OWINGS MILLS, MD — A day before NFL Free Agency officially opens up, the Baltimore Ravens made a number of roster moves all involving veterans with at least eight years of experience in the NFL.
Before noon on Tuesday, the Ravens lost two players on offense; running back Danny Woodhead was released from his three-year, $8.8 million contract, signed last offseason, and tackle Austin Howard‘s 2018 option was declined. However, the Ravens picked up cornerback Brandon Carr‘s option, keeping him in Baltimore. Below is a breakdown of each move along with Jake’s hot take.
1. Danny Woodhead released
Woodhead’s release from his three-year contract saves the Ravens $2.55 million in cap space. Woodhead finished 2017 with 14 rush attempts, a career-low. He totaled just 56 yards on the ground, and caught 33 passes for 200 yards. Woodhead failed to score a touchdown for the third time in his career, and played in just eight games because of a lingering hamstring injury. Woodhead has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons.
Jake’s Hot Take: Not a shocking move at all. I was very skeptical of the Ravens giving a three-year deal to a 32-year-old oft-injured running back (now 33), and I was right. I understand that the Ravens could not have predicted the emergence of Alex Collins, but Woodhead’s role only diminished when Buck Allen became a threat in both the passing attack and the running game. Both Collins and Allen will return next season, along with Kenneth Dixon. John Harbaugh was non-committal about any of these running backs starting next season, so with potentially another young running back coming into the fold, keeping Woodhead around at his cap number did not make sense.
2. Austin Howard’s 2018 option declined
Last offseason the Ravens inked Howard, 30, to a three-year, $16 million contract with team options for each year. Howard started all 16 games for the Ravens last season and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th-best right tackle in the NFL. By not picking up the option, the Ravens saved $3 million in cap space. The move comes a day after the Ravens signed James Hurst to a four-year contract.
Jake’s Take: Howard was rumored to be a cap casualty this offseason, but I’m surprised that the Ravens are letting him walk. Sure, both Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda will return from injury next season, but both of them missed time with injuries in 2016, too. Howard had a shoulder ailment at the beginning of last season, but he battled through it and did a respectable job at right tackle.
Perhaps this means that the Ravens plan on having either Lewis or Hurst shift to right tackle. Maybe it means that the Ravens plan to make a run at Ryan Jensen, set to hit free agency on Wednesday. Even so, Hurst has struggled while playing either tackle position in the past. Lewis, like mentioned, has yet to start more than 10 games in a season because of injuries. The Ravens can address the right tackle position in the draft, but that would take away from several pressing needs on offense.
Last year, the Ravens waited until training camp to fill their right tackle slot, and I could see a similar scenario this summer.
3. Ravens pick up Brandon Carr’s 2018 option
Last year, the Ravens brought in Brandon Carr on a one-year contract with a series of options over four seasons. The Ravens could have saved $4 million by cutting Carr. Now, the 31-year-old cornerback will make $4.5 million in 2018 with a $1.5 million roster bonus. Carr finished the 2017 season with 50 tackles, four interceptions, and 12 passes defensed. He started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2017, and has not missed a start in his 10-year career. Yesterday, the Ravens parted ways with long-time defensive back Lardarius Webb. A day later, they retain a starter who could still have a heavy presence in the Ravens’ 2018 secondary.
Jake’s Hot Take: At those numbers, I think the Ravens are paying Carr too much money, but I understand why they elected to keep him. Jimmy Smith cannot stay on the field, and with Smith coming off a torn Achilles suffered in December, he may not be ready for the start of the season. Not to mention that Tavon Young is coming off a torn ACL, and Maurice Canady has been plagued by knee problems in his first two NFL seasons.
Thin secondaries have costed the Ravens playoff games and trips to the playoffs in recent seasons, and this move shows that the Ravens don’t want to see that happen again.
What to expect next? It will be very interesting to see what happens with Jeremy Maclin. Maclin finished 2017 with career-lows in catches (40), reception yards (440), and yards-per-reception (11). The Ravens can save $5 million by cutting Maclin before the June 1 deadline, but Baltimore is very thin at receiver. Mike Wallace will test free agency, and made it clear that he wants to sign with a contender.
This morning, Allen Robinson agreed to a deal with the Bears, and Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs. The Ravens have been linked to names like Donte Moncrief and Tavon Austin, but both receivers finished 2017 with totals lower than Maclin’s. The Ravens are backed into a corner at receiver. Maclin’s year in Baltimore was a dud, but the Ravens may be feeling the pressure to hold onto him.