With virtually all the rest of the sports world shut down by the coronavirus, the NFL marched ahead with the beginning of its so-called free-agency tampering period March 16 despite some criticism, including within the league. (NBC’s Peter King reported that one GM told him that, “It’s arrogant. It looks gross. We need to chill out for a while. The optics of it are going to be awful.”)
As of noon March 16, pending free agents could begin negotiations with other teams, and contracts can formally be signed when the new league year begins March 18. Teams also have other housekeeping items to take care of before the new league year begins, including the tendering of restricted free agents.
The first unofficial day of free agency indeed was a busy day for the Ravens. Here is what transpired for the Ravens March 16:
TE HAYDEN HURST TRADED
The Ravens have agreed to a trade that will send tight end Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons. In return for Hurst and a fourth-round draft pick, the Ravens will receive second- and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft.
Hurst, the Ravens first pick in the 2018 draft, was slowed by a foot injury in his rookie season and fell well behind Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews on the Ravens’ depth chart. Hurst finished this past season with 30 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns, and totaled 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Ravens.
Although Andrews is the clear No. 1 tight end, the move leaves the Ravens with a significant void in its offense. Hurst played 41 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps and he, Andrews and Boyle all played significant roles in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s system, which relies heavily on tight ends.
DL MICHAEL BROCKERS SIGNED
NFL Network reported that the Ravens had worked out a deal to sign former Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers to a three-year, $30 million free-agent deal.
The Ravens’ front seven was considered one of the most pressing needs of the offseason, and in the past two days the Ravens traded for defensive end Calais Campbell and now have reportedly agreed to a deal with Brockers.
Brockers, 29, has played the past eight seasons for the Rams after they made him the No. 14 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Brockers had 63 tackles and three sacks this past year, and he has been durable, playing all but three games during the past seven seasons.
The signing of Brockers means the Ravens will be moving on from free-agent defensive tackle Michael Pierce, which was seen as likely anyway.
C MATT SKURA GETS LOW-ROUND TENDER
Center Matt Skura, a restricted free agent, received an original-round tender from the Ravens, which is worth about $2.1 million but means he could be signed away by another team with the Ravens getting nothing in return.
The Ravens could have given Skura a second-round tender, worth about $3.2 million, and then would have received a second-round draft pick if he were signed away. Since Skura was undrafted out of Duke, there will be no draft pick attached as compensation if he is signed by another team.
Skura started the first 11 games last year before tearing multiple ligaments in his knee at the Los Angeles Rams in November. He had surgery shortly thereafter. Skura was at Marshal Yanda’s retirement news conference March 11 and said his rehabilitation is going well. He is still eyeing a return to the field during training camp.
OL JAMES HURST CUT
The Ravens released veteran offensive lineman James Hurst, which clears about $2.75 million in cap space. Hurst was staring at a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, which certainly didn’t help his roster status.
Hurst, 28, has been something of a utility offensive lineman during his six NFL seasons, making 19 starts at left guard, 16 and left tackle, seven at right tackle and two as an extra tight end in jumbo packages. This past season, Hurst played in all 16 games with two starts at left tackle.
Hurst originally made the Ravens as an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina in 2014. After starting all 16 games in 2017, Hurst signed a four-year, $17.5 million extension with the Ravens on the eve of free agency in 2018.
STILL TO COME: BRANDON CARR OPTION
The Ravens have to decide by the start of the new league year March 18 whether to pick up the option on Brandon Carr’s contract. The veteran defensive back is due a $7 million salary, and the Ravens will free $6 million in cap space if he is not retained.
If he returns, Carr figures to be a backup at both cornerback and safety, which is why the Ravens might choose to use that $6 million elsewhere. Of course, Carr coming back later on a cheaper deal would not be ruled out, but the veteran would become a free agent and could take his streak of 192 consecutive starts elsewhere.