Time to wipe the board clean. The wounds of the 2011 Ravens may still be fresh, but the seconds are already ticking away until the 2012 Ravens break training camp. While the number of free agent decisions the team needs to make might be minimal in quantity, the re-signing or lack thereof by some key pieces may affect the puzzle greatly. Matt Lund and I broke down every potential new deal and decision not to renew.
RB Ray Rice (25)
D: If a long-term deal is inevitable for Rice, I’d be happy if the Ravens took care of it now rather than franchising him and waiting a year. I don’t love long-term deals for backs as it obviously exposes the team to much more risk than most positions. Whatever you gotta do, Keep.
M: Absolute no-brainer. It would be in the Ravens best interest to sign Rice to a long-term deal to avoid the hassle of franchising him and also having both he and Joe Flacco as impending free agents in 2013. The guy is your workhorse, and led the NFL in yards from scrimmage this season. He’s worth every penny. Keep.
RB Matt Lawrence (26) – RFA
D: Spent 2011 on the IR with a concussion. A crowded backfield means the Ravens probably wouldn’t match another team’s offer on Lawrence, which is fine with me. I’d like to see more of 2011 draft choice Anthony Allen. Dump.
M: Didn’t see the field at all in 2011, spending the season on IR. The Ravens should move on and give last year’s 7th round pick, Anthony Allen his shot. I think Allen has some big upside. Dump.
TE Kris Wilson (30)
D: While it seems Dennis Pitta has shed the “A” from his “1A-1B” depth chart position over Ed Dickson, Wilson was the clear no. 3 and only made an impact in limited spots. It’s a very strong free agent class at tight end, and if the Ravens feel they need another “name” on the roster, I’d like to see them go for a reliable veteran blocker. Dump.
M: Wilson is a veteran who saw action in 14 games this season, but didn’t catch a pass in the regular season. His lone catch in the playoffs was a touchdown against the Houston Texans, but his job was mainly to block. Dennis Pitta is now the Ravens go-to-guy at tight end and Ed Dickson is worked in the mix too. The Ravens can find another veteran blocker because there’s a ton of free agents at that position. Dump.
SS Tom Zbikowski (26)
D: This is Jim Leonhard all over again. Fan-favorite, scrappy defensive back who contributes on special teams. My gut is, like Leonhard, it will be too pricey to keep Zbikowski around for what he contributes. Which is fine with me. The team needs to start developing long-term every down talent at safety. Dump.
M: Tom Zbikowski is a professional boxer. He’s also a hard-nosed defensive back who fits right into the Ravens style of play. He does a nice job on special teams and doesn’t hurt the Ravens defensively when he’s in there. If the Ravens can come to terms on some figures that make sense for both sides, they should definitely bring back “Zibby”. The Ravens should look to solidify the safety position in the draft however. Keep.
FS Haruki Nakamura (25)
D: Less involved in 2011 than he was in 2010, but the team needs some continuation in the deep secondary. With Ed Reed’s status ever questionable, I believe the team needs to re-sign Nakamura. Keep.
M: Ed Reed isn’t ready to retire just yet and Haruki isn’t banging down the door ready to take his starting spot. He’s been healthy the last two seasons, and has been a contributor to special teams, but not enough to warrant the Ravens re-signing him. There’s some names in the free agent market to look at as backup for Reed. Dump.
CB Chris Carr (28)
D: Missed seven games due to injury. Beat more times than he should’ve been in coverage. Special teams play no better than Lardarius Webb? I think the team will agree that’s a Dump.
M: Only played in seven games this season. Was a non-factor when out on the field, and didn’t contribute to special teams. The Ravens can find better depth in the free agent market. Dump.
CB Lardarius Webb (26) – RFA
D: No-brainer. Webb will draw other offers but the Ravens should match almost any tender for Webb. Keep.
M: Lardarius is completely back from his knee injury suffered late in the 2009 season, and showed his ability being a pro-bowl level corner back this season. He led the team with five interceptions and played well against bigger and physical receivers. There’s no way the Ravens are going to let this guy go to another team, therefore its a major Keep.
CB Cary Williams (27) – RFA
D: The “other” small school wonder that ended up starting in the playoffs for Baltimore. If Dominique Foxworth isn’t healthy enough to make a legitimate comeback from his ACL injury, the team will be extremely thin on the outside without Williams. To me he’s a Keep.
M: The Washburn college grad surprised everyone by making the team out of camp again, and played well enough throughout the season starting all 16 games. To me the Ravens need Williams in the starting lineup, he matches well with some of the better wide receivers the Ravens face each week. You keep it consistent, so you Keep Cary.
LG Ben Grubbs (27)
D: Versatile and stout, the o-line was much worse without Grubbs as a part of it. With Matt Birk’s retirement in question, the team needs Grubbs’ stability. It’ll be a pricey Keep.
M: If the Ravens have money left over, assuming they sign Ray Rice to a long-term deal, this guy is next in line for a deal. As Dave mentioned, the line is better with him and continuity is the name of the game right now. Without his price tag becoming exorbitant, hopefully the Ravens match other teams knocking at the door of Mr. Grubbs. Keep.
C Matt Birk (35)
D: A consummate pro who definitely has played injured for long stretches of 2010 and 2011. Best for both parties if he retires now. Dump.
M: Birk was a solid signing for the Ravens in 2009 but battled through the last two seasons with nagging injuries. Up the middle, the line needs to get younger and unfortunately Birk isn’t getting any younger. Finding the long-term replacement could be found in this year’s draft. Dump.
C Andre Gurode (32)
D: The price tag on Birk and Gurode was identical in ’11 but three years younger and with the ability to play guard, Gurode may command more. Baltimore needs to keep the veteran on the line and develop a long-term plan at center via the draft. Keep.
M: After being cut by the Dallas Cowboys, Gurode was signed and provided adequate backup at both center and guard. At this point the 32-year old provides solid depth on the line and a fallback plan should the Ravens not find a center either via FA or in this year’s draft. Keep.
DE Cory Redding (31)
D: It’s hard to argue against a player coming off such a quietly productive season (4.5 sacks, 2 tipped passes and 43 tackles in 15 games). Again it will come down to finding a reasonable price tag for the veteran Redding, who is being pushed, but not shoved, by Pernell McPhee. Keep.
M: Redding had perhaps his best season since playing with the Detroit Lions in 2006 when he recorded eight sacks. He was great as a run stuffer in the middle with Haloti Ngata and has become a leader on the defensive side of the ball. There’s some young talent behind him, but I think the Ravens try hard to make sure he doesn’t walk. Keep.
NT Brandon McKinney (28)
D: Used sparingly due to Terrence Cody’s improvement, McKinney was too costly for what he contributed. At the same cap hit (the $1.5-$2M range), there are a plethora of behemoths on the FA market to back up Cody. Dump.
M: McKinney played in 11 games this season for the Ravens as Terrence Cody surpassed him on the depth chart. I think he’s adequate depth, but the Ravens can find better. Dump.
OLB Jarret Johnson (30)
D: Johnson is probably in for a bigger payday than many fans expect. Consistent, perpetually healthy, an under-appreciated staple of the defense. Keep.
M: Jarret has been one of the more steady, underrated contributors of the Ravens defense the last seven seasons, and has played every game since the 2007 season. But his production has slipped the last two seasons and with him being 31 on Opening Day, the youth behind him are ready for their shots. Plus, the type of production in relation to the money he’ll probably get on the market may be too much for the Ravens with other areas needing attention. Dump.
ILB Jameel McClain (26)
D: Is he the next Ray Lewis? Of course not. Is he sorely needed up the middle? Absolutely. Keep.
M: In his second full season as a starter, McClain played in all 16 games and finished the season with 84 tackles and an interception. He showed at times he could be the heir apparent to Ray Lewis at middle linebacker. His tackling improved and he was a leader on the field in the absence of Lewis. Keep.
OLB Edgar Jones (27)
D: Special teamer and a steady enough player who has been on and off the team since 2007, I would only be comfortable in the team signing him if they were sure he’d make the rotation in September. Dump.
M: Edgar Jones has come a long way from the days of being a tight end. He’s been a solid contributor to special teams, where he primarily sees action. The guy loves to hit opposing players and with a special teams unit that was shaky, I think he sticks around. I’d bring back Jones for a much lower deal though. Up to the Ravens on how much he’s worth. I’d Keep.
ILB Brendon Ayanbadejo (35)
D: If you’re worried about an over-35 All-World linebacker losing a step, how do you feel about an over-35 journeyman linebacker? He’s a tough, well-liked player, but being any higher number four on the ILB depth chart of a 3-4 scheme makes me nervous. If he gives the hometown discount (no more than $900k), why not let him retire as a Raven? Keep.
M: Brendon Ayanbadejo is the heart and soul of the Ravens special teams unit and this season actually saw more time on the field in passing situations. As long as he isn’t being counted on to start at linebacker for the Ravens, then he is a guy that definitely should be re-signed and play out his final years in Baltimore. Keep.
ILB Dannell Ellerbe (26) – RFA
D: There seems to a phenomenon where everyone who steps in for an injured middle linebacker on the Ravens gets praise simply for not looking exceptionally bad compared to Lewis. Ellerbe was good when he got a chance but did not blow me away. I’d make him an offer, but not match if anyone else had their heart set on him. Dump.
M: Ellerbe saw the field mostly while Ray Lewis was out with his turf toe injury, starting in three straight games. He has talent, but missed too many tackles, especially for an inside linebacker. I do think the Ravens will look to upgrade at linebacker in the draft, but I find it hard to believe they’ll let Ellerbe go. His tackling must improve this season, especially in the open field. Keep.
Leave your own Keep/Dump calls for us in the comments!