AFC North Whiparound: Bengals, Steelers, Browns, Ravens all ready for a free-agent frenzy - Jeff Zrebiec
What are your team’s three most pressing positional needs, and what does recent history tell you about how things will go?
Offensive tackle, edge rusher and cornerback. You can make a case for other positions, like interior defensive line, safety and center. But the Ravens’ two projected starting tackles, Ronnie Stanley and Ja’Wuan James, played one game combined last year. Of their top four 2021 edge rushers, two are free agents (Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee) and two are coming off offseason surgeries (Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh). Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are the only two established cornerbacks on their roster. The Ravens prefer to draft and develop their tackles, but they are probably going to have to get out of their comfort zone this year and spend a little money on an experienced starting-caliber tackle.
Check out Sheil Kapadia’s list of the top 150 potential free agents. If money was no object, which free agent would be the best fit for your team?
You could probably name any of the top pass rushers available and make a strong case. However, I’m going to say Saints safety Marcus Williams. The Ravens need a free safety who can cover, make plays on the ball and eliminate big plays from the opposition. It’s a piece they’ve been lacking for several years now, and the void has been noticeable. Williams, who has 15 interceptions and 38 pass breakups in five seasons, possesses the type of playmaking ability that would help transform the Baltimore defense. Pencil him in alongside Chuck Clark, get Peters and Humphrey back healthy and then add a few pieces to the front seven in the draft and the Ravens defense would get better in a hurry.
Agent’s Take: Asking prices for Tyrann Mathieu and other intriguing defensive players with expiring contracts - Joel Corry
KC • FS
Contract package: $66 million, four years ($16.5 million per year)
Overall guarantees: $35 million
Fully guaranteed at signing: $35 million
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said the team would do everything to keep Mathieu prior to the 2021 season starting. He cited the $15 million salary cap reduction from where the financial landscape would have been without the COVID-19 pandemic revenue losses affecting the salary cap as a factor for delaying a new deal. Mathieu, who turns 30 in May, seems intent on testing the market now.
Making Mathieu a franchise player was never going to be a realistic option even if left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. hadn’t received the designation. His franchise number was $23.63 million with the way the 120% salary increase provisions work for designations.
Mathieu surely took note of the Vikings giving a 32-year-old Harrison Smith a four-year extension averaging $16 million per year, which made him the league’s second-highest-paid safety, less than two weeks after the Adams deal. The average is a little misleading. It is inflated by $18.1 million in the final year of the contract.
4 trade targets for Ravens ahead of 2022 free agency - Kevin Oestreicher
OT La’el Collins, Dallas Cowboys
With the Cowboys recently trading Cooper to Cleveland in exchange for a fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-round picks, it’s clear that they’re trying to shed salary. It has now come out that they’ve given permission to Collins to seek a trade.
Collins is a quality right tackle who can also play multiple other positions along the offensive line. He’s slated to have base salaries of $10 million in each of the next three seasons, a very affordable price for his level of play and versatility. He also might not cost as much from a draft capital perspective as some might think.
Free agency or draft? Where to address all 32 NFL teams’ biggest needs in the 2022 offseason - Michael Renner
BALTIMORE RAVENS: DEFENSIVE LINE
The Ravens may very well address this through multiple avenues, but they’ve gotten by drafting and developing defensive linemen as well as any team in the NFL. With how talented the 2022 edge class is, this is another team that could double-dip at those highly paid positions along the defensive line. The ideal scenario would be getting Purdue edge George Karlaftis at Pick No. 14 and Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones at Pick No. 45. That’s a defensive line overhaul that can grow into something special alongside 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh.
Two Pass Rushers Who Could Be a Dark Horse Pick for Ravens - Clifton Brown
One potential pass-rushing target for the Ravens at No. 14 would be David Ojabo, who played for new Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald at Michigan and went to high school with Baltimore outside linebacker Odafe Oweh. However, two potential dark horse pass rushers lurking in the Ravens’ range are George Karlaftis of Purdue and Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State.
Adding Johnson would give Macdonald a chess piece to move around the defense, something he did as Michigan’s defensive coordinator with versatile players. Johnson was asked at the Combine if he was better at defensive end or outside linebacker.
“I’m a pass rusher,” Johnson said. “I’ve played 3-4, I’ve played 4-3. As long as I line up outside the tackle I’m a headache for a defense.”
“What you have to love about Karlaftis is the motor never stops,” Fornelli wrote. “He’s going all-out on every snap, and he’s strong enough and quick enough to make a lot of blockers look foolish. That said, he’s not as fluid as you’d like when changing direction, and he does struggle when he isn’t able to overpower his blocker with his strength or speed off the snap. There’s plenty of potential for an above-average pass rusher here, and those are always valuable.”