Predicting Baltimore Ravens' Free-Agent Signings
With Joe Flacco signed and the Baltimore Ravens' finances becoming clearer, they can begin to look at the market to upgrade their team.
The first priority will be re-signing their own. Guys like Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Dennis Pitta are all bright, young stars in need of new contracts, while vets like Ed Reed and Bryant McKinnie are also poised to hit the market.
They won't be able to re-sign all of them, but the Ravens will try to get as many as they can.
After taking care of their own, the Ravens will look at the various players that are on the open market. There were plenty of solid players already entering free agency, but other teams have bolstered the market by cutting their own veterans.
Don't expect any spending sprees from the Ravens, but they're always good at finding some low-price, high-impact veterans.
Here's a look at what the Ravens could do this offseason. We'll start with their projected re-signings, and then we'll take a look at some of their potential targets on the open market.
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The Ravens won't be able to re-sign everyone they want to, but these guys should be top priority. Here's a look at the kind of contracts they can expect.
Dannell Ellerbe, UFA (3 Years, $12 Million)
To be honest, Dannell Ellerbe isn't worth any more money than Jameel McClain's three-year, $10.5 million deal from last offseason, but the Ravens desperation could cause them to overspend.
A deal that averages out to $4 million a year would be more than fair for the one-year wonder.
Bryant McKinnie, UFA (2 Years, $8 Million)
Bryant McKinnie's time in Baltimore was bumpy, to say the least, but he ended on a high note with a great playoff run. At his age, McKinnie can't expect a huge contract, but he is worth decent money as an expected started in 2012.
I think McKinnie deserves a contract similar to the two-year, $7.5 million deal he signed in 2011. Failure to re-sign him would put the team in crisis mode to find a left tackle, but this deal would at least lend Baltimore some time to fill the position.
James Ihedigbo, UFA (3 Years, $4 Million)
The Ravens could get excellent value out of re-signing James Ihedigbo, who was excellent on special teams and as a reserve safety.
While Ihedigbo probably lacks long-term starting potential, he is a perfect injury replacement, rotation player and special-teamer. The Ravens love to lock up these kinds of guys, so expect them to sign him to a cheap deal.
Dennis Pitta, RFA (1st-Round Tender, 1 Year, $2.879 Million)
Moving on to the restricted free agents, the No. 1 priority will be Dennis Pitta. The Ravens have locked up their franchise quarterback, and now they must re-sign one of his favorite receivers.
Pitta is the only Raven worthy of a first-round tender. In fact, getting Pitta for another year under $3 million would be an absolute bargain. Hopefully, the Ravens could re-sign him to a long-term deal before training camp, but they'll start with a first-round tender.
Arthur Jones, RFA (2nd-Round Tender, 1 Year, $2.023 Million)
Like Pitta, Arthur Jones is a restricted free agent who is worthy of retention. He was really breaking out as the season wore on, getting all of his sacks in the last third of the season.
The Ravens would be wise to sign Jones to a one-year, prove-it contract to see if that production was legitimate. He could earn a nice long-term deal with another solid season, but let's star with a second-round tender.
Ed Dickson, RFA (Original-Round Tender, 1 Year, $1.323 Million)
Ed Dickson had a down year, and I don't see him becoming the No. 1 tight end again in Baltimore. He's a decent backup, and this one-year tender reflects that.
Ramon Harewood, RFA (Original-Round Tender, 1 Year, $1.323 Million)
Ramon Harewood had ups and downs as a starter at the beginning of the season, with the ups coming in the run game and the downs coming in pass protection. He still has the athletic potential to be a starter, so he's worth retaining.
Dwight Freeney (2 Years, $7 Million)
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Teams are going to be wary of Dwight Freeney, who is 32 years old and coming off of a down year. That could drive his price down into the Ravens' range, who should gladly scoop up the veteran pass-rusher.
If the Ravens are serious about retaining Dannell Ellerbe, as they seem to be, there is no way they'll be able to afford Paul Kruger. That means they'll need a replacement, and Freeney is an ideal target.
With a year's experience in the 3-4 defense, there should be less of a transition period for him. That should help him rebound from a down year, as should his newly healthy ankle.
Freeney can't be counted on as a long-term answer, but he could be a nice addition to a pass rush that needed help even with Kruger.
A fair contract for Freeney would be a two-year deal for around $7 million with a lot of incentives. There is significant reason for concern, but Freeney could be a high-reward player at low risk. He's worth a shot.
Jason Smith (2 Years, $2 Million)
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You may remember Jason Smith as a massive bust with the St. Louis Rams at left tackle. Not many people realize this, but Smith actually had a nice year with the New York Jets last season, and he is well worth a shot as a developmental tackle.
At the very least, Smith would provide excellent depth behind Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher. He wasn't a starter for the Jets last season, but Smith performed very well in spot duty.
He still possesses loads of athletic potential, and a good organization could benefit Smith tremendously. He's worth the risk, as he's one of the few bargain free agents with significant starting potential at left tackle.
Mike Jenkins (1 Year, $1.25 Million)
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While the Ravens are taking on former draft busts, why not give Mike Jenkins a chance at cornerback? The Ravens will be looking for a new starter, and there probably isn't a cheaper potential starter than Jenkins.
Though Jenkins' career with the Dallas Cowboys ended badly, a lot of his struggled were caused by injuries, not lack of talent.
Jenkins had a breakout year in 2009 and seemed poised for stardom, but he has struggled with injuries of late. If healthy, Jenkins would probably be the No. 2 corner for the Ravens behind just Lardarius Webb.
The terms of this deal reflect the fact that Jenkins is a big question mark, but the upside here is huge.
Chris Clemons (3 Years, $5 Million)
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The Ravens will have a very hard time keeping Ed Reed, and they don't like to go into the draft with major needs. That means that the Ravens will want to sign a starting-caliber safety, and Chris Clemons fits that role perfectly.
Clemons played well for the Miami Dolphins this past season, not giving up a touchdown in coverage while racking up two interceptions.
Best of all, Clemons is still young, as he'll turn 28 at the beginning of the season. That means the Ravens could sign him to a multi-year deal and try to develop him further.
While Clemons is a decent player, he could be upgraded in the draft. A proper contract reflects that Clemons would have to compete for the starting job, and my proposed three-year, $5 million deal does just that. It's enough for a decent starter while not being too much for an excellent backup.
Alan Branch (2 Years, $4 Million)
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Alan Branch would be an ideal fit for the Ravens defense, as he could play any of their three defensive line positions. The Ravens desperately need a nose tackle, so Branch could helpfully fill that role in a rotation should the Ravens sign him.
Branch was a big contributor on an elite Seattle Seahawks defense in 2012, and he could play a big role in making the Ravens defense elite again as well.
At the very least, Branch would be an upgrade over Terrence Cody and Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who both struggled badly.
Though he wouldn't be an elite player, Branch would be a nice fit for the Ravens who can be had at a good price.