NFL insider notes: Cowboys have spent the least on payroll since 2016, why cash trumps cap, new CBA and more - Jason La Canfora
Ravens fans, even with a Matt Judon franchise tag looming, don’t get caught up sweating over every dollar in cap space. Baltimore has plenty of space available now and even more that can be freed up. It’s all about cash, and it’s time for Steve Bisciotti to get going again. Joe Flacco is off the books. Lamar Jackson makes peanuts. This is the exact time to extend players and buy while most of the best players on the team aren’t making even a fraction of their worth.
Should they give Jadeveon Clowney $22M a year? No. But getting a little creative with salary structure and being willing to guarantee some future roster bonus payments is more than enough for ownership to invest in a receiver like Emmanuel Sanders and at least flirt with a pass rusher like Everson Griffen and an interior offensive linemen, at the very least. Or make an effort to take on salaries of Stefon Diggs or a pass rusher like Melvin Ingram in trade, instead of the free agent route.
According to Spotrac, the Cowboys (20th) and Ravens (21st) are both in the bottom third of current 2020 payroll, at around $130M, with the cap projected to go to $200M or slightly higher. Both teams have Super Bowl ambitions. It’s time for both to start spending like it, and ownership to budget accordingly.
If Yanda gives it one more go, the Ravens will have a Pro Bowler, and potential future Hall of Famer, back anchoring the line and this all becomes moot – at least for the immediate future. If Yanda leaves, it opens a major question mark at right guard.
The tough part to swallow is that Yanda, 35, is still playing at an extremely high level. Regardless of how much resources the Ravens would use on finding his replacement, nobody would measure up.
Iowa’s Tristan Warfs is the best of the bunch, though after blowing up the Combine, he’s likely out of the Ravens’ range. Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, a potential late first-round pick, was a college center. Moving to guard, or shifting somebody else there, would be an adjustment.
Some of the other top guard prospects are Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, Fresno State’s Netane Muti and Georgia’s Solomon Kindley, but all are likely Day 2 or 3 prospects. Of course, that still means they could make a quick impact, as the Ravens have a long history of finding offensive line gems later in the draft.
Players on PFF Top-100 Free Agency Board: 16
Players on PFF Top-100 on Draft Board: 7
Free Agency: There are intriguing names at the top of the interior defensive line list, starting with Chris Jones of the Chiefs, and while he is expected to be franchise tagged, he’s still the clear class of the market as a dominant pass-rusher. Houston’s D.J. Reader and Pittsburgh’s Javon Hargrave both broke out this season, and they’re young enough to provide three to four more years of strong production. The Giants’ Leonard Williams should also command big money, but it may not be worth the average pass-rush that he generally brings. The value of this interior defensive line group is in the veterans, as players like Gerald McCoy, Mike Daniels and Timmy Jernigan all have capable snaps left in them and they’ll come at a lower price.
Draft: The PFF draft board features four top-32 players on the defensive interior. Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw provide long, powerful options while Missouri’s Jordan Elliott may be the best pure rusher of the group. Auburn’s Marlon Davidson rounds out the group after playing more of an edge role in college. Overall, it’s a solid class, and teams that need help up front should look to a healthy mix of free agents and the draft in order to get both short and long-term options at a reasonable price this offseason.
BIGGEST BOOM-OR-BUST PROSPECTS IN 2020 NFL DRAFT - Benjamin Solak
YETUR GROSS-MATOS, EDGE, PENN STATE
He’s a raw player, who makes up his game as he goes. He struggles to throw rush moves with consistency, both in his hand placement and his strike timing; his angles and landmarks. He’s all over the place, and at times, that lets him react naturally and effortlessly to oversets or early punches. At other times, it prevents him from winning reps against inferior players he should be able to beat.
It is not enough to say Gross-Matos is toolsy. He is, but there five toolsy EDGEs who might go Round 3 at the very earliest; more likely go in Round 4 and beyond. Toolsy players might become something. Gross-Matos is well on his way to becoming something; he’s already shown that some pieces are there and put together. But the picture is still incomplete.
The problem is Gross-Matos is going to be drafted like he’s got it all put together, and that’s a lot earlier than the toolsy players.