The Baltimore Ravens find themselves with an ultimate bit of irony heading into the 2015 season. There is a free agent crop of players that they need at various positions, however they are only 4.7 million dollars under the salary cap. Baltimore fans can file this under the ‘Needs vs. Wants’ category. With their salary cap number so low, they will have to do things the old fashioned way: through the draft.
The Ravens once again ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense (Off-8th, Def-6th) and will have to make some tough decisions going into 2015. In Joe Flacco’s 7 years in Baltimore he has accumulated 72 wins to 40 losses, a lot of that being on the shoulders of a top tier defense. In 4 of his 7 seasons, Flacco completed less than 60% of his passes and threw 90 interceptions in 112 games, so it will be up to the ‘Quarterback Whisperer’ and newly appointed OC Marc Trestman to get him there. Trestman took Jay Cutler, who was completing 59.6% of his passes, to an astounding 64.8% the past two seasons, so hopefully he can work his magic with Flacco.
Keeping with the Joe Flacco theme there are 120 million reasons why the Ravens are in this predicament. Flacco is due to make 14.5 million this season, and with only 4 million of that making up his base salary, the team cannot even entertain the thought of having him shift some of his base to bonus. Won’t help, and I doubt Flacco would be willing to do so.
DE Haloti Ngata is top on the Raven list of players, making an astounding 16 million this season, and 8.5 of that making up his base. Baltimore would be wise to renegotiate some of that base or sign him to a long term deal, kicking that rock down the road a bit in order to even sign their 2015 draft picks.
Rounding out the Ravens making 10+ for 2015, CB Ladarius Webb who only started in 11 games last season has a 12 million dollar cap hit, with 8 million in base salary. If DC Dean Pees wants to surround Webb with some other playmakers this season, and not leave him on the proverbial ‘island’, the Ravens would want to push some of that base salary to later years. Webb is 29 and if he is in the long-term plans for Pees, he can transition to S if needed.
As mentioned above, with only 4.7 million to work with, the Ravens are going to be letting go of some players that they would normally like to resign. WR Torrey Smith might be joining Jacoby Jones as having the distinct honor of becoming former Ravens, as well as TE Owen Daniels and RB Justin Forsett. Other notables are T Jah Reid and CB Aaron Ross as their numbers might be too great for Baltimore, unless some maneuvering of cap space can happen.
Holding the 26th pick isn’t too reassuring when there are as many needs that the Ravens have, but they could benefit from trading back to acquire more picks, and give themselves a cheaper option to add some depth. In a deep class of wide receivers, the smart money is on WR Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri). A big target standing at 6’5” and weighing 237, he resembles the twin towers that occupied the outside in Chicago during Trestman’s time there. If the Ravens don’t clear any room to make some moves in free agency, Green-Beckham could be their pick.
WR Breshad Perriman (Central Florida) is another big-bodied receiver that could appeal to Trestman if Green-Beckham is off the board and if both are gone, Sammie Coates (Auburn) also possesses the skills to be a playmaker for the Ravens.
Being that Forsett is not a long-term solution playing for 5 teams in 8 years, the Ravens could select either RB Todd Gurley (Georgia) or RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) with the 26th pick. While in Chicago Matt Forte, under Trestman, was targeted 225 times, and pulled in 176 receptions in two seasons. Throwing to the running backs is a good way to give your quarterback an easy spike in his completion percentage and with the absence of Ray Rice the Ravens were missing that dimension to their offense last season.
The Ravens are well against the cap, and can’t make any significant moves, but if they could, they would probably work out some deal to resign Torrey Smith, or get another receiver before April 30th. WR Michael Crabtree if he doesn’t sign with San Francisco could fit, having already experienced one of the Harbaughs. WR Kenny Britt is another big receiver who could flourish with Trestman.
Marc Trestman was blessed to have Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall the past two seasons in Chicago, and even with them there, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte were targeted 447 times for 331 completions (74%). That is an astounding number when you think of the caliber of players that Jeffery and Marshall are, so look for the Ravens to lean more toward TE Dennis Pitta and whomever they select for a running back.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)