We’re heading into day three of the start of the NFL free agency period and all is mostly quiet on the home-front. The Baltimore Ravens haven’t made any type of big splash, or even any ripples in this year’s free agency pool as I write this.
There’s good reason for the Ravens’ lack of movement in free agency thus far though, which is: the team doesn’t have many major holes. While other teams snatch up almost anyone and everything they can while pursing the most highly coveted free agents to patch up their positions-of-need, the Ravens, quite honestly, have the luxury of sitting back and watching the Black Friday-esque shopping frenzy unfold.
The NFL, like any thing else, is built around trends and patterns. Recently, the NFL has put an emphasis on rules that protect offenses, hence the ridiculously high-scoring and high-yardage-total games. Recently, quarterbacks have been producing at a higher rate and demanding unprecedented contracts, which in turn has driven up the need for teams to have highly skilled receivers. All of this brings me to my main point. The first couple of days during this year’s free agency period saw a tremendous amount of wide receivers being plucked away and signed to massive contracts which follows the current trend of the offense-comes-first mentality in the NFL of today, but perhaps one of the biggest trends throughout NFL history is that many, if not most of these free agents at every position, not just the receivers, won’t live up to their hype or their new-found contract statuses.
So, while the rest of the league burns through their cash hoping to find that one guy that will somehow magically put their team "over the top" and suddenly place them in line to compete for a Super Bowl, the Ravens can sit back and quietly spend their money wisely. This is how the Ravens operate in free agency. This is how an organization should be run.
(For those of you that may have hoped for more Ravens FA action, follow along after the "Jump" for a list of players linked to the Ravens)
Evan Mathis, Guard: Last week I wrote a little about Mathis and how he could fit into the Ravens’ plans. With the team most likely losing guard Ben Grubbs to free agency, the Ravens will have to do everything in their power to find a capable replacement. Well, now it seems as though Mathis becoming a Raven seems more and more likely. According to multiple reports, Mathis met with the Ravens last night for a free-agency- visit. As a guard on the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line last year, Mathis produced his best results as a pro grading out as one of the top guards in the NFL. At 30 years old with past injury concerns, the Ravens will most likely require Mathis to pass a physical before extending a contract offer. Fortunately for the Ravens, his past injury concerns and age should significantly drop the asking price for his services and should prove to be much, much cheaper than Grubbs. Though Mathis has missed signifigant playing time due to injury in the past while with the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, and Carolina Panthers, Mathis played in 15 out of 16 games last year for the Eagles and had a stellar season.
Eric Winston, Tackle: Somewhat surprisingly, the Ravens have shown interest in the right tackle from the Houston Texans. Winston is highly regarded as one of the best tackles in the NFL and as such is gaining a lot of interest from teams in the market for a top-tier offensive lineman. Seemingly a cap casualty of the Texans, Winston has a road trip planned out over the coming days in which he’ll visit: the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, and Detroit Lions. This might just be a move where the Ravens are doing the due diligence on a top free agent that was somewhat unexpected to hit the open-market. Winston is just 28-years-old and stands at a staggering 6-7 302 lbs. To boot, he’s also extremely durable and has started in every game for the Texans since 2007. Looking at this from an analytical stand-point, Winston has excelled in a zone-blocking scheme which the Ravens adopted from another former Texans star in Vonta Leach last season. For the Ravens, it could be a huge coup to land one of the top offensive line prospects this off-season, and Winston has his sights set on a winning franchise:
"I want to win right now. That's what's important to me. That's the kind of team I'm looking for."
Eddie Royal, WR/KR: Formerly with the Denver Broncos, Royal has seen a fair amount of interest on the open-market which possibly led to a failed deal between him and the Washington Redskins this week. Reportedly, one of the teams interested in the versatile player is the Ravens. It’s very clear that the Ravens need and want to boost their receiving group somewhat, but it’s painfully obvious that the team needs to address their kick returning situation. With David Reed’s status unknown heading into next year after suffering an ACL injury and Lardarius Webb’s emergence as a top-flight cornerback, the Ravens could look to add a big missing piece this off-season by picking up a true return-man like Royal. At 25-years-old, Royal is listed at 5-10 185 lbs. and has averaged 24.1 yards-per-kick return and 11.9 yards-per-punt return with a total of 3 touchdowns through his 4-year career.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR/KR: Like Royal, Ginn is a talented dual-threat player and it’s not a coincidence that the Ravens are showing interest in both of the players. As previously mentioned, the Ravens could very much use a boost in their return game and Ginn fits the bill. Through his 5-year career, Ginn has averaged 23.2 yards-per-kick return adding 3 touchdowns and he has also averaged 11.2 yards-per-punt return with another 3 touchdowns. At 26-years-old and listed at 5-11 180 lbs., Ginn could be a solid addition as a role player and add a big spark and consistency to the Ravens’ return game.
Though the Ravens haven’t been quick to spend their cash, don’t panic. That’s just not how the Ravens operate each off-season. While other teams spend ridiculous amounts of money on over-hyped free agents, the Ravens can sit back and slowly pluck away talent that may have gone overlooked, case in point: Bernard Pollard. If the Ravens’ front office has proved anything over the years, it’s that they know exactly what they’re doing. Be glad that the Ravens don’t throw around their cash like its 1999, ‘cause most of the teams that do won’t be playing meaningful football in January.