2011 NFL Free Agency: 10 Names That Should Be on the Ravens' Radar
Now that the lockout is over, the free agency storm is about to hit. Players are eligible to negotiate with new teams at 12:00 PM EST Tuesday, and are eligible to sign deals starting at 6:00 PM EST Friday night. The flurry of movement will surely be unprecedented.
One team that spent little time making waves is the Baltimore Ravens. Long-time Ravens Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg and Derrick Mason, as well as running back Willis McGahee, were informed of their release Tuesday afternoon.
The release of McGahee comes as no surprise, as the former Miami standout was due $6 million this season and was not interested in taking a pay cut.
Releasing Heap, Gregg and Mason came as a bit of a surprise. It leaves the Ravens with plenty to do in filling holes at the wide receiver position, something they've struggled to do for years.
Let's take a look at 10 free agents who Baltimore should be talking to come Tuesday afternoon.
Wide Receiver Steve Smith
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
While Steve Smith isn't a free agent, it appears he is available.
Multiple reports from Panthers sources said Smith asked Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for a trade near the end of the 2010 season. In the same report, Smith reportedly said he would like to be traded to the Ravens or San Diego Chargers.
Smith may be a fit in Baltimore, but it would likely have to come at a discounted price. Smith has proved a headache for the Panthers in recent memory, and has been inconsistent as of late. If he can return to the All-Pro level he once achieved, however, he and Anquan Boldin could make quite the dangerous receiving duo.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
There's a growing list of teams that are already unofficially in the Nnamdi Asomugha Sweepstakes—Houston, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and even the New York Jets have been mentioned—but the rumors of Baltimore's interest will only be fueled by the mass exodus of veterans, and cap room, from Tuesday afternoon.
It isn't without good reason. Asomugha is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and the Ravens have had plenty of trouble on the corner over the past few years. Further, three of the cornerbacks on Baltimore's roster are free agents: Chris Carr, Fabian Washington and Josh Wilson.
Washington should be replaced it, whether it be Asomugha, rookie Jimmy Smith or another free agent.
With limited cap space, it appears the Ravens are long shots to sign the former Raider. But it doesn't mean they shouldn't throw their hat in the proverbial ring.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers
Larry French/Getty Images
If the Ravens add to the secondary via free agency, it is more likely to be a player such as Carlos Rogers will head to Baltimore.
Nnamdi Asomugha would be the ideal choice, but Rogers is a solid cornerback who played well for the Redskins. He would certainly be an upgrade over guys like Fabian Washington and Josh Wilson, and could immediately step into the starting line-up while rookie Jimmy Smith becomes acclimated to the NFL.
Regardless of who it is, the Ravens would be well served to upgrade the cornerback position. Ed Reed can only do so much, and a guy like Carlos Rogers would be a strong addition to one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Running Back Michael Bush
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
Baltimore's backfield is set to become awfully thin this week, with the release of Willis McGahee and the impending departure of fullback Le'Ron McClain.
Ray Rice surely can't handle the rushing load by himself, and a big, bruising running back like the 245-pound Michael Bush.
Bush isn't built to carry the load of a No. 1 running back. Baltimore would be a great fit for the Louisville product, who could step in as the backup to Ray Rice and give the Ravens another running back to make opponents worry on the goal line.
Fullback Vonta Leach
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Baltimore's running game has been a strength over the course of the franchise's existence, but it will take a little work to keep the Ravens' rushing attack strong for 2011.
Fullback Le'Ron McClain is reportedly seeking a more featured role as a ball carrier, and that type of opportunity may not exist in Baltimore.
Leach is a mauler, the type of fullback built to play in the nasty battles between the Ravens and arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The addition of Leach would give the Ravens' running game a new dimension, and may turn Ray Rice loose on the league in a way nobody has yet seen.
Wide Receiver Randy Moss
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Baltimore's receiving corps is thin, and has needed a true deep threat for years. Moss has become somewhat of an afterthought after playing for three different teams in 2010.
Moss' agent has said Moss is in the best shape of his life, and is as motivated as he has ever been to show the league he is anything but washed up.
The cost of making Moss a Raven likely won't be high, as most teams won't even bother making an offer to Moss. There are already a few teams—the Raiders, Vikings and Titans—that won't even think of bringing Moss to their city.
The worst that happens is Moss doesn't produce and becomes a decoy. Ray Lewis won't let Moss' attitude get out of hand, so the locker room disruption Moss brought to Minnesota, Oakland and New England shouldn't be an issue.
At best? Moss gives Joe Flacco a deep threat, and the Ravens offense reaches new heights.
Defensive End/Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka
A neck injury has turned Mathias Kiwanuka into a question mark heading into 2011.
Kiwanuka may have been one of this summer's biggest free agents had he not suffered a herniated disk last year. Like Moss, teams interested in Kiwanuka may only be offering a one-year deal to see how he returns from the injury.
The Ravens haven't had much of a pass rush outside of Terrell Suggs, and Kiwanuka could be that man. Sergio Kindle was supposed to be that player, but he may not even survive training camp this year. Kiwanuka could be a high-reward acquisition that may provide the Ravens a deadly duo of pass rushers on the outside.
Linebacker Barrett Ruud
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The middle linebacker position in Baltimore has always started with Ray Lewis. It just doesn't end there.
The Ravens have always had a solid complement to Lewis in the 3-4, but the second middle linebacker position has been a bit of a revolving door of late. Jameel McClain has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has yet to put it together into a solid, consistent season.
Barrett Ruud hasn't set the world on fire in Tampa, but he has been consistently strong throughout his career. He could provide stability next to Lewis, and with Haloti Ngata causing havoc in the middle, Ruud wouldn't have to worry about being swallowed up by opposing guards.
Tackle Tyson Clabo
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
If Jared Gaither doesn't come back to Baltimore, there will be a massive hole to fill on the right side of the offensive line.
Tyson Clabo will be tough to pry from the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, but there's nothing guaranteeing Clabo will re-sign in Atlanta. Clabo would likely be a bit of an upgrade over Gaither, should Gaither leave, and would allow the Ravens a little more flexibility in finding a starter at right guard.
Clabo, like Asomugha, is a long-shot, but it's certainly an option for the Ravens to take a look at this week.
Guard Robert Gallery
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Right guard is one of Baltimore's biggest offensive question marks heading into free agency. A former Big 10 mauler, and former No. 2 overall pick, could be set to switch coasts.
Robert Gallery quietly became a strong, consistent guard over the past couple years in Oakland. Now a free agent, Gallery could get looks from a team looking for interior line help.
Baltimore may lose former starter Chris Chester, but they could do a lot worse than signing Gallery to replace Chester. Gallery is a huge guy who knows all about nasty battles in the trenches from his time at Iowa. It would be a natural transition to the heated rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers.