The Baltimore Ravens have a dozen impending unrestricted free agents. Below is every player who is set to hit free agency and what Baltimore should do with them, in terms of their future:
G/C Ryan Jensen
Jensen should be the Ravens number one priority to re-sign. Hopefully, they will reach a deal before he is allowed to test his market value (which could be pretty high). I don’t see the franchise tag as an option, as it will be quite pricey for offensive linemen, so they will have to lock him up long term.
Jensen provided stability to the center of the line, which was a position of major concern entering the season. Overall, he had a very solid year, and grew to become a fan favorite for his nasty attitude and willingness to protect his quarterback after a vicious hit by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. It may cost the Ravens a decent penny, but Jensen is worth dishing out the cash for. It’s hard to find a truly good center, and there’s no reason he couldn’t become one of the best in the league. After all, this was only his first year starting at the position, and I would say he did quite well. Status: sign to a long term deal.
WR Mike Wallace
The Ravens are in desperate need of playmakers at wide receiver, and Mike Wallace was their biggest one by far in 2017. So, what’s the holdup? Shouldn’t they just re-sign him and be done with it? It’s never that simple, unfortunately. Luckily for the Ravens, Wallace expressed his desire to return to the team in 2018, and added that it’s not about the money for him anymore, but instead winning a Super Bowl. Re-signing Wallace to a cheaper contract would be ideal for both parties. The Ravens keep their most productive receiver of the last two years, and Wallace finishes his career in Baltimore, where he said his love for the game of football was renewed.
Wallace and Flacco have the best chemistry out of any of his targets on offense. He is the Ravens best deep threat. He also adds an element of fiery emotion to the offensive side of the ball. He could continue to mentor Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore as well, who are similar style, speedy receivers. The biggest problem is his age. Wallace will turn 32 before the season starts, which is a problem for any wide receiver, especially one who relies so much on his speed. He hasn’t showed signs of slowing down much though, so I think he could be a valuable player for Baltimore still. Status: sign to a relatively cheap contract for one or two years.
RB Terrance West
West started the season as the featured running back for the Ravens, but after suffering an injury early on and the emergence of Alex Collins, he soon found himself warming the bench for the remainder of the year. This is a sad situation, as West is a local kid, but the fact is that the backfield is too crowded. Collins is clearly the teams number one running back going forward, and Javorius Allen (Buck) is a nice backup, as well as a contributor on special teams, which West is not. Not to mention Kenneth Dixon, who showed promise his rookie season, will be returning from a season-ending knee injury.
Collins, Allen, and Dixon could be the three headed monster that Baltimore wants. Also, Danny Woodhead is still around for now, and what he brings to passing game outweighs what West brings as a runner. West can contribute as a backup or even starter for another team, just not Baltimore. I wish him success, but it’s just simply time to move on from this chapter. Status: let him walk.
TE Benjamin Watson
This is a tough one for me. While Watson was indisputably the best tight end on the roster this season, leading the team in receptions (61), second in receiving yards (522), and tied for most touchdowns (4), he is also 37 years old, and will turn 38 during the 2018 season. The fact that he put up the numbers he did last year at 37, returning from an Achilles tear, is nothing short of remarkable. How long can he keep it up though?
Benjamin Watson is not only a valuable player, but possibly one of the best men in the entire NFL. His character shows, and he is respected well within the Baltimore community and across many more. Men like Watson are great for organizations, but in the end, it is still a business. A cut throat one at that. He may decide it’s finally time to hang up the cleats after such a long and successful career, but if he doesn’t, then the Ravens have a decision to make. Given the lack of reliable tight end depth on the roster, I think he would be worth bringing back on a very cheap one year deal. I fully expect the tight end position to be addressed in the draft, but Watson would give the Ravens someone that Joe Flacco trusts and has built rapport with. His leadership is valuable to such a young position group as well. Status: sign to a cheap one year deal if he doesn’t retire.
OL James Hurst
When most Ravens fans hear the name James Hurst, they cringe at the thought of him rolling into Joe Flacco’s knee in 2015, causing him to tear his ACL and MCL. Hurst has not been a fan favorite over the years, but what he provided with his switch to left guard this season was instrumental in the offensive lines success, despite losing so many starters early on. Sadly, with this solid performance, Hurst may have played his way out of Baltimore’s price range. I expect another team to pay him handsomely come free agency.
If not for Ryan Jensen, I believe the Ravens would have made it a priority to sign Hurst to a long term deal. With the limited amount of cap space they will have though, you can only realistically keep one of the two players, in which center is far more important than left guard. Alex Lewis will return to presumably man the left guard spot next season anyway, with Marshal Yanda returning to right guard. This leaves guard Matt Skura as a backup to fill the vacancy of Hurst. Skura had an underrated season, and I believe he will be a key backup going forward, much like Hurst has been for the past few years. The Ravens will miss his pulling ability however, as well as his ability to play pretty much any position on the line. This versatility will go a long way in earning him a nice paycheck. Status: let him walk, sign Jensen instead.
WR Michael Campanaro
Michael Campanaro has been such a frustrating player in his time with Baltimore. At times, he has flashed great potential as a slot wide receiver and kick returner, but overall he cannot stay healthy for very long. The Ravens have been patient with Campanaro, keeping him around for much longer than fans expected. I believe his time in Baltimore may be coming to an end though.
For the most part, Campanaro was healthy this season, which was a first. He was decent as a receiver, but only really started to come on in the last few games before injuring himself on a return towards the end of the final game. I believe Chris Moore can up his level of production as the teams number three or four wide receiver, as well as the kick returner. Plus, wide receiver is the position Ozzie Newsome should be addressing the most in free agency and the draft, so that would leave little room for Camp on the roster. The only way I envision him returning to the team is for a very cheap, one year prove it, type of deal. Status: let him walk.
QB Ryan Mallett
Since signing with the Ravens in 2015, after Joe Flacco was injured for the season, Ryan Mallett has been a serviceable backup. Thankfully, he hasn’t had to play very much at all. Fans will always be grateful for how Mallett helped Baltimore to defeat the rival Steelers to complete their season sweep of them in 2015, but you would hard pressed to find anybody who would be sad if he wasn’t re-signed.
It should be time for Baltimore to draft Joe Flacco’s eventual replacement, and move on from Ryan Mallett. Even Josh Woodrum should be in line for the backup role before forking out the cash on Mallett. There’s little doubt in my mind that Ryan will be holding the clipboard on a teams sideline next season, it just won’t be for the Ravens. Status: Thanks for beating the Steelers that one time, but see ya. Let him walk.
TE Crockett Gillmore
Gillmore is another promising player who has been decimated by injuries. It’s hard to say whether the Ravens want to take another chance on him, when they could just look to free agency or the draft to find another tight end. I think he is worth giving one more shot though. A cheap one year deal, with the option to pick up another year would be something I could see happening. Gillmore has shown his abilities when healthy, and the Ravens are lacking receiving threats at the tight end position. He would give Flacco a large red zone target. I for one hope to see him return. Status: sign to a cheap one year deal, with the option to pick up a second year.
DE Brent Urban
Add Urban to the same boat as Gillmore and Campanaro. Promising young player who struggles to stay healthy. Before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury in game three of the season, Urban was a force on the defensive line. Combined with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, the trio seemed nearly unstoppable. Urban has yet to prove he can stay healthy however, so is he worth bringing back? Should the Ravens just roll with their younger options such as Willie Henry, who emerged in his absence, or hope that Bronson Kaufusi steps up, who is a very similar bodied player to Urban?
I believe Urban could be re-signed for cheap, and the upside is too high to not pull the trigger. I hope to see him return to the team this season, as an interior pass rush was greatly needed over the course of the season and Urban helps to bring just that. Status: re-sign.
OL Luke Bowanko
Bowanko was acquired via trade just before the start of the season. Largely due to season-ending injuries to guards Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa. With their return, as well as the emergence of Matt Skura, I don’t see Bowanko returning. I’m sure Ozzie will draft his usual mid round offensive lineman this year as well, so that’s another reason to let him walk. While he played decently when he had to come in, he is a player who can be easily replaced by someone younger and cheaper. Status: let him walk.
ILB Steven Johnson
With the return of linebackers Bam Bradley and Albert McClellan next season, I don’t see a place on the team for Steven Johnson. His role was mainly a special teams one, and both McClellan and Bradley can fill that and even up the production. I’m not even sure if McClellan will be kept for next year with the younger inside linebackers on the roster, so I really don’t see Johnson making it. I expect the Ravens to draft another inside linebacker as well. Status: let him walk.
CB Brandon Boykin
Boykin contributed nothing to the team this season, as he was placed on injured reserve early on. He wasn’t particularly impressive in the preseason either. I don’t see the Ravens signing him to another contract. They have several younger options at the slot cornerback position, such as, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, and Jaylen Hill. I’m sure Ozzie will draft a corner in the late rounds of the draft as well. Status: let him walk.