Ed Reed, Joe Flacco Highlight Baltimore Ravens 2013 Free-Agency Dilemma
Let's face it. Free agency is part of the game. Players either look to build a legacy with their current franchise, or they seek greener pastures elsewhere. Aside from applying the franchise tag to running back Ray Rice and retaining long-time center Matt Birk, the Baltimore Ravens didn't really have a newsworthy offseason to speak of.
However, 2013's offseason will have far more story lines in regards to their upcoming free agents, at which we will take a look.
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Tight Ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta
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Preparing for the departure of long-time Ravens tight end Todd Heap, the franchise selected Oregon's Ed Dickson and Brigham Young's Dennis Pitta in the third and fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft.
In 2010, with Heap still on the roster, both young tight ends didn't really see the field, combining for 12 receptions that amassed 153 yards and a score. However, when Heap went to the Arizona Cardinals, the dynamic duo stepped up.
Both Dickson and Pitta are playing on three-year deals, worth $1.878 million and $1.586 million, respectively.
Dickson was the recipient of 54 passes for 528 yards, and he found the end zone five times, while Pitta caught 40 passes for 405 yards and three scores.
After the 2013 season, both tight ends will become restricted free agents, meaning that the Ravens will place a tender on them that any franchise seeking their services will have to match and compensate Baltimore with a draft choice.
However, with many teams going to a two-tight end passing attack, the Ravens may opt to keep both.
DE/LB Paul Kruger
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The injury to outside linebacker Terrell Suggs that could sideline the All-Pro for the season could be a blessing in disguise for 26-year-old pass-rusher Paul Kruger. Drafted 57th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, Kruger finally made an impact last season, recording 5.5 sacks.
According to Aaron Wilson Paul Kruger is working as the Ravens' first-team "rush" linebacker, with rookie Courtney Upshaw on the strong side, meaning that he is taking Suggs' position.
Prior to the draft in which the Ravens selected Alabama's Courtney Upshaw in the second round, coach John Harbaugh had this to say about Kruger's playing chances (via The Baltimore Sun):
I think Paul is probably the leading candidate for the SAM linebacker job. I could very definitely see him doing that. When we lost Jarret [Johnson], I went back and watched all of Paul’s tape. I watched every one of his plays from last year, just to try and get a feel just for whether or not we’d be comfortable with him in there. He did a nice job in coverage, he set the edge well. Obviously, he’s a very good pass rusher. I believe Paul can do it. I think he will do it. I talked to him on the phone. He’s committed to doing it. It means everything to him. He wants to be that guy and he wants to do it as well or better than how it’s been done for the Ravens. That’s what you want out of one of your players.
Kruger is due just $615,000 this year, but if he can put together a solid season, the Ravens will have to pay a pretty penny to retain him for the following year.
QB Joe Flacco
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Say what you want about Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, but since being selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, all the man has done is be a productive quarterback in the National Football League.
Flacco has started 64 of 64 games, posting a 44-20 regular-season record and a 4-3 playoff record. The 6'6" mustache-donning signal-caller has tossed 80 touchdowns to just 46 interceptions, while completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 13,816 yards in his career.
But he still hasn't received a long-term extension from the Ravens, and, according to The Baltimore Sun, both Flacco and the Ravens are prepared to let him play out the year on his current deal that will pay him $6.76 million in base salary, along with a $2.1 million bonus.
LT Bryant McKinnie
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Bryant McKinnie was once one of the best offensive lineman in the National Football League, starting 147 games in is career after being the No. 7 overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings. However, lately most of the news regarding McKinnie isn't about his play on the field, but his weight loss.
The 6'8" mammoth is at 358 pounds now, almost 50 down from the 400 he was at last year when he was released by the Minnesota Vikings.
McKinnie is in a contract year after signing a two-year deal worth $7.5 million. The Ravens have Michael Oher on the right side, and he seems to be the heir apparent to live up to his blind-side protector status, but the Ravens reportedly went hard after former Houston Texans' tackle Eric Winston this offseason to take McKinnie's place.
S Ed Reed
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Ed Reed has been one of the best safeties—if not players in general—in the National Football League since being selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. He has spent all of his 11 years with the Ravens, making eight Pro Bowl appearances, and he was named an All-Pro by the Associated Press five times.
Furthermore, he was named to the All-Decade team and was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.
Reed is entering the last year of a six-year, $44.4 million contract, and he is set to earn $7.2 million this season. In his stellar career, Reed has picked off 57 passes, defended 122, forced 11 fumbles and scored 12 touchdowns.
In a story with Jamison Hensley of ESPN's AFC North Blog, a hometown discount seems out of the question, as Reed states:
Do I deserve a good substantial amount? I mean you look at Peyton [Manning, Broncos quarterback]. Peyton got five [years] for $96 [million]? I know I’m not a quarterback, but at the end of the day … They pay certain positions certain ways. I’m different, man. Honestly, I got to take a look at myself from the outside in. For what I offer on the football field, for what I give on the football field, and for what they know they’re going to get, it’s much more than these young guys out here today and what they’re getting. And I’m talking about at any defensive back position right now.