The start of NFL free agency doesn’t officially begin until the first minute of the 2019 league calendar, which is tomorrow (Wednesday, March 13) at 4:00 pm. Teams will not officially announce signings for unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) until that time, but several agreements are reportedly in-place with a handful of big names linked to the Baltimore Ravens.
First-year General Manager Eric Decosta, in preparation for this week, made several moves to help free up some salary cap space. Releasing Michael Crabtree and Eric Weddle saved the Ravens $15.2 million against the cap, and $10.5 million more will be opened up once Joe Flacco is officially dealt to the Denver Broncos tomorrow.
Knowing that a handful of players would likely find new homes for 2019 and beyond, DeCosta followed up on his goal of retaining young talent by re-signing Nick Boyle to a team-friendly deal and awarding Tavon Young a contract extension. Based on what’s transpired so far this week, DeCosta had the right idea.
Below is the list of players not returning to the Ravens in 2019, as well as their destinations and contract figures.
- Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley – Expected to sign a five-year, $85 million contract with the New York Jets – $51 million guaranteed, $17 million per year
- Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith – Expected to sign a four-year, $66 million contract with the Green Bay Packers – $34.5 million guaranteed, $16 million per year
- Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs – Expected to sign a one-year, $7 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals
- Wide receiver John Brown – Expected to sign a three-year, $27 million deal with the Buffalo Bills, other details unknown
- Weddle – Signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams. Can make up to $12.5 million with incentives
- Crabtree – Still on the market
- Running back Alex Collins – Still on the market
Of course, Flacco will not be back either. Below are the remaining Ravens unrestricted free agents free to sign with teams beginning at 4:00 pm tomorrow.
- Tight end Maxx Williams
- Defensive end Brent Urban
- Running backs Ty Montgomery & Buck Allen
- Quarterback Robert Griffin III
It goes without saying that the Ravens will look different in 2019, especially on defense. How significant are these losses, and where do the Ravens stand without all of the aforementioned names on the roster? Here are some thoughts:
#1: Like it felt when Ed Reed spent the last year of his career in Houston and New York as a member of both the Houston Texans and Jets, Suggs willingly leaving Baltimore after 16 years to finish his career in Arizona stings. Not to mention that long-time Oriole Adam Jones agreed to terms with the Arizona Diamondbacks less than 24 hours before the Suggs story broke.
Suggs played college football at Arizona State. While playing for the Ravens, Suggs spent his off-seasons residing in his home state. I can sympathize with Suggs (who will be 37 in October) wanting to play in his home state, but this move goes against the 16-year veteran expressing a desire to be “A Raven for life” following the Wild Card loss to the Chargers.
Going off La Canfora’s Tweet, I’m assuming that the Ravens offered Suggs a one-year deal, but I doubt that the dollar figure amounted to $7 million. There’s nothing wrong with Suggs still wanting to play buy not willing to commute across the country for a large portion of the year. He certainly won’t win a ring in Arizona, but he can help lead a young locker room that could have Kyler Murray in it by summertime.
It’s a shame that Suggs won’t play the entirety of his career in a purple jersey, but from an on-field standpoint it’s not a huge loss for Baltimore. The leadership tangibles Suggs brings will be harder to replace, but the Ravens can easily do without a 37-year-old pass rusher who only recorded 1.5 sacks in the final nine games of the 2018 season.
#2: Looking at the guaranteed figures Mosley and Z. Smith received on the open market, it’s a relief that DeCosta elected to take a step back and move on. Sorry, but Mosley is not worth $17 million a year and Smith isn’t the caliber of player worth tossing $16 million a year at. Both are good players, but not great players.
Broken record here, but Mosley does a great job of lining guys up and stuffing the run. But the Jets will find out quickly that he’s not a threat to get to the quarterback and he’s a liability in pass coverage. Smith led the Ravens with 8.5 sacks in 2018, but he recorded just 4.5 sacks over the previous two years combined. Smith came into his own in 2018 but before that he struggled with consistency. It’s not a mistake that he’s started just 16 games in his four-year career.
I’ve said this before, but part of the reason of why the Ravens drafted Kenny Young was because they had a hunch that Mosley would find an offer in free agency that the Ravens couldn’t match. Young and Patrick Onwuasor are both capable of starting, but there’s much more to be concerned about as far as the pass rush goes. Aside from Matt Judon, who do the Ravens have that can consistently rush the passer?
I heard crickets too.
There’s conflicting reports on how much contact the Ravens have had with both running backs, particularly with Bell.
The Ravens definitely need upgrades at offensive skill positions, either through free agency or the draft. If Baltimore ends up with either of these veterans, I would rather have Ingram. I get that Bell is younger, and prior to the 2018 season, regarded as one of the best running backs in the NFL. But there’s some red flags. He hasn’t taken a live hit in over a year, he’s asking for $15 million or more per year, and he has a history of off-field incidents. With that in mind, putting him in a locker room with a second-year quarterback could get ugly.
At 29, Ingram is two years older than Bell, one year shy of the magical age of 30 that all running backs dread. However, he’s the cheaper option and he’s spent the last two seasons in a running back committee in New Orleans with Alvin Kamara. With Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon returning, adding Ingram to the fold would make sense.
#4: For those expressing concern over the Mosley, Suggs, and Weddle departures leaving a leadership void on the Ravens defense, there’s two free agent veterans who can help make up for those losses.
Last week the Kansas City Chiefs released 30-year-old pass rusher Justin Houston. A four-time Pro Bowler, Houston has only played 16 games twice in his eight-year career, but he’s put up at least nine sacks in the previous two seasons.
In February the Broncos cut linebacker Brandon Marshall, who played the last six seasons in Denver. Marshall, 29, has also dealt with injuries in the past. It would be a step down from Mosley, but if the Ravens think that Young isn’t ready to join Onwuasor in the starting defense, signing Marshall as a stop-gap (like the Ravens did with Daryl Smith a few years back) is an option.
Based on how things are right now, I would love to see the Ravens bring in Houston. The pass rush needs a lot of work because Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams can’t get on the field. Young impressed early on last year. Hopefully he can take the next step and the Ravens won’t need to spend extra cash on a free agent middle linebacker.
#5: As seems to be the case every year, it’s important for Ravens fans to relax during the early stages of free agency. The Ravens have been tight up against the cap for years. Now they’re finally freeing up as much space as possible with Lamar Jackson under a rookie contract. The Ravens received a lot of fan backlash for never supplying Flacco with a respectable set of weapons. Hopefully for Jackson, that changes under DeCosta.
Sure, teams like the Jets, Lions, and Raiders might be the winners of free agency so far. Did any of those teams sniff the playoffs last year? The answer is no, and it’s unlikely that they will in 2019. These Ravens losses do hurt right now, but there’s so much time left for the team to improve. It’s fair to be concerned, but keep in mind that teams who win the offseason almost never win the regular season, which is what matters most.
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun