The Baltimore Ravens lost an elite guard last year when Kelechi Osemele signed a record-breaking deal with the Oakland Raiders. It was a significant loss, but less so after a solid season from rookie fourth round pick Alex Lewis, who has drawn praise for perhaps even being more consistent last year than top pick Ronnie Stanley.
The Ravens had little choice but to let Osemele leave after having signed Marshal Yanda to a four-year, $31.9 million deal in October of 2015. You just can’t pay your guards a combined $23.5 million, as they would have to be doing in 2017 if they matched the Raiders offer to Osemele. Luckily for them, Lewis may have a bright future at guard (or tackle), but unfortunately they might have to say goodbye to another very good offensive lineman, which means they’re going to have to hope for diamond in the draft. Will the Seattle Seahawks swoop in and actually made a big free agent signing on the o-line, or is it just going to be a new source of false hope?
Impending Free Agents
Ricky Wagner, RT
Wagner is not as good as Osemele, but he is only 27 and may be only scratching the surface of his potential. A fifth round pick out of Wisconsin in 2013 (he was Russell Wilson’s left tackle in 2011), Wagner has been the Ravens’ right tackle since 2014. If the Seahawks signed him, it would surely be as a right tackle, though the argument at left tackle could certainly be made. He may also be available when March 9 hits, as Baltimore’s first offer was reportedly rejected.
Ravens made an early attempt to get RT Ricky Wagner re-signed. Initial offer was rebuffed. He and Brandon Williams two FAs they want to keep— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 13, 2017
The highest-paid right tackle in the NFL is Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles, but his $11.25 million AAV is an insane $4.5 million more than second-place Bryan Bulaga of the Green Bay Packers. Even if the Eagles plan to move Johnson to left tackle when Jason Peters is released or retires (which may not come any time soon) this is a stupid contract and should not be considered.
In this case, Wagner’s agent probably wants to make him the highest-paid non-Johnson right tackle in the league, which sets the high bar around $7 million per season. The New England Patriots signed Marcus Cannon to a five-year, $32.5 million extension in November, with $14.5 million in total guarantees. I expect Wagner to be “settling” for a deal that’s like five years and $33 million or something. And that’s if he’s signed with the expectation of playing on the right side. What if Seattle wanted him to play on the left side?
Because on the left side, 20 players make more than $7 million per year. Wagner probably stays on the right side and gets paid a right tackle salary. In that case, I’m sure the Seahawks could at least entertain the thought. On the left side, they just don’t seem to be interested in paying a premier (or even average) left tackle salary to any player.
My guess is that Wagner leaves Baltimore and gets that Cannon-sized contract somewhere besides Seattle.
Kamar Aiken, WR
The Seahawks are reportedly very interested in Aiken. He’s got good size and athleticism but disappeared last season when Baltimore’s better receivers returned to form. Does Seattle really want to spend millions on a potential number four receiver? It depends on what they do with Jermaine Kearse.
Vladimir Ducasse, OG
The 29-year-old Haitian guard was a second round pick by the New York Jets in 2009 but has bounced around the NFL for the last four years, making a handful of spot starts with four different teams. He’s massive but nobody seems to be interested in keeping him around for long, he may not have the agility, quickness, and awareness to be a full-time starter. Perfect for the Seahawks.
Brandon Williams, DT
The aforementioned (by La Canfora) priority for the Ravens, Williams has been a massive force in the middle of Baltimore’s defensive line since 2014. A third round pick in 2013, Williams could get a deal on par with the five-year, $46.25 million contract signed by Damon Harrison last year. If the Ravens keep anyone, it’s probably Williams. They don’t want to get weaker on run defense, which was one of their only strengths last season. He’s not a match for Seattle, if only because of need and price.
Kyle Juszczyk, FB
Here’s what Kyle Barber of BaltimoreBeatdown.com had to say about him:
“Juice is best fullback in the NFL. For a fullback, he's a great route-runner, great hands, and refuses to go down. Good at passblocking and and short yard situations.”
The highest-paid fullback is Anthony Sherman of the Kansas City Chiefs, hauling in $2.1 million per season. Almost any team could afford that. I see how Pete Carroll would target “the best fullback in the NFL” but maybe he’d prefer to try the draft route and get one for $400-$600,000 per season instead. It will be interesting to see where he goes and for how much. He’s carried the ball only seven times in his career, but has caught 97 passes and made the Pro Bowl last season.
Others: QB Ryan Mallett, DE Lawrence Guy, S Anthony Levine, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, S Matt Elam, CB Jerraud Powers
Potential Cap Casualties
Dennis Pitta, TE - Save $5.5 million with post-June 1 cut
Lardarius Webb, CB - Save $5.5 million with release
The Ravens currently have $14.8 million in cap space, per OvertheCap.com. I expect that to move to $18.9 million once they release tight end Ben Watson and cornerback Kyle Arrington. That still may not be enough if they want to keep either Wagner or Williams, and definitely not enough if they want to keep both and “Juice,” so another decision may have to be made with both of these local favorites.
Pitta signed a five-year, $32 million deal in 2014 despite missing 13 games the season prior. He missed 12 games in the first year of his new deal and then all of 2015. That’s 28 of a possible 32 games missed. However, Pitta played in all 16 games last season, catching 86 passes for 729 yards but only two touchdowns. He’s due to make $7.7 million in each of the next two seasons, which is probably inconsistent with how much actual value he currently brings to the field.
Barber describes Webb as a “coaches favorite” but thinks they may still cut Webb if they can find a cheaper option at safety. Neither really fits in Seattle, as Webb could just be Cary Williams 2.0 if released and then signed by the Seahawks.
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