Baltimore Ravens: Fact or Fiction with the Latest News Before Free Agency
They cut a number of players while re-signing others to long-term deals, and they figure to do more of both once free agency opens.
The Ravens have already cut linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach and re-signed linebacker Terrell Suggs and tight end Dennis Pitta to long-term extensions.
Who else on their roster could get a new deal, and who else could get cut?
Here's the latest news and rumors surrounding the Ravens heading into the start of free agency, as well as debunking any rumors that are nothing more than Internet chatter.
Eugene Monroe Is Close to Being Re-Signed
As mentioned in the previous slide, Baltimore has given long-term extensions to two of its best players in Terrell Suggs and Dennis Pitta.
It now need to re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe before he hits free agency. The Ravens continue to make re-signing Monroe a priority, but they likely won't use the franchise tag on him.
Monroe joined the Ravens in October after they traded a fourth-round and fifth-round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire him. He ended up being the best offensive lineman on the team while doing a good job of protecting the blindside for quarterback Joe Flacco.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Monroe's plus-24.0 grade was the highest any Ravens offensive lineman received in 2013. He is extremely valuable to the Ravens, and losing him would be a big setback.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the Ravens were making progress on getting Monroe re-signed, and it appeared a deal could possibly get done before the start of free agency.
But according to Matt Zenitz of the Carol County Times, the two sides are nowhere close to a deal:
Per a source, the Ravens and Eugene Monroe remain "nowhere close" to getting a deal done— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) March 4, 2014
Per the source, it's possible a deal could eventually be worked out, but it's likely that Monroe will at least test the free agent market— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) March 4, 2014
The Ravens desperately want to keep Monroe, but it appears he wants to test the market before ultimately deciding if Baltimore's offer is good enough.
Michael Oher Is Not Close to Being Re-Signed
As good as Monroe was on the offensive line, the same cannot be said for starting right tackle Michael Oher. He didn't have a great year in 2013, and his negative-12.6 grade by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) was one of the worst by a starting tackle.
The Ravens are probably going to look at getting an upgrade at that position, whether it's in free agency or the NFL draft.
Despite Oher's struggles, Bo Smolka of CSN Baltimore reported that the Ravens could re-sign him and move him to left tackle if the team lost Monroe in free agency.
Still, the Ravens are nowhere close to re-signing Oher, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
Wilson reports that the Ravens haven’t even approached Oher about a new contract and aren’t expected to do so leading up to free agency.
For now, it looks as though Oher is not high on the Ravens' list of options at either offensive tackle spot.
Baltimore Could Sign D'Qwell Jackson
The Ravens got great production from inside linebacker Daryl Smith in 2013, but in a 3-4 defense, you need two good inside linebackers.
Jameel McClain was the other starter at ILB, but he was cut earlier this offseason, and Smith is also a free agent.
That means the Ravens are potentially losing both of their starting ILBs from last year, and that's probably why Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk mentioned the Ravens as a team that could try to sign D'Qwell Jackson.
The longtime Cleveland Browns ILB was cut earlier this offseason, and having played his entire career with the Browns in the AFC North, he certainly would be familiar with the Ravens.
He didn't even visit Baltimore, so it appears as though it never had a realistic shot of signing him.
Ray Rice Is Not in Danger of Being Cut
The Ravens failed to make the playoffs in 2013, and running back Ray Rice had his worst year since coming to the NFL. He rushed for just 660 yards with 3.1 yards per carry and scored just four touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Rice was graded as the worst RB in the NFL that got at least 50 percent of the team's RB snaps.
Making matters worse is that Rice could be suspended for at least one game in 2014 after he was arrested this offseason for allegedly hitting his fiancee at a casino, according to Sarah Ellison of BaltimoreRavens.com.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has already stated that Rice's spot on the Ravens roster is not in jeopardy, according to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com. Harbaugh has been with Rice for his entire NFL career, and he knows Rice's true character.
“There are a lot of facts and a process that has to be worked through in anything like this,” Harbaugh said, per Downing. “There are a lot of question marks. But Ray’s character, you guys know his character, so you start with that.”
It's also worth noting that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he feels good about Rice's side of the story regarding the alleged assault, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
With the team showing so much public support for Rice, that increases the chances that he's on the Ravens roster when the 2014 season begins.
It also wouldn't make sense from a financial standpoint to cut Rice. According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, cutting Rice now would result in a $5.5 million salary-cap hit in 2014.
The Ravens aren't going to cut Rice. They appear to believe he has something left to offer this team, and they can't gain much financially from cutting him this year.