There are many different avenues Eric DeCosta can take in constructing the 2019 Ravens roster. Be it cutting all those on the back ends of their deal and saving tens of millions of dollars, restructuring a few deals for leverage in a couple years, pushing all in now or building something for a Super Bowl run with a rookie quarterback contract like the 2012 Ravens, 2013 Seahawks, or the 2018 LA Rams. Like I said, there are many different directions. While I’m not DeCosta or anybody within the Ravens organization, I do have my opinion on how the 2019 offseason should go.
I’m all for slashing some contracts in 2019. I want the Ravens to enjoy some much-needed cap space for 2019 and beyond.
I’ve wrote about it already, as has the entire football world. Saving $10.5 million isn’t something you ponder. The team has moved on from Flacco and he’s ready to go lead another franchise. Get the money and utilize the savings in the form of protecting Lamar Jackson or surrounding him with talent. Maybe this time, the Ravens will supply their quarterback with some pass-catching talent?
I respect and appreciate what he’s done since joining the franchise. He’s a leader and a great player, but his play and leadership isn’t worth the $6.5 million in savings. On a lesser deal, I’m with it—maybe—but I’m not wanting Weddle around for more. I think Weddle understands this, too, as he recently rebuked his statement of retiring if he doesn’t play for Baltimore in 2019.
I would rather have the $4.67 million in savings than the on-again, off-again frustrations of Crabtree’s play in 2019. Replacing him will be expensive in today’s receiver market, but that’s why the total savings of cutting these three players exceeds $21 million.
2019 Free Agency
A new league year begins on March 13, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. ET. This also is when NFL teams can officially sign players in free agency, after the two-day tampering period in which they can negotiate deals with unrestricted free agents.
After the cuts made above, the Ravens sit comfortably with $47.8 million in cap space. There are a few big names I’d like to sign below, but I’m uncertain if the team can spend the money for them all. I think they’ll have the room over the next few seasons with Flacco off the books and the comfort of a rookie quarterback contract giving them room. Nonetheless, not all these players can really be paid. These are more my opinions as to how the team should navigate during free agency.
I wrote about the LA Charger last week with my post on sorting through the 2019 Free agent wide receivers. He’s going to command a lot of attention in the offseason and the Ravens need to be a part of the conversation. At 26 years old, he’s in his prime and capable of expanding the Ravens offense with his size and speed.
Spotrac has Williams’ Market Value around $9.6 million. If it doesn’t go above $10.2, I’m all for signing the pass-catcher. I, and I think all Ravens fans, are tired of watching every team throwing down the field for more than one successful drive. I want a full game of hearing the broadcasters hyping up the passing game. Hell, I want a few games of this—or a full season! I’m not saying Williams is the man that can turn it into a viable 16-game threat, but it’s a better start than where the Ravens are currently.
I want him back in Baltimore come 2019. He’s tenacious and coming into his own. In his first three years, Za’Darius produced 10.0 sacks. In year four, the 6-foot-4-inch, 272 pound titan crashed through for 8.5 sacks. He’s developed into a pass rusher both on the edge and inside. He’s utilized well in blitz packages and he’s well-worth having on the roster. While some argue that Smith, like most other Ravens pass rushers and linebackers, will sign a big deal elsewhere and under-perform, I believe he’s the guy to fit this Don Martindale model of versatile heavy linebacker who can crash inside or set the edge. He didn’t stumble into 8.5 sacks. He’s being utilized correctly and it paid dividends, especially when the team needed a play to keep the playoff dream alive.
I want Mosley back, but I’m in the party of not paying the premium for him. I respect players and want them to get their money. If Mosley wants the fat stacks, go get it. If, though, he wants to make $9.5 million and stay in Baltimore, I’m all for going after him. He’s a great downhill linebacker with some skill in zone coverage, but he’s not the guy to match up with a running back or tight end and cancel them out of an offensive equation. A lot of linebackers can stop the run. Mosley needs to be more than that. He thrives most with coverage linebackers beside him, a la Daryl Smith, Zachary Orr and now Patrick Onwuasor. He’s worth good money, but I’m not wanting the first signing of DeCosta’s career as general manager being an over-payment of an inside linebacker.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
I remember watching the 2014 NFL Draft and hoping the Cowboys would pass on Zack Martin so the Ravens could pair he and Marshal Yanda in both guard slots and ruin the league. When they didn’t, I still was excited about the prospect of landing either C.J. Mosley or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I wanted the safety as I was still under the belief of Arthur Brown coming into his own and figured the Ravens would pair their first-round safety of 2013, Matt Elam, with another first-round safety, Clinton-Dix. None of that turned out to be true.
There was a joke on Reddit stating Ozzie Newsome was in the back of the Ravens’ war room and he flipped a coin to decide which Alabama defender to draft. Now, the Ravens can enjoy the same coin flip in free agency. If Mosley decides to walk and make the $10+ million a year, look for the Ravens to seek out the safety. If Mosley takes a deal under $10 million, they have a small but possible chance of signing his college teammate.
I’ve liked Clinton-Dix’ game since his play with the Crimson Tide. He’s fast, smart and plays Raven football. He and Tony Jefferson playing side-by-side makes sense, splashed in with the returning DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark. He will also be commanding top billing due to his age and play in the NFL, but it’s worth the money to me.
I already wrote a 650-word piece on why I think the Ravens need to re-sign the future Hall of Fame linebacker, so I’ll keep this one short. He’s a valuable locker room component and he’s capable of mentoring the young pass rushers while also producing on the field. He’s not going to need a whole lot of money as he still wants to play for the Ravens and he’s earned over $105 million in contracts throughout his career. No, he won’t be a veteran minimum guy, but he’s still worth a couple million dollars for his long-time efforts and consistent production, even in the twilight of his career.
Now, in all my areas of football knowledge, college ball is my weakness. I’m not a draft guru. I start watching tape after the editing staff and half the writing staff here at Baltimore Beatdown point towards the players they want and I shift my attention from free agency. I do, however, know what positions I’d like the team to focus on.
- Wide receiver — If the Cleveland Browns can find a winning quarterback, Charm City can find a young receiver to catch the damn ball. I’m tired of sifting through the bargain bin and seeing which player the Ravens sign. I’m tired of watching all these young rookie highlights from around the league and the Ravens only have a defensive highlights or Lamar Jackson rushing touchdown clips. Get a receiver and get this going.
- Center — Get this offensive line to protect Jackson. Continue giving him time to throw or find running lanes for Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. I don’t believe Matt Skura is going to develop much more and I want a bigger center.
- Free safety — The Ravens need somebody with range. A player who can defend against the AFC North consistently. Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton are still in this division, as is Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield. Until this changes, defense still deserves focus. On defense, I argue the free safety can make any defense go from good to great. Earl Thomas was the reason for the Seahawks’ success. Ed Reed was the reason for such dominant pass coverage.
- Guard — Unfortunately, nobody has found the Fountain of Youth, therefore Marshal Yanda is still aging. It’s time to start finding his replacement. Alex Lewis has not produced to his overhyped expectations. As of now, the Ravens only have James Hurst as viable. Go out and find some more talented blockers.
I think this is the correct way to navigate 2019. Build towards something, don’t push all-in. The Rams built towards something and pushed all in now. Cut ties with bad contracts. Find a few players you can build with, draft a few players who (hopefully) develop into solid contributors. Then, down the road, make the glorious push for a third Lombardi Trophy in Charm City.