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Bye Week Blues: Ravens Offseason Primer

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Following a Week 9 loss to the Titans, the Baltimore Ravens have a 4-5 record headed into their bye week. Their chances to make the playoffs have dwindled to 33-percent. Team owner Steve Bisciotti’s comments after the 2016 season should give fans hope that he will hold the Ravens leaders accountable if the franchise’s postseason drought extends into 2018.

It would be premature to write the 2017 Ravens obituary with seven regular season games remaining. Anything can happen in the unpredictable NFL. Baltimore is certainly capable of catching fire down the stretch, especially considering their relatively easy schedule.

Nevertheless, the bye week offers an opportunity to look ahead to the future of the Ravens. A way-too-early 2018 offseason primer:

2018 NFL Draft

Baltimore is currently in line to draft in the twelfth position of each round. Over the Cap predicts the Ravens will receive compensatory draft picks in the third and seventh rounds.

Their natural seventh round pick may be shipped to the Cardinals depending on the conditions of the Tony Bergstrom trade. The trade for Luke Bowanko could also impact the Ravens draft capital because it included a likely conditional undisclosed draft pick.

Impending Free Agents

Six at least part time Ravens starters are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason. The group is headlined by Ryan Jensen, Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson. The next tier includes Brent Urban, Terrance West and James Hurst. Notable unrestricted role players include Michael Campanaro and Crockett Gillmore, among others.

Breakout tailback Alex Collins and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor will be exclusive rights free agents. Vince Mayle will also be an exclusive rights free agent, while Chris Matthews is the team’s only impending restricted free agent.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley could be offered an early contract extension next offseason. He is scheduled to earn $8.7 million in 2018 because the team picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract. However, his inconsistent play this season may cause the Ravens to wait on a lucrative long term deal.

Potential Cap Casualties

Over the Cap projects the Ravens to have $9.8 million in disposable salary cap space next offseason, with 49 players under contract. This figure is calculated from a base salary cap of $178 million, which represents an increase of $11 million from the 2017 cap. $9.8 million would give the Ravens front office the fifth least cap space to work with in the NFL.

The most likely cap casualties at this juncture appear to be Sam Koch, Danny Woodhead, Breshad Perriman, Lardarius Webb and Albert McClellan. Each would save the Ravens between $1.3 and $2 million against the 2018 cap if released.

Other possible departures, either by release or retirement, include Eric Weddle ($4.8 million in potential cap savings), Terrell Suggs ($4 million) and Austin Howard ($3 million). The Ravens already have $2.2 million in dead money on their 2018 payroll due to Dennis Pitta’s retirement.

Notable Outside Free Agents

Most teams have elected to lock up their top players before they become eligible for free agency, resulting in a relatively thin 2018 free agent crop. Wide receiver is the exception, in large part due to the outstanding 2014 draft class.

While Alshon Jeffery and Jarvis Landry are likely to garner contract offers the Ravens cannot afford, several intriguing options remain. Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson and Davante Adams could be targets for Baltimore. The next tier also boasts some playmakers, namely John Brown, Donte Moncrief, Terrelle Pryor, Marquise Lee, Paul Richardson and Jordan Matthews.

Other potential positional fits for the Ravens are inside linebackers Wesley Woodyard, Zach Brown, and Christian Jones, running backs LeGarrette Blount and Carlos Hyde, and tight end Jimmy Graham.