What are the Ravens going to do in free agency?
You know what’s weird, they haven’t sent me the script for the week. But if I had to guess, I’d say they PROBABLY won’t give $35 million to Kirk Cousins.
Still, I feel qualified enough to offer a Ravens free agency preview. Well, specifically a preview of how we’re going to react to Ravens free agency. Here are five tweets I’m confident we’re going to send during this first week of the NFL’s new year.
1. “DID ANYONE TELL THE RAVENS THAT FREE AGENCY BEGAN TODAY????”
It’s inevitable, right? With legal tampering starting March 14 and the league year officially starting March 16, we’re going to start hearing about agreements being made and signings becoming official and the Ravens … well, they may not be the most active team in the initial part of the week.
It’s not as if the Ravens have never made a move early in the process, it’s just that fans have regularly felt like they were waking up on Christmas morning without anything under the tree. We shouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this year, but we’ll almost certainly react strongly anyway. Our friends are getting Nintendo 64’s and shiny new POG slammers and our collective parents are just like “you don’t need a new J.C. Jackson, you have a J.C. Jackson at home.”
2. “Why in the hell do they care so much about compensatory picks anyway?”
This is definitely a tweet I have sent. As we are well aware, the Ravens have a tendency to prioritize players who were released by their previous team (rather than true free agents) in order to protect their compensatory pick formula. The strategy looked brilliant a year ago, as they picked up Kevin Zeitler (who was somehow even better than advertised) and still have NINE picks in the first four rounds of this year’s NFL Draft.
And yes, while the sheer percentages show that the Ravens have had far more compensatory picks go on to become complete non-factors than Pro Bowlers, many have panned out quite well!
Edwin Mulitalo, Ovie Mughelli, Sam Koch, Le’Ron McClain, Pernell McPhee, Kyle Juszczyk, Ryan Jensen, Nick Boyle and Bradley Bozeman were all taken with compensatory picks in various rounds, and there is reason to think Brandon Stephens could be a name to add to that list in the coming years.
Is that list definitive proof that the Ravens’ record haul of comp picks throughout the years justifies their decisions to often pass on top free agents? Of course not. And I’ll always argue that the team’s priority should be signing players who best complete a roster rather than acquiring more picks. There is next to no chance that nine players drafted in the top four rounds would all make the roster next year anyway.
But the evidence is there to suggest the strategy at least has merit.
3. “That much money for _? Glad it wasn’t the Ravens.”
The rationalizing phase of free agency always fascinates me. This is a tweet that we’ll send just as quickly for a truly exceptional free agent as we will for a player who receives a contract that the whole world agrees is a head-scratcher.
For example, Pro Football Focus suggests that free-agent edge rusher Chandler Jones, one of the top players available on the market, will sign a two year, $33.5 million deal. Despite the fact that many Ravens fans would very much like to see the team sign the younger brother of former Raven Arthur Jones, if he signs that deal in, say, Miami, there will be no shortage of us who say, “I like him, but that’s a lot of money for a guy who only had 5.5 sacks after Week 1 last year.”
Jaguars receiver DJ Chark is projected to get a two-year, $25 million deal by PFF, and when the Browns sign him to line up across from Amari Cooper (hypothetically) for three years and $40 million, we’re going to line up the absolute dankest memes to skewer them, conveniently forgetting that we know a team who once tried to give four years and $29 million to likely future USFL receiver Ryan Grant.
4. “I can’t believe the rest of the league let __ go to the Ravens.”
This one is a little more common during the draft, but you see it plenty during the offseason too. Zeitler was the example last year, with players like Calais Campbell and Eric Weddle and, welp, Earl Thomas having filled the role in years past.
Inevitably, the Ravens have a knack of having a player fall into their lap who you just look at and say, “Yeah, that guy was just supposed to be a Raven.” I would have used Zach Ertz as a potential example of that kind of guy who was available had he not gotten a new deal done with the Cardinals. Maybe Duane Brown could be that guy? It just feels like there has to be someone we’re not thinking about right now that ends up being a TOTALLY obvious choice when they end up in purple and black.
5. “Look, we all know the draft and the second phase of free agency are what are important to the Ravens anyway.”
It’s not just the guys like Justin Houston who they’ll try to wait out and sign once the compensatory formula is no longer a part of the equation. It’s the guys who are probably available for some reason after the draft is over and the team needs to fill a hole, like (gulp again) Alejandro Villanueva a year ago.
The sentiment in No. 5 is as true as it is terrifying. The Ravens probably won’t be landing Tyrann Mathieu. And while Bobby Wagner fits their formula, I still bet against the Ravens coming away with any player that might be part of a bidding war. When it becomes clear their significant moves have been made, we’ll send this tweet. And we’ll be right!
But the reality is that they just might not be able to fill all of their roster holes before the season begins. They might well be scrambling to find a T.J. Houshmandzadeh in August or a Josh Bynes in September. Some of their last-ditch moves might work. Most of them likely won’t. But their 2022 season will almost certainly be defined by the players they already have and whether they can find any truly special players in the draft.
Enjoy the New Year. Happy Tweeting.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox