Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Ravens' top free-agent target, is set to be the latest linchpin of their defense to depart Baltimore this offseason.
While teams can negotiate contracts with free agents, no deals can become official until 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Mosley, 26, has made the Pro Bowl and been named second-team All-Pro in four of his five seasons with the Ravens.
On Monday, the team also lost free-agent outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens had previously cut safety Eric Weddle and went into the offseason expected to lose free-agent linebacker Za’Darius Smith. A fifth significant contributor, starting defensive end Brent Urban, is also a free agent.
All played significant roles in helping the Ravens rank first in the NFL in total defense and second in scoring defense last season.
None were as important to the team’s future as Mosley. The 2014 first-round draft pick has missed just three games in his NFL career and finished with at least 107 tackles in all but one season. Despite concerns about his ability in pass coverage, he posted career bests last season in passing yards allowed (408) and yards per reception allowed (9.3), according to Pro Football Focus.
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His late interception against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 secured the Ravens’ first AFC North title since 2012 and first playoff appearance since 2014.
The Ravens and Mosley’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, had been engaged in contract negotiations since January 2018, but talks reached an impasse. The Ravens declined to place the franchise tag on Mosley this offseason, allowing him to hit the open market.
“I certainly hope that C.J. is back,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in late January, before the deadline for the franchise tag passed. “I believe in my heart that he will be. We’re having those discussions now. We’ve got several different strategies in place. We’re in the business of keeping our good football players. Talent wins in the NFL, and he’s a Pro Bowl linebacker, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure C.J. is back on the team.”
The Ravens quickly found out that interest in quality linebackers like Mosley outpaced their ability to keep him. On Monday, Kwon Alexander, a one-time Pro Bowl selection with a history of injury problems, agreed to a four-year, $54 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers, then the richest contract for an inside linebacker.
Less than two weeks ago, Mosley had posted an early-morning message to his Instagram story in which he all but dared the Ravens to let him walk. "Don't franchise me or sign me, see what happens,” he said into the camera.
In the early morning on Tuesday, Mosley moved on from the only team he has known.
More to come.