Ravens Rumors

Opinion: Jimmy Smith A Potential Cap Casualty

  • Cornerback Jimmy Smith could be a potential cap casualty as the Ravens move forward this offseason, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Smith is scheduled to count for nearly $16MM on Baltimore’s salary cap in 2019 (the highest figure on the club and second-highest among NFL corners), is now 30 years old, and has missed 13 games over the past three season due to injuries and a suspension. The Ravens have plenty of cornerback depth to withstand the loss of Smith (Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young), but he’s still playing at a high level.

Joe Flacco Passes Broncos Physical

Last week’s trade agreement between the Broncos and Ravens, which will send Joe Flacco to Denver and the better of the Broncos’ two fourth-round picks to Baltimore, looks set to go through.

Flacco traveled to Denver and passed a physical conducted by the Broncos, Albert Breer of SI.com reports.

Although Flacco has started 16 games in nine of his 11 seasons, he has battled a few injuries in recent years. Following his torn ACL in 2015, Flacco encountered back trouble during the 2017 offseason. Last season, a hip injury sidelined him for weeks and eventually led to Lamar Jackson stepping in and, ultimately, bringing setting up last week’s trade.

No trade can become official until the 2019 league year begins on March 13. Flacco will then be headed to the Broncos, where he stands to become the team’s fourth Week 1 starting quarterback in the past five seasons — following Peyton Manning, Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum. Denver’s previous starter remains on the roster, but the Broncos are planning to trade or, more likely, cut the soon-to-be 31-year-old Keenum.

Now 34, Flacco will play on an $18.5MM salary next season. He is not expected to redo his through-2021 contract, which contains no more guaranteed money. The Ravens will eat $16MM in dead money once the trade goes through.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Preparing To Lose Za'Darius Smith?

  • Under Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have been known to prioritize compensatory picks. They may be ready to collect another prime end-of-round draft choice this year. Za’Darius Smith‘s free agency buzz reminds The Athletic’s Jeff Zreibec of what followed Pernell McPhee four years ago as he readied for the market. McPhee left for a big Bears offer. A contract-year wonder, Smith looks headed elsewhere, too, per Zreibec (subscription required), with the Ravens prioritizing four-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley and possible skill-position enhancements. Baltimore is about to lose $16MM via its Flacco trade, and it presently holds just $21MM in cap space. So adjustments will need to occur if these roster-bolstering hopes are to be realized.

Ravens To Trade Joe Flacco To Broncos

The Joe Flacco era is effectively over in Baltimore. The Ravens agreed to trade the quarterback to the Broncos, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The Ravens will receive a fourth-round pick in return, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. Denver will send the selection it acquired in the Demaryius Thomas trade (No. 23 in the round) to Baltimore.

Technically, the trade cannot be processed until the new league year begins on Wednesday, March 13, but the two sides have a deal in principle. The Ravens will absorb a $16MM dead money hit from the trade and, as expected, move forward with Lamar Jackson as their top QB. Meanwhile, they’ll save roughly $10MM against the cap in 2019, enabling them to strengthen the rest of the offense by landing a playmaker or two in free agency.

The Broncos have yet to speak with Flacco about his contract, but they do not anticipate any issues if they keep his salary of $18.5MM unchanged for 2019, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears (on Twitter). Effectively, he’d move forward under a prove-it deal that the Broncos can either move on from in 2020 or re-work.

New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio spent a season in Baltimore, so he has some familiarity with the 34-year-old. Former Broncos executive Gary Kubiak was also a champion of Flacco, which may have influenced GM John Elway‘s decision to trade for him.

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a lucrative contract last offseason, but the arrival of Flacco could put him out of work. Keenum has one year to go on his two-year, $36MM pact, but the Broncos can shed the deal if they are willing to take a $10MM dead money hit.

Flacco was overshadowed by Jackson last season, but he still more-than-serviceable in his nine games. The veteran signal-caller completed 61.2% of his passes for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Coach John Harbaugh was also very complimentary of his skills.

Joe Flacco is going to play really well in this league. Joe can still play — I think we saw that the first half of the season,” Harbaugh said in January“Joe’s going to have a market. There’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to want Joe because they understand that. I’ll be in Joe’s corner wherever he’s at. He’s special. Joe Flacco is a great talent; he’s an even better person. He’s the best QB in the history of the Ravens without question…He’s going to do just fine.”

The Flacco deal will have ramifications elsewhere as one QB-needy team is no longer in the Nick Foles sweepstakes. The Giants, Dolphins, Jaguars, Redskins, and the incumbent Eagles all figure to kick the tires on Foles, but the Broncos are almost certainly out of the picture.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Notes: Jackson, Brown, Mosley

The Ravens need offensive playmakers this offseason and they believe that their best playmaker, quarterback Lamar Jackson, will help lure dynamic players to Baltimore.

I think players respect talent,” GM Eric DeCosta said (via ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley). “I think players respect athletes and competitors. Anyone can watch Lamar Jackson and see how talented he is and what kind of a competitor he is. Players also want to win, and I think that’s something that drives every professional athlete — winning games. I think they’ll recognize that about us. When they watch us play, they’ll want to play here.

Last year, the Ravens produced only 57 plays of 20+ yards, which was the ninth-fewest in the NFL. Eight of those plays came off of big runs from Jackson, who only started in seven of the team’s 16 games. In essence, the Ravens are looking to make up for missed opportunities in past drafts. As Hensley notes, the Ravens have only selected a wide receiver or running back three times in the first three rounds of the last three drafts (Torrey Smith in 2011, Bernard Pierce in 2012 and Breshad Perriman in 2015), and none of those players are on the roster today.

Here’s more out of Baltimore:

Ravens Notes: Flacco, Mosley, Smith, Culley

The Ravens and new general manager Eric DeCosta aren’t expected to make a decision on the fate of quarterback Joe Flacco until March, as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes. The new league year begins in roughly six weeks, and while no trade can be made official until then, Baltimore could agree to deal Flacco to another club before the 2019 league year gets underway. Any pre-June 1 release or trade of Flacco will leave the Ravens with $16MM in dead money; a move after June 1 would put $8MM in dead money on Baltimore’s 2019 books and the same amount on their 2020 cap. In a PFR poll earlier this week, 71% of voters believed the Ravens will be able to find a trade partner for Flacco.

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • Linebacker C.J. Mosley is perhaps the Ravens’ most important pending free agent, and DeCosta told reporters he “believe[s] in [his] heart” that Mosley will return in 2019, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Mosley, who has missed only two games during his five-year run in Baltimore, graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 22 linebacker in 2019. He’s reportedly begun contract talks with the Ravens, but head coach John Harbaugh admitted there are “limitations with money.” Luke Kuechly currently tops the inside linebacker market with a $12.4MM annual salary, while the second tier of the position sits between $10MM and $10.75MM.
  • DeCosta didn’t sound as positive when discussing the possibility of re-signing edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, tweets Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. “We don’t know what Za’Darius’ market is going to be,” said DeCosta. “He had a really nice year. Typically, the market is usually out of control for those guys, initially out of the gate.” Smith, 26, played the most defensive snaps of his career in 2019, managing 8.5 sacks in the process.
  • The Ravens have hired former Bills quarterbacks coach David Culley as assistant head coach/wide receivers/passing game coordinator, Baltimore announced this week. Culley’s addition will complete the Ravens’ offensive staff overhaul, which began when new offensive coordinator Greg Roman was promoted to take the place of Marty Mornhinweg, who rejected another position inside the organization. Culley, 63, overlapped with Ravens head coach Harbaugh on Andy Reid‘s Eagles staff, serving as Philadelphia’s wide receivers coach while Harbaugh led the club’s special teams and defensive backs

Poll: Will The Ravens Trade Joe Flacco?

The Ravens have their quarterback of the present and future in Lamar Jackson, but questions remain about their franchise QB of the past. The Ravens want to trade Joe Flacco in order to recoup something for the one-time Super Bowl champion, and they’re confident they can get a solid return, but not everyone in the football world is convinced.

At the end of the day, if I was picking what would happen, I would say that he will be released,” said former NFL GM Charley Casserly told Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. “I have a hard time believing somebody is going to trade for that contract with the uncertainty of Joe this late in his career.

Even with the dearth of quality QBs out there, there’s no doubt about it – Flacco’s contract is an issue. He has three years and $63MM to go on a deal that has no guaranteed money remaining, but still calls for a substantial cap number in 2019.

You have to take on the $18.5MM to make the trade, unless the Ravens are willing to eat more salary to facilitate a trade,” former agent Joel Corry told Zrebiec. “You’re going to have to really want to get rid of the guy and get a draft pick to start eating salary.”

On the plus side, there are potential suitors for 34-year-old. The Jaguars are reportedly mulling a Flacco trade, the Redskins probably need a QB to fill in for Alex Smith this year, and clubs like the Dolphins, Panthers, Broncos may or may not be in the QB market depending on how things break. And, this year’s free agent crop is no hot shakes outside of Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater. In theory, these teams and others could wait to see whether Flacco is released outright, but that might not be a gamble worth taking.

Ultimately, do you think the Ravens will find a trade for Flacco? Cast your vote here and back up your choice in the comment section below (poll link for app users):

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Harbaugh’s Role Won’t Change With New GM

It was rumored that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wanted to have final say on personnel decisions with the team moving from Ozzie Newsome to Eric DeCosta as general manager in 2019. The coach dispelled those rumors, however, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweets

“It works the same way, except now Eric is in the seat. Eric is the decision-maker, and he’ll be the guy making that final call, and he’ll also be the guy that will be building from the ground up.”

It took a few days to announce Harbaugh’s new contract, leading some to think the team’s longtime head coach was searching for more of a say in the team’s front office. However, he is not starting from scratch with DeCosta. The two have been in the organization since Harbaugh arrived, with DeCosta even beginning his tenure with the team in 1996. Though he won’t have “final say,” Harbaugh harped on the organization’s excellent communication.

“This is an organization that works together. We cross paths and we talk everything out – football, scouting, medical, weight strength and conditioning, everything you can think of. To me, it doesn’t matter who has what say over what. It’s never been about that here.”

Earlier in the week, Harbaugh signed a four-year extension that will keep him in Baltimore through the 2019 campaign. Before putting ink to paper, the longtime coach had one year remaining on his deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Want Yanda, Weddle To Return

Count head coach John Harbaugh among those who’d like a pair of veteran Pro Bowlers to return to the Ravens next season. Harbaugh told reporters that he’s hoping offensive lineman Marshal Yanda and safety Eric Weddle will be back in 2019.

“Unless something changes along the way, they will be back,” he said (via Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun). “We have talked about all those things, but no decisions have been made. One thing you learn about this whole building a roster around the National Football League and working around the [salary] cap is that no decision stands on its own feet. It’s not sequential, either. It’s not this, then this, then this. It all happens together at once.”

Harbaugh notes that general manager Eric DeCosta and executive Ozzie Newsome are also open to welcoming back the duo.

Weddle, 34, was named to his sixth Pro Bowl this season after compiling 68 tackles, one sack, and three passes defended. Following Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Chargers, the veteran said he’d either be returning to the Ravens or retiring. However, this past week, Weddle changed course, indicating that he’d be open to playing for another team. The defensive back has one year remaining on his contract, and he’ll carry a $8.25MM cap hit. The organization could clear up $6.5MM in space by cutting the veteran.

Yanda made his seventh-career Pro Bowl this season after starting all 16 games for the Ravens. The 34-year-old has spent his entire 12-year career in Baltimore, and the veteran still has another year on his contract. However, the veteran still hasn’t publicly committed to playing in 2019. The Ravens have committed some of their draft choices to offensive linemen in recent years, including using three picks in the 2018 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Injury Updates

  • Recently extended Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media today, and provided updates on several injured players, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Harbaugh said guard Alex Lewis, who recently underwent shoulder surgery, should be back by training camp, and that safety Tony Jefferson, linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Tavon Young would all be out around 4-6 more weeks, putting them on track for OTA’s.