field. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said late in the season that it was tough to even have a conversation with and Perriman acknowledged that he went into a "dark place." It's good news is that Perriman is smiling these days and is upbeat. However, it's still a little discouraging that he hasn't been fully clearly yet. What was initially believed to be a day-to-day injury became a four-to-six week type of thing. Now, it's nearly been seven months since he first hurt his knee and he's still not 100 percent. It's important that Perriman be ready for the offseason activities and for training camp, and a clean bill of health would certainly do wonders for the team.
Newsome: "I saw [Los Angeles Rams coach] Jeff Fisher made this comment last week: This is the time of year we make tough decisions. Between now and March 9, we will make some. I don't know who they are or who they're going to be, but we do have to make some decisions."
My take: You can expect a handful of roster cuts within the next two weeks. The Ravens don't have a ton of obvious candidates, but veterans like Chris Canty, Daryl Smith and Kyle Arrington are certainly in the most jeopardy. Tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe are logical post-June 1 releases as well.
Newsome: "Right now, Monroe is our starting left tackle because K.O. is a free agent."
My take: This wasn't exactly a strong endorsement for Monroe who is entering the third year of a five-year, $37.5 million contract extension. He also received a rather tepid endorsement at the "State of the Ravens" address in January. As I've said many times, Monroe's injury issues made it tough to trust him as the long-term protector of Flacco's blind side, even though he's played relatively well when healthy. Cutting Monroe now would save $2 million of salary cap space but create $6.6 million of dead money. Making him a post-June 1 release would create $6.5 million of savings and spread out the dead money. What makes the most sense is for the Ravens to hold onto Monroe, see if they are able to re-sign Osemele or get another left tackle in free agency or in the draft. If they can, they could let go of Monroe in June. If they can't, they can hold onto him for another year and hope he stays healthy.
Newsome: Lardarius Webb "will be a starting safety at that number. If you watch some of the numbers that some of the safeties are going to get in free agency, you'll realize that we've got him at a very good number."
My take: To me, this is a pretty clear indication that the team has no plans to ask Webb to rework his current deal, which includes a $9.5 million salary cap hit this year. Perhaps Newsome could change his mind and decide that it's untenable but it's pretty hard to walk back from a definitive statement like that. Webb loves being on the Ravens and he showed how much by taking a pay cut last year to stay. The Ravens are now showing how much confidence they have in his ability to transition to safety. Given this news, fellow safeties Kendrick Lewis, Will Hill and maybe even Matt Elam could be in jeopardy as the Ravens attempt to create more cap space.