Nose tackle Brandon Williams will remain a Raven. He’ll speak at a news conference Monday in Owings Mills. The Ravens’ two new additions – safety Tony Jefferson and running back Danny Woodhead – are in town today and will be introduced at a news conference later this afternoon. Quarterback Ryan Mallett’s one-year, $2 million deal is finalized and the Ravens can check backup quarterback off their list of needs.
So, what’s next?
The prevailing question from Ravens’ fans is about how much salary cap space the team still has in which to make moves. The easy answer is not a lot, but it’s hard to be any more specific until the team’s free-agent additions have taken and passed physicals and their deals are finalized. You have to see the year-to-year breakdown of the deals before determining their impact on the 2017 salary cap.
However, they entered the week in the bottom six of the NFL in terms of cap space. With the addition of Jefferson, the Ravens released safety Lardarius Webb on Friday morning, creating $5.5 million of cap room but also incurring $2 million more of dead money on their cap.
And while they subtracted Elvis Dumervil, Shareece Wright and Kendrick Lewis, they also tendered all six of their restricted free agents at $1.79 million a pop, made Williams the highest-paid nose tackle in the league at $10.8 million per year, made Jefferson the NFL’s sixth highest-paid safety at $9 million per year and also added Woodhead and Mallett.
In other words, they can’t possibly have too much space remaining, and they’ll almost certainly have to make a few more cuts to add too much else of significance.
It appears the Ravens are in a stalemate with Dennis Pitta after they asked the popular tight end to take a pay cut. Releasing Pitta would create $3.3 million of cap room, but even more dead money ($4.4 million). That’s why a pay cut is obviously preferable to the Ravens.
Jettisoning Kyle Arrington would open approximately $2 million of space, but the timing of his release is impacted by the cornerback’s concussion issue from last year. Earlier this season, the Ravens planned on keeping tight end Benjamin Watson after the 2016 free agent acquisition missed all last season after tearing his Achilles. Perhaps, that plan has changed given the Ravens’ needs and the fact that moving on from him would create $3 million of room.
Other potential cost-cutting options are releasing a few of the restricted free agents that they tendered earlier this week. They did that last year with tight end Chase Ford. It was a bit surprising to see the Ravens tender guys like defensive backs Jumal Rolle and Marqueston Huff and offensive linemen James Hurst and Ryan Jensen rather than releasing them and trying to re-sign them to more modest deals.
The good news for the Ravens is they have checked off a few of their offseason priorities. The challenging part is they still have quite a few holes to fill and not an abundance of money or draft picks with which to use.
The Ravens still are trying to add a veteran cornerback and they maintain interest in oft-injured yet talented former Dallas Cowboy Morris Claiborne. Their competition for Claiborne, who is probably the best corner left on the open market, is reportedly from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. The list of free agent corners available also includes Prince Amukamara, Darius Butler, Brandon Carr and Alterraun Verner.
With the release of Dumervil and the retirement of Zachary Orr, the Ravens are relatively thin at both linebacker spots. They’ll probably use an early draft pick on a pass rusher, but the Ravens could use a veteran at weak-side linebacker to challenge Kamalei Correa.
There are bigger holes on offense. The Ravens’ wide receiver depth chart behind Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman currently includes Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, Vince Mayle and Kenny Bell. Terrelle Pryor, who is reportedly visiting with the Washington Redskins today, is the best receiver available, but he might be too pricey for the Ravens. Other options include Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and old friends Anquan Boldin and Kamar Aiken.
Rick Wagner’s departure leaves the Ravens with a void at right tackle, and the only obviously internal candidates to replace him are the much-maligned Hurst and developmental tackles De’Ondre Wesley and Stephane Nembot. The top free agent tackles still available are Kelvin Beachum, Ryan Clady and Sebastian Vollmer who is reportedly considering retirement. The best-case scenario would be signing former first-round pick D.J. Fluker, but he might be pricey and there’s been speculation that he wants to find a home at guard going forward.
Ideally, the Ravens would like to upgrade at center over Jeremy Zuttah, but I’m not sure there’s anybody available that would present that opportunity other than Nick Mangold. It’s unclear what sort of deal Mangold is looking for after a long stint with the New York Jets.