Baltimore Ravens Free Agency: Keep, Walk or Tag Options for Every Free Agent

Matthew StensrudContributor IIIJanuary 14, 2014

Baltimore Ravens Free Agency: Keep, Walk or Tag Options for Every Free Agent

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    Jacoby Jones is one of 21 players set to become a free agent in 2014 for the Baltimore Ravens.
    Jacoby Jones is one of 21 players set to become a free agent in 2014 for the Baltimore Ravens.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    With the playoffs in full swing, the Baltimore Ravens are forced to watch the action from home in a disappointing season that saw the reigning Super Bowl champions miss the postseason for the first time since 2007.

    General manager Ozzie Newsome must review the roster and determine how to best reshuffle the deck for an improved run in 2014. One of the major tasks will be to review the hefty group of free agents.

    According to BaltimoreRavens.com, the team has a total of 21 free agents heading into the offseason, excluding wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who plans to retire.

    The projected salary cap for next season is $126.3 million, leaving Baltimore with $13.636 million in cap space, via Spotrac.com. This figure becomes significantly important when determining which players to keep or let walk.

    Among the free agents, there are three categories: exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA), restricted free agent (RFA) and unrestricted free agent (UFA).

    Exclusive-rights free agents have no more than two years of accrued NFL experience. If the Ravens offer the minimum qualifying offer—$495,000 for one year and $570,000 for two years—the player must accept the offer with no option to negotiate. 

    Restricted free agents have three years of accrued NFL experience. If Baltimore submits a qualifying offer to these players, the Ravens maintain the "right of first refusal."

    This means that if another team makes an offer, the Ravens can match it, and the player stays with the club. If they allow the player to walk, they receive a compensatory draft pick from the new team, typically for the original draft round of the player.

    Unrestricted free agents have four or more years of accrued NFL experience. These players can sign with any team, and Baltimore receives no compensation if a player walks. Of the 21 free agents for the Ravens, 13 are unrestricted.

    Let's take a look at each player and make a determination whether they should be wearing purple and black in 2014.

     

    Statistics courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted. Player rankings and advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    All contract details courtesy of Spotrac.com. 

S Omar Brown, ERFA

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $480,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $254,117

    Omar Brown has primarily been a practice-squad member for the Ravens, originally signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

    In his first season, he saw 39 snaps and recorded two tackles and a sack.

    Brown was called up from the practice squad this season after the Ravens cut safety Michael Huff. However, he only played two snaps all season—against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9—tallying no other recordable statistic.

    The Ravens could go either way with Brown, but he's a relatively cheap option for depth and special teams play. 

    Decision: Keep

S Jeromy Miles, UFA

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Prior Contract: $1.323 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $1.09 million

    Jeromy Miles came over from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 after four years with the club. He was originally an undrafted free agent in 2010.

    The Ravens claimed the safety off waivers after the Bengals waived him for a second time in September. The move added depth at the position while stealing a player away from their division rival.

    Unfortunately for Baltimore, Miles has been anything but productive on the year. He only saw 10 snaps on defense and recorded a missed tackle. While on special teams, he tallied nine tackles.

    Given Miles' cap hit and poor productivity, there's no reason to bring him back to the team. The waiver claim appears rather questionable in hindsight.

    Decision: Walk

ILB Josh Bynes, ERFA

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Two years, $1.02 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $480,000

    Josh Bynes was an undrafted free agent from 2011 whom the Ravens signed to their practice squad. However, he did not qualify for an accrued season that year.

    Bynes put up solid numbers in 2012 in limited snaps, recording 34 tackles and one pass defended. He also made the final play in Super Bowl XLVII to tackle Ted Ginn Jr.

    The former Auburn Tiger further improved in 2013, playing in 15 games and starting six. He finished the season with 45 tackles and three passes defended.

    According to PFF, Bynes ranked 14th among all inside linebackers with at least 25 percent of the team's snaps. With a minimum offer of $570,000 for an ERFA, this is an easy decision.

    Decision: Keep

OLB D.J. Bryant, ERFA

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $405,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $288,000

    In many ways, you want to pull for a guy like outside linebacker D.J. Bryant.

    After signing with the Houston Texans in 2012 as an undrafted free agent, he has bounced around the practice squad of three other teams before landing in Baltimore.

    Intent on trying to make more of an impact this season, Bryant unfortunately suffered a season-ending knee injury that landed him on injured reserve.

    While fans may be rooting for the Maryland native, he's likely on the fringe of receiving a contract. The Ravens can sign another undrafted free agent with no injury concerns and greater upside.

    Decision: Walk

ILB Adrian Hamilton, ERFA

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $480,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $303,000

    Similar to Bryant, Adrian Hamilton suffered a season-ending injury prior to the 2013 season and was placed on injured reserve.

    Rather than his knee, Hamilton hurt his wrist to close out his season.

    According to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, the Ravens have plans for Hamilton in the future. He led the nation in sacks in 2011 with 22 at Prairie View A&M.

    Based on Hamilton's potential, Baltimore should sign the upcoming third-year player to a minimum contract.

    Decision: Keep

TE Dallas Clark, UFA

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    Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $1.005 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $620,000 

    Dallas Clark was relatively productive in the absence of Dennis Pitta, recording 31 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns. However, his run blocking still has a lot to be desired, a key responsibility for his position.

    PFF ranked Clark as the 45th-best tight end who saw at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. Among his 31 catches, he dropped four.

    If it wasn't for Clark's age and contract requirements, he would be worth a backup spot in Baltimore. Unfortunately, the team is better served looking for options at tight end in the upcoming draft. 

    Decision: Walk

S Anthony Levine, ERFA

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $480,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $480,000

    Anthony Levine has been around longer than his two years of NFL experience would indicate. The former Tennessee State Tiger went undrafted in 2010 before signing with the Green Bay Packers.

    He's been with the Ravens since 2012, spending time on the practice squad and special teams. In 2012, Levine saw action in two games before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

    The 2013 season was a healthy campaign for Levine, as he played in all 16 games on special teams. He recorded 11 tackles for the Ravens.

    Levine has yet to break out in any meaningful way to get some snaps on defense, but he's a good role player with special teams contributions. He deserves another year in Baltimore.

    Decision: Keep

NT Terrence Cody, UFA

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Four years, $3.06 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $910,000 

    Since signing with the Ravens in 2010, Terrence Cody has been a disappointment. The second-round (57th overall) pick has not lived up to his contract and should be preparing to find another team in 2014.

    Although he started all 16 games in 2011, Cody has quickly slid down the depth chart. He recorded a mere 15 tackles in 12 games this season.

    Cody has never scored a positive rating from PFF during his four years in the league, tallying a minus-5.0 and minus-4.8 the last two seasons, respectively.

    Decision: Walk

S Brynden Trawick, ERFA

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $405,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $214,411

    Undrafted free agent Brynden Trawick is known to most Ravens fans for the wrong reason.

    He collided with Jacoby Jones on a punt during the season opener against the Denver Broncos, sidelining Jones for four weeks before returning in Week 6.

    Trawick was subsequently released on September 23, before being re-signed to the practice squad by Baltimore. He was activated, back to the Ravens roster, in Week 9 and contributed eight tackles on special teams over the course of the season.

    Baltimore could either offer Trawick the minimum salary of $495,000 or let him walk and search for an undrafted free agent in 2014 for $420,000. Given the marginal difference in price and experience with the team, he's worth another shot.

    Decision: Keep

TE Ed Dickson, UFA

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Prior Contract: One year, $1.323 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $1.323 million

    Ed Dickson secured a pretty lucrative one-year deal from the Ravens last year, due in part for his impressive 2011 campaign where the tight end hauled in 54 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns.

    He saw his playing time diminish in favor of Pitta, but the Ravens still maintained their third-round investment from the NFL draft.

    Unfortunately, this year has been a disaster for Dickson. According to PFF, the fourth-year player ranked 63rd out of 64 tight ends who saw at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. He was dead last in run blocking.

    Dickson is likely tired of being in the shadows of Pitta, and the Ravens should simply move on from the regressing tight end.

    Decision: Walk

WR Tandon Doss, RFA

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $555,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $522,353

    Tandon Doss has been steadily improving at wide receiver since being drafted in the fourth round (123rd overall) in 2011.

    He recorded 19 receptions for 305 yards this season. Doss' best game came against the Packers in Week 6, where he grabbed four passes for 99 yards, including a long of 63.

    Given the Ravens' woes at wide receiver, Doss should continue to develop in a larger role in 2014. Even though he has the option to negotiate with other teams, Baltimore should try to lock down the former Indiana Hoosier.

    Decision: Keep

DE Arthur Jones, UFA

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $2.023 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $2.023 million

    Arthur Jones played exceptionally well for the Ravens in 2013, and that could be a problem regarding affordability for the team.

    Based on a handful of other needs for Baltimore, Jones may be unable to receive the type of contract from the Ravens that he deserves in the open market.

    Rankings from PFF place the defensive end 12th this season in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded 100 tackles and eight sacks. 

    While Baltimore would love to have Jones suit up in purple and black again in 2014, financial restrictions will become a problem in this case.

    Decision: Walk

LB Albert McClellan, RFA

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Prior Contract: One year, $555,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $555,000

    After starting 11 games for the Ravens in 2012, Albert McClellan only saw five snaps on defense this season. However, he was a major contributor on special teams.

    According to PFF, McClellan ranked 49th among all special teams players in the NFL, which was tied for best on the Ravens with Vonta Leach. He recorded 12 tackles over the course of the season, especially excelling in punt coverage.

    If the price is right, McClellan is a player Baltimore would love to have return. And as an undrafted free agent, the team would not receive any compensation allowing him to walk over to a competing team after a minimum qualifying offer.

    Decision: Keep

RB Bernard Scott, UFA

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    David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $715,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $97,491

    Following the Ravens bye in Week 8, the team signed former Bengals running back Bernard Scott as an insurance policy for running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.

    Scott only played in two games, recording four rushing attempts for 14 yards, as well as two receptions for 10 yards.

    Although a cheap option, the Ravens can go in a number of different directions at running back, none of which should include Scott. 

    Decision: Walk

CB Corey Graham, UFA

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Two years, $3.95 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $2.65 million

    Although Corey Graham has not been a consistent starter over his career at cornerback, he has been a valuable asset on defense.

    Graham spent five years with the Chicago Bears before being signed over to Baltimore in 2012. In two years with the club, he has 134 tackles, 20 passes defended, six interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack.

    Primarily used in nickel packages, John Harbaugh believes the team will do everything it can to keep Graham, via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.

    The price tag for Graham will be the only barrier for the seven-year player remaining a Raven, but he should be a priority for Newsome.

    Decision: Keep

WR Jacoby Jones, UFA

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Two years, $6.5 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $4.9 million

    Probably one of the most difficult decisions for Newsome this offseason, the decision to retain Jacoby Jones becomes complicated given the cap space for the Ravens.

    Jones has demonstrated the ability to be a proficient No. 2 wide receiver and explosive return man on special teams.

    He hauled in 37 catches for 455 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver, while ranking in the top 10 for average yards in both kick and punt returns (minimum 10 returns). 

    Given Jones' likely expectations based on his previous contract, it's hard to see him returning to Baltimore in 2014. The team will need to look in a few different cost-effective areas to fill the hole.

    Decision: Walk

S James Ihedigbo, UFA

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: One year, $780,000

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $620,000

    James Ihedigbo had a breakout year in 2013, recording 101 tackles and three interceptions. He had never come close to those numbers in previous years, primarily contributing on special teams.

    Formerly a New York Jet and New England Patriot, it appears the AFC North has been a good landing spot for Ihedigbo. Although his contract demands will certainly go up, the Ravens should still pursue the seventh-year player.

    According to PFF, Ihedigbo ranked 16th among safeties with 25 percent of team snaps. Although he still needs to improve in pass coverage, Ihedigbo's run defense ranked second overall among safeties.

    Decision: Keep

LT Eugene Monroe, UFA

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    Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Five years, $26.25 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $546,765 ($5.058 million in 2012)

    After spending five years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens traded a fourth- and fifth-round draft pick for 2014 to acquire Eugene Monroe. The Jaguars picked up the majority of the left-tackle's base salary, leaving Baltimore with a minor cap hit.

    Although Monroe will be up for another competitive contract, the Ravens need to be at the front of the offering table. There are few other viable options available for the Ravens, and with a well-structured contract, the cap hit for 2014 should be reasonable.

    Monroe's name has been included in discussions about a potential franchise tag, per a report by Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, although that option would be expensive for Baltimore. Given current projections, tagging him would run $11.2 million for an offensive lineman, per a report by Albert Breer of NFL.com.

    According to PFF, Monroe was the 12th-best tackle in the NFL this season. Given the need for a well-protected pocket for quarterback Joe Flacco and rushing lanes for the Ravens backfield, Monroe is the reliable force you want on the offensive line.

    But the price still has to be right.

    Decision: Keep

RT Michael Oher, UFA

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior Contract: Five years, $13.495 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $4.955 million

    With the Ravens pursuing Monroe aggressively, that leaves no space for fifth-year tackle Michael Oher. 

    Originally known for protecting the blind side, Oher has since transitioned to right tackle with no improvement in productivity. He ranked 68th out of 76 tackles overall in 2013 and was dead last in run blocking, via PFF.

    Oher will get another chance elsewhere to resurrect his career, which is the best option for both parties. The position becomes a serious need in free agency and the draft. 

    Decision: Walk

TE Dennis Pitta, UFA

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Prior Contract: One year, $2.023 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $2.023 million

    Among all of Flacco's targets in 2013, there was a serious void when Pitta was lost for most of the season due to a hip injury.

    In 2012, the former Brigham Young standout recorded 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. That productivity was lost until Pitta rejoined the team in Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings.

    Pitta is another player included in the franchise-tag discussion. However, as Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun points out, Pitta could successfully argue that he should receive the tag as a wide receiver, given the number of plays out of the slot.

    If the Ravens tag him and he wins the argument, it would cost the team $11.539 million for a franchise-wide receiver, opposed to $6.709 million for a tight end.

    Baltimore should include Pitta among its top priorities to keep, but a standard contract is the best route.

    Decision: Keep

ILB Daryl Smith, UFA

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Prior Contract: One year, $1.125 million

    2013 Salary Cap Hit: $1.125 million

    Daryl Smith stepped up immensely for the Ravens in 2013, filling the void left by inside linebacker Ray Lewis.

    The former Jacksonville Jaguar started all 16 games, recording 123 tackles, 19 passes defended, five sacks and three interceptions. He also returned one of those interceptions for a 39-yard touchdown.

    According to PFF, Smith ranked 16th among inside linebackers with at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. His snap total was seventh in the league with 1,097.

    Despite the amount of turnover following the Ravens Super Bowl win, Smith was a major reason the defense was still a strength for Baltimore this season. 

    Decision: Keep

     

    Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+