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Examining the Ravens’ Patrick Ricard conundrum

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few seasons, Patrick Ricard has developed into an integral part of the Ravens’ offense and fan favorite. The versatile, swiss army knife-type player quickly emerged as one of the league’s premier fullbacks — and has three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2019-21 to show for it.

Now, the almost 28-year-old Ricard is about to become an unrestricted free agent. His status could put the Ravens in a bit of a conundrum.

In five career seasons, Ricard’s total earnings amount to just over $9 million. In 2019, the Ravens signed Ricard to a two-year contract extension for roughly $7 million. After a three-year stretch of high-level play, Ricard is due for a raise and apparently knows it.

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebic recently reported that Ricard is looking for “solid tight end value” and does not just want to be the highest-paid fullback in the league, but paid like a tight end. This could put the Ravens, who aren’t incredibly rich with cap space, in a bit of a bind.

Ricard’s value to the Ravens is clear. His blocking ability, along with the versatility to line up in various spots on offense, has been a positive asset. He was a key factor in the Ravens’ historic rushing dominance and offensive success during the 2019-20 seasons. Also, he’s had some nice spots as a pass-catcher and can be used on special teams, also.

Considering he began his career as a defensive lineman, Ricard’s development has been a great story in Baltimore over the past several years. However, if his asking price is that of a “solid” tight end, the Ravens may need to make a tough decision and let Ricard walk.

Losing Ricard would be a difficult pill to swallow and, as a fan favorite, likely not sit well with a number of fans. The truth of the matter is, though, that the Ravens need to consider positional value when allocating their cap space. Fullback is very much a dying breed in today’s NFL and the Ravens utilize the position more so than almost any other team.

Very few, if any, teams in the league could squeeze as much value and worth out of Ricard as the Ravens have since 2019. “Project Pat” may fancy himself as a tight end financially, but that isn’t how the Ravens have utilized him more often than not. They also have a lot of money tied up at tight end already between Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.

If the Ravens can retain Ricard at a reasonable figure, it would be a welcomed move for all parties. But, if they have to stretch themselves cap wise to do so, perhaps those extra dollars would be better served investing an an extra offensive lineman or defensive back.

Replacing Ricard may not be a simple task considering his unique role and skill set. The Ravens already set a sort of contingency plan in motion, though, when they re-signed Ben Mason in January. They may have already had a post-Ricard future in mind when they originally drafted Mason in the sixth round last year, too.

Mason is no Ricard, obviously, but if the Ravens feel he could provide a decent percentage of his production at a fraction of the cost, then letting the latter walk in free agency is probably the most fiscally responsible move. It doesn’t have to be as simple as a one-for-one transition, either.

Getting Nick Boyle back to 100% health would help compensate for some of the blocking prowess the offense would lose with no Ricard. Retaining someone like Eric Tomlinson could do the same, also. Using more 11-personnel, where three wide receivers and one tight end are on the field with one running back, is something the Ravens could do more of too.

All of this is to say that while it will be great if the Ravens can retain him, Ricard not returning to Baltimore seems like a realistic possibility. While this would be unfortunate, it may ultimately make the most sense for the organization depending on Ricard’s asking price. The Ravens need to be fiscally responsible and prioritize premier positions.

Poll

Do you think the Ravens will re-sign Pat Ricard?

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  • 29%
    Yes
    (243 votes)
  • 70%
    No
    (581 votes)
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