With the NFL scouting combine starting later this week, free agency a little over two weeks away and the draft now just two months away, the Ravens offseason is about to heat up.
We’ll be doing periodic mailbags that feature a sampling of the questions I’ve been getting on social media in recent days and my attempts to answer them.
How are the Ravens going to upgrade at wide receiver when there appears to be so little available?
They’ll have to consider every possible avenue in adding talent at the position. That means potential trades, being aggressive in the draft and also signing a free-agent pass catcher or two. The free-agent receiver market does look weak, and it will get even weaker if Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins are franchised. But there are still a handful of potential free-agent receivers with some upside, such as Marqise Lee, John Brown and Taylor Gabriel. Several accomplished veteran receivers will be released in the coming weeks, so the pool of available targets should expand. And while the draft lacks an elite group of receivers, there’s a deep crop of quality pass catchers to be had in rounds two through five. The Ravens have to hit on one or two of them. Look, there are no elite, bona fide No. 1 receivers in their prime who are available. There is enough out there, though, for the Ravens to build a solid and diverse receiving group.
Is it possible that the Ravens swing a trade with the Miami Dolphins for wide receiver Jarvis Landry?
Sure. Reports indicate that the Dolphins are plenty willing to move the productive receiver despite already using the franchise tag on him. The Ravens, who spoke to Miami about a potential Landry trade last offseason but found the Dolphins’ asking price to be prohibitive, figure to be interested. However, the first challenge would be making an offer that works for the Dolphins when the Ravens don’t have a ton of assets to deal. The second problem would be agreeing to a long-term contract extension with Landry, who reportedly wants to make north of $14 million per year. I wouldn’t rule a trade out, but it would be quite challenging for the Ravens to pull off.
Will the Ravens re-sign any of their pending free agents before the market opens?
They’d like to, but the closer players get to free agency, the less likely they are to re-sign. But that won’t stop Ravens officials from meeting with representatives of several of their pending free agents at the combine. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep their top two free agents, wide receiver Mike Wallace and center Ryan Jensen, off the free-agent market. Jensen, in particular, could trend out of the Ravens’ price range. However, the Ravens would like to re-sign defensive end Brent Urban, and that type of deal could get done. Wide receiver-punt returner Michael Campanaro (River Hill) is a candidate to return as well. Given their tight salary cap situation, the Ravens figure to be selective with their own free agents.
Is there interest in re-signing Crockett Gillmore, who is transitioning from tight end to the offensive line?
Yes, there is mutual interest. But there’s really no rush. The Ravens will want to get a better gauge of where Gillmore is physically, and Gillmore is still early in his transition to a new position. However, Gillmore certainly has a comfort level with the Ravens and a return could make the most sense.
Why did the Ravens only get a sixth-round compensatory selection?
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People who are a lot smarter and more familiar with the compensatory formula than me explained that Rick Wagner’s missing the final three games — he was hurt in the Detroit Lions’ loss against the Ravens — ultimately cost his former team what could have been a third-round pick. The formula that determines the compensatory selections factors in playing time and Wagner was ultimately bumped into fourth-round status, which means that he was canceled out by the Ravens’ addition of Tony Jefferson. The Ravens got a sixth-round pick for the free-agent loss of defensive end Lawrence Guy to the New England Patriots. Any way you look at it, it was a letdown for a Ravens team that needs as much quality draft inventory as possible.
When will the cuts start?
There is really no hard deadline, but teams obviously want to have their salary cap in order when the new league year and free agency starts March 14. The Ravens traditionally do their cuts a little later than most teams. Last year, the Ravens released defensive backs Shareece Wright and Kendrick Lewis on March 7 and Elvis Dumervil on March 8. Lardarius Webb was cut March 10. With the combine stretching across from Tuesday to next Monday, it appears next week would be the most likely time for them to make a few moves.
Who are the candidates to get cut?
That list hasn’t changed since the first day of the offseason. Several of the veterans believed to be in jeopardy are running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, linebacker Albert McClellan and Webb. The Ravens’ salary cap situation is tight enough where offensive tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Brandon Carr have been speculated as candidates even though both had solid 2017 seasons with the Ravens and the team doesn’t have obvious replacements for them on the roster.
Are there are other ways to create salary cap room without cuts?
Yes and the Ravens will have to explore them because they don’t have too many obvious candidates for release that would create all that much space. Team owner Steve Bisciotti has already said that the front office will restructure a few contracts, specifically mentioning Brandon Williams’ deal. Reaching an extension with middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is set to make $8.7 million in 2018, could significantly lower his cap number this year. The Ravens could also try to extend the contracts of veterans Marshal Yanda and Terrell Suggs, but that’s always risky business with players in the latter stages of their career.