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Ravens News 3/8: Significant Gamble and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson receives franchise tag: How big of a risk is this for Baltimore? - Jeff Zrebiec

Baltimore is taking a major risk here

The Ravens are taking an awfully big gamble that a quarterback-needy team isn’t going to give Jackson the type of deal that he’s been seeking, which is believed to be in the neighborhood of the fully-guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal that Deshaun Watson got from the Browns last offseason. The Ravens theoretically could be determined to match any offer sheet that Jackson gets, but teams certainly could make it difficult in how they structure the deal for perennially cap-strapped Baltimore to absorb it.

The ball is now in Jackson’s court

The negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson, who doesn’t have an agent, have been a slog. DeCosta has chosen his words carefully as to not enflame already delicate negotiations, but he’s called the talks a “burden” and brought up the fact that there has to be a give and take from both sides. It’s clear the Ravens have run out of confidence in their ability to get this deal done. It’s now up to Jackson to get the deal he’s seeking and force the Ravens’ hands.

NFL nonexclusive franchise tag: Biggest questions facing Ravens, Lamar Jackson - Jamison Hensley

Will Jackson hold out?

It’s assumed Jackson won’t report for offseason practices in the spring and training camp, but no one really knows. At the end of the season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about a potential holdout and replied: “There’s no guarantee it’ll go that way ... Lamar’s a unique guy. He’s not beating to everybody’s drum.”

Last year, Jackson skipped all of the voluntary practices in the spring for the first time in his career and only reported for the mandatory minicamp. If he doesn’t sign the franchise tag right away, Jackson technically isn’t under contract and can’t get fined for missing all offseason practices. Jackson only has to report just before the start of the regular season in order to earn his $1.77 million weekly salary. An extended absence by Jackson isn’t ideal for a Ravens team that is installing a new scheme under Todd Monken, who was hired as offensive coordinator to replace Greg Roman.

There’s also no guarantee Jackson will play under the tag, especially the cheaper one. Jackson might take exception to Baltimore choosing to go the nonexclusive route, which will cost him about $13 million. There have been three players to sit out a season after being tagged: defensive tackles Sean Gilbert (Washington, 1997) and Dan Williams (Chiefs, 1998) and running back Le’Veon Bell (Steelers, 2018).

How Lamar Jackson’s nonexclusive franchise tag affects the Ravens’ roster-building decisions - C.J. Doon

It’s a significant bet for the Ravens, who must operate this offseason without knowing whether their starting quarterback will return — and at what price. It could also be a long time before a resolution is reached. Teams have until July 17 to agree with Jackson on a long-term deal, but he could wait as late as the Tuesday following Week 10 of the regular season to sign the franchise tender or another team’s offer sheet.

Restructured deals

A common, albeit risky, way for NFL teams to get under the salary cap is by restructuring existing contracts. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can convert part of a player’s salary into a prorated bonus that can be spread out more evenly over a long contract. The Ravens saved $13 million last year by restructuring deals for cornerback Marlon Humphrey and left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

This year, according to Over The Cap, the Ravens could create roughly $19.2 million in salary cap space by once again tweaking deals with Humphrey ($7.3 million) and Stanley ($7.5 million), as well as tight end Mark Andrews ($4.5 million).

2023 NFL free agency: Players who could be underpriced, overpriced - Gregg Rosenthal

Darius Slayton

WR · Age: 26

Slayton’s up-and-down tenure with the Giants ended with a season (46 catches, 724 receiving yards, two receiving TDs) that reminded everyone why he was so intriguing in the first place. Slayton would fit well as a third or fourth receiver who can get deep down the field. His drops and a lack of physicality will likely prevent him from being a highly paid starter, but shopping in this free agency class is about finding quality role players. Virtually every team needs receiving help, and Slayton will bring speed at a price that figures to be around what Zay Jones was paid by Jacksonville a year ago (three years, $24 million).

Marcus Peters

CB · Age: 30

Peters is the type of player who tends to get undervalued in free agency. Though he’s far from a long-term solution, Peters can provide average starting cornerback play at worst and could still pop up with a top-20 type of season. And he’ll ultimately cost something like $9 million on a one-year deal. That’s a bargain.

2023 NFL scouting combine winners and losers by the numbers: Offense - Max Chadwick


It wasn’t necessarily a banner day for the highest-graded interior offensive linemen from this past season.

Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz’s 92.3 grade was over two points higher than the next-closest center in the country in 2022.

However, he struggled at the combine. The most surprising measurement was his weight. Minnesota listed him at 320 pounds, but he came in nearly 20 pounds lighter at 301. His slimmer frame didn’t translate to testing better as he only ran a 5.35-second 40-yard dash with a 1.85-second 10-yard split. Both of those times were below the 42nd percentile for centers. He should still be one of the best centers in the draft regardless but could’ve cemented his case as the best with a stronger performance.

Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence posted an 88.0 grade that was nearly four points higher than the next-closest guard in college football. He was about average at the combine though. The Louisiana transfer was below the 57th percentile for guards in the 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, vertical jump, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle. His 23.5-inch vertical was below the 16th percentile for guards.

Each should remain among the best prospects at their positions, they just might not be seen as the slam-dunks anymore.

Finally, USC guard Andrew Vorhees is feared to have suffered a torn ACL during his workout at the combine, which is a brutal blow to the nation’s third-highest-graded guard over the last two seasons (91.6).