4 Big Moves the Baltimore Ravens Could Make in 2013 NFL Free Agency

Mike Fast@@michaelfast1Contributor IJanuary 14, 2013

4 Big Moves the Baltimore Ravens Could Make in 2013 NFL Free Agency

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    Has your heart resumed beating inside your chest?


    The Ravens beat the Broncos, 38-35, in double overtime in a Saturday afternoon game that was played in temperatures close to zero degrees. Next week the Ravens will play at New England in the AFC Championship, which is the exact scenario they found themselves in last year.

    Top to bottom, Baltimore is a talented, experienced, hungry football team.

    That said, like any team, Baltimore has holes.

    At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13, the Ravens will have the opportunity to begin filling those holes through free agency. They could be looking for another inside linebacker to fill in for Ray Lewis. The Ravens could also be looking for a defensive lineman or cornerback.

    Lardarius Webb is an excellent cornerback but will be coming back from a torn right ACL, and Cary Williams chose not to accept the Ravens' offer before this season, meaning he will be a free agent on March 13.

    Besides Williams, other unrestricted free agent starters the Ravens will have to re-sign or replace include Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Dannell Ellerbe and Joe Flacco.

    While they can't re-sign everyone they want and while they'll have to let some good players go, the Ravens are elite in terms of NFL personnel management. Since 1996 (when the Ravens began playing) no other team has drafted more All-Pro players (13) than Baltimore.

    Here are four players they ought to take a look at in free agency that could help them continue their winning ways.

Joe Flacco, Quarterback, Baltimore

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    2012 stats

    317-of-531 (59.7 percent), 3,817 yards, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

    2012 cap figure

    $8 million

    2013 franchise tag (average salary of top five highest-paid quarterbacks)


    Why Ravens should pursue him

    This is a very easy decision for Baltimore, especially considering Joe Flacco's amazing performance at Denver on Saturday.

    Flacco has never missed a start and has won 54 of the 80 regular-season games in which he's played (67.5 percent). His playoff record is 7-4 (63.6 percent). Only Ben Roethlisberger (71.4 percent), Eli Manning (72.7) and Tom Brady (73.9) have better postseason winning percentages.

    Flacco's stats increase each year, and he has yet to throw for more than 10 interceptions in a single season.

    His quarterback rating? In these playoffs, Flacco leads the league with a quarterback rating of 120.0.

    If the Ravens front office knows what its doing (and it does), re-signing Flacco will be a matter of when, not if.

Ryan Clady, Offensive Tackle, Denver

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    2012 stats

    Denver: 16th rushing offense (114.5 yards per game), 5th passing offense (283 yards per game), 2nd in sacks allowed (21)

    2012 cap figure


    2013 franchise tag (average salary of top five highest-paid tackles)


    Why Ravens should pursue him

    Ryan Clady was named to the Associated Press All-Pro team this season, the second time he's been awarded that honor.

    As one of the two best left tackles in football, he should automatically get a major look. Besides, the Ravens are going to have to figure out what to do with their current left tackle, Bryant McKinnie.

    If you're going to re-sign Flacco, you should get a young, proven left tackle to protect his blindside for the foreseeable future. Like Flacco, Clady came into the league in 2008 and has never missed a start since.

    As a matter of fact, in the first round of the 2008 draft, Clady was selected with the No. 12 pick and Flacco was selected with the No. 18 pick.

    Although the price tag will be high, Clady looks to be worth it.

Brent Grimes, Cornerback, Atlanta

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    2012 stats

    6 tackles

    2012 cap figure


    2013 franchise tag (average salary of top five highest-paid cornerbacks)


    Why Ravens should pursue him

    After just the first week of the 2012 season, Brent Grimes' year was over. In Week 1 at Kansas City, Grimes suffered an Achilles injury that would cause him to be placed on injured reserve.

    From 2010-11, Grimes started 28 of the Atlanta's 32 regular-season games. In that time he had 136 tackles, 37 passes defensed, six interceptions and one forced fumble.

    He's a fifth-year cornerback who plays tough football and is able to cover well.

    His injury could be a good and a bad thing for any team that's thinking of signing him. The good news would be that Grimes figures to have less contractual leverage due to the injury that caused him to miss (basically) the 2012 season.

    The bad news would is that an injury that serious make it tough to really figure out how well Grimes is able to perform in games.

    If he can show Baltimore's medical staff he's able to perform how a cornerback should, that would go a long way. However, most teams don't have a lot of money tied up in one position.

    In early April 2012, Baltimore's No. 1 cornerback, Lardarius Webb, signed a six-year, $50 million contract with the Ravens. While Grimes is very talented, Baltimore may not be able to afford him.

Dannell Ellerbe, Inside Linebacker, Baltimore

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    2012 stats

    92 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble

    2012 cap figure


    2013 franchise tag (average salary of top five highest-paid linebackers)


    Why Ravens should pursue him

    With Ray Lewis retiring and Jameel McClain coming off of a significant neck injury, re-signing Dannell Ellerbe should be a high priority for Baltimore.

    Ellerbe has had a number of injuries in his career but has fought through them all to play very good football.

    2012 was the first time Ellerbe started more than three games in his four NFL seasons. Ellerbe started seven games this year and averaged 13.1 tackles per game (while dealing with multiple injuries).

    After he signed his restricted free-agent tender prior to the 2012 season, Ellerbe said, "It's always a blessing to be back."

    This may be one of the few signings around the league where the players gets a raise and feels valued while the team retains a quality player and doesn't sacrifice their valuable cap space.