Gus Edwards, Kevin Zeitler contracts altered to open cap space - Jeff Zrebiec
Ravens officially alter contracts of RB Gus Edwards and RG Kevin Zeitler, creating more breathing room on the salary cap
Why it matters: You’ve read this a time or two in this space: the Ravens need more cap room. That remained true even after getting Michael Pierce to take a pay reduction, even after releasing Calais Campbell, and even after agreeing to trade safety Chuck Clark to the New York Jets. More cap-cutting moves were necessary. In agreeing to contract alterations with Edwards and Zeitler, the Ravens do have more room to operate. As first reported by ESPN, the Ravens created just over $7 million of additional space with the restructures. Like with Pierce, they again tacked void years onto the end of contracts, which is something they’ve avoided doing in the past. The Ravens have roughly $6 million of cap space now, and they’ll add an additional $4 million to that total when the Clark trade becomes official on Wednesday. Perhaps more importantly, they are keeping Edwards and Zeitler, two key offensive players whose departures would have left a void.
What’s next: At some point, the Ravens will start adding some players. A day into the tampering period, it’s been about who they’ve lost (Campbell, Josh Oliver, Ben Powers) and whose contract they’ve adjusted to make sure they didn’t lose. However, their needs remain the same. They badly need to add to their receiving group, and there finally appears to be some movement in that market with Tuesday’s agreement between Jakobi Meyers and the Las Vegas Raiders. They also need cornerback help.
So you want to make a deal with Lamar Jackson? Here’s what that could take. - Jonas Shaffer
A deal for Jackson wouldn’t come cheap. ESPN reported this week that Jackson last year rejected an offer for a five-year extension worth $133 million fully guaranteed, and another $42 million guaranteed for injury, meaning that he’d still be owed $175 million overall if he were hurt. The overall framework of the reported deal, which had additional guarantees that pushed its total value over $200 million, would’ve made it one of the richest in NFL history.
If that marks a starting point for suitors, interest in Jackson could be limited. Watson’s fully guaranteed contract remains an outlier in NFL contracts. The Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who signed in the months after Watson’s deal, agreed to deals with higher average annual values but far less money guaranteed at signing.
Because of Jackson’s nonexclusive franchise tag, a team that signs him would also have to forfeit its next two first-round picks. That would have its own theoretical cost, too: According to a 2022 analysis by Pro Football Focus, a first-round pick is worth about $25 million to $30 million in surplus value over a four-year span because of the relatively team-friendly terms of rookie contracts.
2023 NFL free agency team-by-team grades: Seahawks, Dolphins, Bears, 49ers among early winners - Garrett Podell
The reason the Ravens don’t have an incomplete grade instead of a ‘D’ is simple; they have a no-brainer move sitting right in front them: sign MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson to a long-term contract extension. Alienating the face of your franchise in a staring contest over his second contract is bad vibes. Putting him on the non-exclusive franchise tag to show Jackson how no other NFL team is interested in signing him to a fully-guaranteed contract is understandable. After almost 12 hours of free agency, Baltimore needs to send a better contract pitch as a peace offering and get this deal done.
The Ravens are 45-16 and average 28 points per game when Jackson starts for them since taking him with the last pick of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. They’re 8-13 and average eight fewer points per game, 20.0, when any other quarterback has started from them across the last five seasons.
2023 Ravens Draft Watch: Jaxon Smith-Njigba - Joe Serpico
Weight: 196 pounds
Strengths: There might not be a better route-runner in this draft class. He always seems to find the open space and does an exceptional job creating separation. He’s the ideal slot receiver in today’s passing game with soft hands and willing to make contested catches in the middle of the field. Once the ball is in his hands, he has the change-of-direction ability to make defenders miss. That was evident at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 6.57-second three-cone drill and a 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle, both the fastest at the position.
Weakness: The biggest knock on Smith-Njigba entering the combine was his top-end speed. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, but there is reason for optimism that he might fare better than expected following the impressive times noted above. Depending on how he runs at Ohio State’s Pro Day, he could be viewed as strictly a slot receiver. Ravens fans are sure have concerns about Smith-Njigba’s hamstring after Perriman, Brown and Bateman all started their professional careers with injuries.
NFL Player Comparison: Christian Kirk
Draft Projection: Top-25 pick
Lamar Jackson’s contract is Priority No. 1 this offseason. The second-most important task is surrounding him with more talent at receiver. We saw last year how A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill made a huge impact for Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, respectively. The Ravens’ front office needs to do the same, whether it’s Jackson or anyone else at the helm.
The Ravens were reportedly one of several teams at Odell Beckham Jr.’s recent workout, and fans would be ecstatic with the move. That’s the type of alpha talent they need on the outside. Now, imagine a dream scenario in which Jackson has a receiving group that includes Bateman, Beckham and Smith-Njigba, in addition to Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely.
2023 NFL Draft: Running Back prospect superlatives - Michael Renner
BEST HOME-RUN SPEED: DEVON ACHANE, TEXAS A&M
4.32. Even that number that Achane put up in the 40-yard dash doesn’t quite do his speed justice given how it affects opposing safeties trying to judge their angles in the open field. Adding to his effectiveness is how easily he can change directions while running at nearly full speed. He’s going to be an exciting weapon for a creative offensive coordinator at the next level.