Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said he was going to stay with the team’s theme of “right player, right price” during the second phase of free agency, and he has gotten three bargain-basement deals by agreeing to terms with outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray and wide receiver Michael Floyd.
Some of these players aren’t rehabilitating just injuries but careers as well. It is an apparent attempt by the Ravens to fill needs on the roster but also a sign that they don’t have a great deal of faith in young players such as outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams to step in and become starters.
The Ravens are in good shape salary cap-wise, so if a quality player becomes available via trade or release, they can still compete for his services. But basically they went through NFL flea markets and signed McPhee, Ray and Floyd. The assumption here is they probably got each player for pretty cheap deals, so it’s not a major gamble for the Ravens if they don’t work out. But if they do, the Ravens could become more serious contenders in the AFC.
After losing outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs during the opening salvo of free agency, the team’s need for top pass rushers became glaring. Even with Suggs and Smith, the team had problems getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
McPhee and Ray will at least push Bowser and Williams for playing time, along with rookie Jaylon Ferguson, whom the Ravens took in the third round of the draft out of Louisiana Tech. And maybe Ray and McPhee will revert to their old forms, when they were still quality starters.
McPhee (6 feet 3, 265 pounds), 30, hasn’t had a strong season since he had a career high 7½ sacks with the Ravens in 2014. He parlayed that into a five-year, $38.75 million contract with the Chicago Bears, but played only three seasons and contributed just 14 sacks, with six coming in 2015.
He was injured throughout most of his time in Chicago and played sparingly with the Washington Redskins last season, appearing in 13 games and compiling only 11 tackles and zero sacks.
Ray, 26, has good size like McPhee, but is nearly five years younger. He posted a career-high eight sacks with Denver in 2016 and made it seem as if the Broncos made the right choice when they selected him in the first round of the 2015 draft. But Ray has collected only one sack in each of the past two years, and a wrist injury limited him to 11 games in 2018, a season in which he played only 23.5% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Ray is basically an outside rusher, but McPhee can line up outside or play as a defensive end. In both situations, these players are trying to reignite careers that no longer have any spark. McPhee will be comfortable here because he was the Ravens’ fifth-round pick in 2011 and is familiar with the defensive philosophy, as well as coach John Harbaugh.
It will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale can get out of them with his assortment of blitzes, pressures and disguises.
The signing of Floyd is sort of strange, but maybe the Ravens felt they needed a veteran presence with the departure of older receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree. Floyd only had 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown last season in 13 games with the Redskins and 10 catches for 78 yards with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, when he also had to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing-drug policy.
At 6-3 and 220 pounds, the 29-year-old Floyd, who has also spent time with the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals in his eight-year career, can still probably block, which will be a major part of the Ravens’ run-first offense. In addition, the Ravens just drafted receivers Marquise Brown out of Oklahoma in the first round and Miles Boykin out of Notre Dame in the third.
They also have a roster loaded with young receivers such as Jordan Lasley, Chris Moore, Janarion Grant, Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo.
Having a veteran presence can be a smart move, especially if he isn’t arrogant. The Ravens have had success with older receivers such as Steve Smith Sr. and Anquan Boldin, but they were stars on the decline. They had something left in the tank. Floyd, on the other hand, has to prove he can still play.
Regardless, the Ravens are basically in a win-win situation with McPhee, Ray and Floyd. Whenever you go to a flea market, you are hoping to get some quality and a little bit of remaining time out of the product.
The Ravens just purchased similar merchandise.