The biggest move the Ravens will make this offseason has already been determined. Quarterback Joe Flacco, under contract through 2021, will be off the team’s roster next season, and his monstrous salary off its books. There are now other players more important to the franchise’s future, and his departure allows for more financial flexibility in the months (and years) to come.
On March 13, 10 Ravens will become unrestricted free agents. Their roles vary widely, from cornerstone linebacker to backup quarterback. But with general manager Eric DeCosta wanting only “responsible” spending, their futures are all intertwined, if only marginally. Less money for one player could mean more for another, and that might make the difference between staying and going.
One month from the opening of the market, here’s where the Ravens stand with their free agents-to-be. The 10 players are ordered by their overall grade on analytics website Pro Football Focus, from highest to lowest.
PFF rank: No. 22 linebacker
Stats: 105 tackles, a half-sack, five passes defended, one interception in 15 games (15 starts)
Chances of return: Pretty good. Mosley, 26, has said he wants to finish his career in Baltimore, where he’s a hugely respected voice in the locker room. Coach John Harbaugh has said he wants him back. DeCosta has said he expects him back. If the Ravens can’t agree on a long-term deal with their former first-round draft pick, Mosley could be retained with a franchise tag. It’d be a temporary fix, of course, but the two sides would have another year to find common ground. If Mosley wants a top-dollar contract, the Ravens need to be convinced of his value not only in run defense but also pass coverage. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young are promising but relatively inexperienced, and every defense needs a leader at linebacker.
PFF rank: No. 49 interior defender
Stats: 27 tackles, a half-sack, two passes defended in 16 games (16 starts)
Chances of return: Decent. Urban, 27, was re-signed to a one-year, $1.1 million, prove-it deal last offseason, and he at least proved he could withstand the rigors of an entire season in the trenches. The 6-foot-7 defensive end, a gifted run stopper, appeared in all 16 games for the second time in three years, and his 16 starts well surpassed his previous career high of three. But Urban has played in a combined nine games in his three other NFL seasons, and offered little pass-rush production even when healthy (3½ sacks, four quarterback hits in his career). His future could depend on the progress of seventh-round pick Zach Sieler, who appeared in just two games last season.
PFF rank: No. 33 edge defender
Stats: 45 tackles, 8½ sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble in 16 games (eight starts)
Chances of return: Low. DeCosta was hopeful last month that the Ravens might have a “chance” of re-signing the 26-year-old, but he acknowledged that “the market is usually out of control” for edge rushers early in free agency. Smith finished last season with 60 pressures, according to PFF, 17th most among edge defenders in the NFL. With Matthew Judon back for at least another season, Terrell Suggs possibly returning, and Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser having the offseason to get right, there’s not a glaring need at outside linebacker. The Ravens have lost pass rushers such as Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee in free agency before and still managed.
PFF rank: No. 16 tight end
Stats: 16 catches for 143 yards, one touchdown in 13 games (six starts)
Chances of return: Low. Williams, 24, soldiered through the highs (12 catches in his first four games) and lows (a couple of healthy scratches) of his 2018 to turn in a season that, according to PFF, was only marginally worse than rookie Mark Andrews’. The former second-round pick spoke of his fellow tight ends as if they were brothers, even while they were competing for snaps, and he said after the season that he hoped to return. But the Ravens have two promising young pass-catching tight ends and needs elsewhere on offense. Williams’ injury history could hurt outside interest, but there should be a solid market for a good blocker who caught all but one pass thrown his way last season.
PFF rank: No. 36 edge defender
Stats: 34 tackles, seven sacks, six passes defended, one forced fumble in 16 games (16 starts)
Chances of return: Decent. Suggs will be 37 in October. He’s the only player taken in the 2003 draft still active. And his age is starting to show: Despite leading all Ravens pass rushers in snaps last season, he had no sacks in eight of his final 10 games, including his final three, when he totaled just five tackles. Suggs has said he wants to be a “Raven for life,” but it’s unlikely the team’s front office — or any other’s, for that matter — will be willing to guarantee a contract beyond 2019. If an offer comes and it’s respectable, it’s hard to see him finishing his career elsewhere. No one in Baltimore blinks when Suggs runs the team’s golf carts into water coolers before practice. Would he be afforded those same kind of privileges on a new team?
PFF rank: No. 23 tight end
Stats: 23 catches for 213 yards in 16 games (13 starts)
Chances of return: Pretty good. On a team with Williams, Andrews and Hayden Hurst, the 25-year-old Boyle was the only tight end to play more than 50 percent of the offense’s snaps last season. Even if the Ravens become a more balanced attack under quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2019, it’s hard to imagine they’ll find another tight end whose block-first, ask-questions-later approach aligns as perfectly with the team’s ground-game philosophy. And with the promotion of tight ends coach Greg Roman to offensive coordinator, Boyle’s value should be well-known around the front office. It’s unclear what it might be around the NFL.
PFF rank: No. 42 running back
Stats: 15 carries for 83 yards, 10 catches for 65 yards in six games (no starts) with Ravens
Chances of return: Low. The Ravens traded a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft for Montgomery, 26, and they got just about what they paid for in the midseason deal. Montgomery was a solid, sure-handed third-down back who helped out on returns when needed. But he was not as dynamic as he once was with the Green Bay Packers, and it’s not hard to imagine the Ravens seeing greener grass in free agency or the draft. Montgomery could be re-signed on a cheap, prove-it deal, but there’s no guarantee he’d even make the 53-man roster.
PFF rank: No. 70 wide receiver
Stats: 42 catches for 715 yards, five touchdowns in 16 games (15 starts)
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Chances of return: Low. Other than Flacco, there was perhaps no player more adversely affected by the Ravens’ midseason change at quarterback than Brown. Over the Ravens' first nine games, he had 34 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns. Over their final eight: 10 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. Brown, 28, said he expects a more even run-pass distribution next year, and he had no grievances about how the season unfolded personally. He called it the most fun of his career. But he stressed that he wanted to be able to provide for his family with his next contract. Given Brown’s injury history and falloff last season, he’s unlikely to command a long-term contract. If he wants one, he’d probably help his case on a more pass-heavy team.
PFF rank: No. 53 running back
Stats: 41 carries for 110 yards, three touchdowns; 35 catches for 196 yards, two touchdowns; one lost fumble in 14 games (no starts)
Chances of return: Low. It wasn’t that long ago that Harbaugh was calling Allen, 27, “quietly … one of the better players in football at his position.” But by the end of the regular season, Allen was a healthy scratch, his role usurped by Montgomery. Allen had three carries over the Ravens' final 10 games and wasn't targeted as a receiver in their final eight. His greatest late-season contributions came on special teams, but those would not be especially hard to replace.
Robert Griffin III
PFF rank: Did not qualify (low snap count)
Stats: 2-for-6 for 21 passing yards in three games (no starts)
Chances of return: High. What other offense in the NFL suits Griffin’s skill set as well as the Ravens’? And what team in the NFL would be willing to give the soon-to-be 29-year-old a shot at its starting job under center? Griffin seemed to understand he would not be a coveted free agent this offseason, even in a backup role, and he spoke often of his appreciation for the Ravens, who took a chance in signing him after he spent a year out of the league. Griffin might never again resemble the dual-threat force he was as a Washington Redskins rookie, but he’s at least a valuable sounding board for Jackson in the team’s quarterbacks room.