The reduction in the 2021 NFL salary cap has already forced some teams to make some tough decisions on mid-tier to above-average veteran players. With more expected to come ahead of the start of the new league year on March 17, here are some salary-cap casualties that the Ravens should target and won’t affect the compensatory pick formula:
C Nick Martin - released by the Houston Texans on February 26
The Ravens got inconsistent play from the center position in 2020 that came in inopportune moments and even cost them opportunities to rally back in some games, most notably the divisional-round loss to the Buffalo Bills.
If signed, Martin would check three important boxes for the Ravens. He is a natural center, consistent snapper, and experienced veteran that has started every game that he’s appeared in during his four-year career which includes 62 in the regular season and three in the playoffs.
RT Rick Wagner - released by the Green Bay Packers on February 19
I’ve already written about how a reunion between the Ravens and their fifth-round pick from the 2013 draft makes perfect sense but it’s worth mentioning again because he would address a potential dire need.
If two-time Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is traded this offseason, he’d be a serviceable stop-gap starter or at least an upgrade at swing tackle if Brown Jr. stays put for 2021.
OLB Kyle Van Noy – released by the Miami Dolphins on March 2
The seven-year veteran was let go just one year into the four-year deal worth $51 million that he signed with the Dolphins but that is in no way an indictment on his ability to still be an impact player. He is one of the most versatile defenders in the sport who can be a swiss army knife in the Ravens’ front seven with the way he can cover, rush the quarterback and defend the run.
Van Noy appeared in 14 games during his lone season with the Dolphins and recorded 69 total tackles including 10 for loss, six sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and six pass deflections. If the Ravens were to lose both Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser in free agency, the 29-year-old could be a great contingency at the SAM spot.
If Bowser was re-signed and Van Noy was still brought aboard, it’d provide Defensive Coordinator Don Wink Martindale with the same schematic flexibility that he had with the combo of Judon and Bowser the last two seasons.
DB Ricardo Allen – released by the Atlanta Falcons on February 18
Bringing in the versatile defensive back could help the Ravens address two under the radar yet vital needs ahead of both the draft and free agency. Allen has starting experience playing both cornerback and safety and could come in and provide depth at nickel corner behind Tavon Young and at safety behind and sometimes alongside starters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott.
He started all 12 of the games he appeared in last season and recorded 25 combined tackles including one for loss, five pass deflections and two interceptions.
WR Tyrell Williams – released by the Las Vegas Raiders on February 19
As my colleague at Baltimore Beatdown, Jakob Ashlin, wrote a few weeks ago, Williams is exactly the kind of Ravens should target in free agency. He likely won’t be a fan favorite at the time of signing but the six-year veteran wideout has an excellent blend of size and speed to both beat defensive backs deep down the field as well as come down with contested catches.
He missed the entire 2020 season with a shoulder injury and he’s only topped 1,000 yards receiving once in his career so signing him won’t break the bank. When healthy, Williams has been a complementary piece in the passing game and that’s exactly what the Ravens are missing to go along with an ascending Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews.
Williams last played in 2019 when he appeared 14 games, made 12 starts and hauled in 42 of his 64 targets for 651 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards per catch.
S Tre Boston – released by the Carolina Panthers on February 19
The seven-year veteran has been listed as a free safety for the majority of his career but has played a hybrid role that includes playing some strong safety as well. He is excellent in the box and has the ball skills and range to play some single high, making him a perfect candidate to play in the Ravens’ dime packages.
His hard-hitting playing style closely resembles Elliott’s with the way he brings the hammer down in the open field. Bringing him on board would not only give Martindale two big hitters in the backend but he’d also provide him with more schematic flexibility and an experienced insurance policy if an injury were to occur.
He started all 16 regular season games last year and recorded a career-high 95 combined tackles including three for loss, one sack, two quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and four pass deflections.
IOL Nick Easton – released by the New Orleans Saints on February 12
The former undrafted free agent in 2015 began his career with the Ravens and was traded to the Minnesota Vikings during the preseason of his rookie year. Easton has the positional versatility to provide depth at center and could come in and compete for the starting right guard spot.
The six-year veteran brings starting experience to the table having started 32 of the 45 career regular-season games that he’s suited up for.
CB Buster Skrine – released by the Chicago Bears on March 1
The 31-year-old defensive back isn’t quite the same lockdown nickel corner that he once was after a decade in the league but the Ravens don’t need him to be the best, they just need a reliable serviceable option behind the often-injured Young.
With Skrine on the team, Martindale would have an experienced option to turn to in the slot if Young were to miss time. This defensive flexibility will allow two-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey to stay on the outside where he can be best utilized instead of having to split time at nickel as he has for the last two seasons.
He appeared in 12 games and made three starts last season, recording 66 total tackles including one for loss, one forced fumble and three pass deflections.
Expected cuts that would fit:
Two players expected to be cut from the same team if they can’t be traded before the new league year are tight end Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowler coming off a down year where he recorded career lows and struggled with injuries. He would fill the Ravens’ need for another pass-catching tight end to round out the position group.
Jeffery has struggled with injuries over the last three seasons but is a big-bodied pass catcher in the Anquan Boldin mold that the Ravens are looking for. He won’t command anywhere near top dollar so he’d be a low-risk high-reward flier signing ahead of the draft.