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Bleacher Report names offensive lineman as worst contract for the Ravens

Alejandro Villanueva is expected to be a cap casualty

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NFL: DEC 26 Ravens at Bengals Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When shopping the free agent market, the Baltimore Ravens typically hit their mark. They’re not known for gross overpays as they scramble to build a team through paying top dollar. That’s also not the case for Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine, who called Alejandro Villanueva’s contract the worst for the Ravens “a rare example of Baltimore taking a gamble on a veteran.”

“The Ravens signed Villanueva after trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs. They brought him in to be a stopgap at right tackle, but they might have been better off going with a younger option that at least had some upside,” Ballentine wrote. “Villanueva has been a turnstile in pass protection. The nine sacks that he allowed this season was tied for the second-highest figure in the league.“

The criticism is fair regarding the contract and Villaneuva’s play. He was tied for second-most sacks in the NFL. He was also tied for second-most penalties. According to PFF, he surrendered 55 pressures; it was a rough season for the veteran.

That all said, I believe the job Villaneuva signed up for quickly turned into something he was ultimately outmatched for. Villaneuva was originally tasked with playing right tackle beside guard Kevin Zeitler, who was arguably the best offensive lineman on the team. Ronnie Stanley was expected to play left tackle and hopes were a strong return after Stanley’s ankle injury in the previous year. With Stanley’s ankle needing a second surgery and another full season to heal, this pushed Villaneuva to the left tackle spot, against typically more dominant pass rushers and overall better defenders.

For the Ravens’ sake, this contract has a quick eject button. The Ravens will likely cut Villaneuva if he doesn’t retire, which could be a possibility as the veteran will be turning 34 in September.

Though Villaneuva didn’t quite work out with the Ravens, another poor contract that wasn’t highlighted could be defensive lineman Derek Wolfe’s contract.

Wolfe signed a three-year, $12 million deal with $8.5 million in guarantees. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Wolfe missed the entire 2022 season with a back injury.

It was unclear exactly what the extent of the injury was and when Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked about whether Wolfe was going to play as the timeline to return was nearing to play or shut him down, Harbaugh deferred to saying he wouldn’t play and that General Manager Eric DeCosta or Wolfe himself would or could put out a statement.

The issue for Wolfe’s contract is back injuries tend to linger and Wolfe’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Wolfe plays a rather physical position and his playstyle is violent.

I’m speculating here, but it’s assumed the Ravens would like the veteran back and playing at 100-percent next season. After all, he’s under contract and Harbaugh called Wolfe “one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.”

Also, the Ravens defensive line filled with uncertainty right now as both defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell’s statuses are unknown. Having one certainty would be a positive.

However, if the Ravens were interested in parting ways with Wolfe, the cap relief is only $200,000 in 2022, which doesn’t offer much relief if Wolfe can’t stay on the field.