Happy Valentine’s Day to all BSR readers.
Just like “Cupid” strikes with arrows, the “Football Cupid” is looking to shoot some arrows at perspective free agents on the market that can help the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
The Ravens may not make a splash in free agency this offseason like the last one – some of their own will hit the market and test the waters. They’ll also need to be careful with the cap number for 2014 because of some hefty contracts still on the books.
According to Brian McFarland of RussellStreetReport.com, the team will have roughly $14.5M in cap space, but that the “number is for the 37 players currently under contract in 2014.”
Here are some free agents that I think could attract the Ravens front office this offseason.
(Note: The list of free agents are in no particular order of ranking.)
1. Dennis Pitta: TE – Baltimore Ravens
Pitta returned from a very serious hip injury in training camp to catch 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in four games this past season. The injury was a costly setback for Pitta as he was in line for a nice pay day. Now the Ravens will look to keep his services around in 2014 to see if he has fully recovered from the injury.
The sure-handed tight end is an unrestricted free agent and will be free to sign with any NFL team if the Ravens do not re-sign him when the free agency period begins 4:00 PM on March 11th. It’s possible the Ravens look to place the franchise tag on Pitta which would lock in Joe Flacco‘s favorite target and best buddy on the team.
2. Branden Albert: LT – Kansas City Chiefs
The Ravens want to improve the offensive line overall, and if the team fails to extend Eugene Monroe in a deal, then Albert may be someone the team looks at for the right price. The 316-pound tackle played high school football at Glen Burnie High School in Maryland and has started 83 of 85 career games in his six seasons in Kansas City.
Albert is strong in pass protection, but some view his run-block protection as slightly average and the Ravens need to get better there. His penchant for penalties is worrisome; according to Ty Schalter via Pro Football Focus, he ranked 25th in penalty grades in 2013, making him the second-worst qualifying left tackle in football.
Can the Ravens do better than signing Albert? Yes. Just look at the next name on the list. He’ll command a lot of money and could be the top tackle targeted by a handful of teams. According to the Palm Beach Post, Albert will be looking for money in the range of $8-$9 million per season. With such uncertainty on the line however, the Ravens would love to find someone to protect Joe Flacco’s blind side.
3. Eugene Monroe: LT – Baltimore Ravens
Albert, while a top target this off-season, may price himself out of the range for the Baltimore Ravens. And you may say, “Matt, these guys aren’t free agents on other teams,” and you’re correct, but they are still free agents nonetheless. Monroe is a player that the Ravens would love to have back under a long-term deal.
Monroe was shipped to the Ravens in October from the Jacksonville Jaguars and played reasonably well on the left side for Baltimore. The Ravens will be giving the Jaguars fourth-and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft, so the investment in retaining him is top priority.
Because of the team being so close to their cap for the ’14 season, they’ll need to do some maneuvering of contracts to keep Monroe in purple and black. If they sign Dennis Pitta to a cap-friendly deal, Monroe could be in line for a nice contract from the Ravens.
The offensive line was so bad this year that Pro Football Focus graded him the highest ranked offensive lineman of the bunch and he only played 11 games with the team. He transitioned well into the Ravens style of blocking, moves his feet well and is an athletic lineman which the team loves. He was solid in both pass and run blocking and the team would benefit from some carryover and consistency in 2014 with Monroe blocking on the left side.
4. James Jones: WR – Green Bay Packers
The team will look to upgrade at this position for depth because no one stepped up to fill the void of losing Anquan Boldin after he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after the 2012 season.
The need for a big-body, possession receiver is something the Ravens will look at as they try to make the offense more explosive under new coordinator Gary Kubiak. Jones will turn 30 in March, so age isn’t on his side. He did catch 14 touchdown passes in 2012 with Aaron Rodgers slinging the pigskin in Green Bay. Jones posted his best yardage output of his career (817) last season.
Torrey Smith saw more double teams as the 2013 season progressed because there wasn’t a threat on the opposite side of the field to free him. Jones can work underneath but also stretch the field too; he averaged nearly 14 yards per reception last season.
He’s a guy who can be a complementary piece as Joe Flacco can benefit from veterans who catch the football and that can go a long way in making the offense more potent in 2014.
5. Robert Meachem: WR- New Orleans Saints
Another name of interest is Meachem who possesses good size (6’2″, 214 lbs) and decent hands, spending six of his seven pro seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
He never established himself as a top receiver with Marques Colston and the emergence of Jimmy Graham in the Saints offense, but a new home could showcase his skills, breaking away from Drew Brees. Meachem did haul in 25 touchdowns during his time with the Saints. His one season with the San Diego Chargers didn’t pan out after signing a huge contract (four-years, $25.9M) catching two touchdowns and being released thereafter.
The Ravens have to feel great about Marlon Brown‘s ascension in his rookie season, but can guys like Aaron Mellette and Deonte Thompson take that next step? If the team isn’t sure, Meachem would be intriguing in a one or two-year deal as a slot option and possession receiver for Flacco.
6. Scott Chandler: TE – Buffalo Bills
If the Ravens don’t re-sign Pitta, or even if they do, Chandler is someone the Ravens can look at to add depth to the tight end position. With Ed Dickson also an un-restricted free agent, the position is unsettled. Chandler brings size at 6’7″, 270 pounds and a huge red-zone target for an offense that struggled mightily there last season.
He’s come into his own the last three seasons in Buffalo, posting six touchdowns each in 2011 and 2012. He started seven games last season and posted career highs in catches and yards. Chandler would be viewed as depth and another complimentary piece in this Ravens offense, but could be an excellent fallback should the Ravens fail to sign their UFA TE’s.
7. Stevie Brown: S – New York Giants
If the Ravens fail to re-sign James Ihedigbo, and the New York Giants do not come to terms with Brown, this very well could be a “Daryl Smith-type move” that can help the team in 2014 from the strong safety position at a reasonable price.
He is coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him for the entire 2013 season, but will only be 27 years of age this season. What is intriguing about Brown is his ability to get after the football; he recorded eight interceptions in 2012 which led the team. He has the size you want for the position and can be an immediate upgrade in the secondary and will attempt to show that his skills have not diminished coming off a major injury.