Baltimore Ravens Rumors & News

Ravens May Release TE Dennis Pitta

Last season, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta made a remarkable comeback and turned in his first full season since 2012. Even though he hauled in a career-high 86 catches, the Ravens could cut him loose rather than pay him $5.5MM in 2017, sources tell Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Dennis Pitta

In theory, the two sides could work a restructured deal, but that’s a concession Pitta already made one year ago. Under the terms of his reworked contract, Pitta’s salary was cut from $5MM to $1MM, but the Ravens added $3MM in incentives to help bridge the gap. When he turned in his best season to date, Pitta maxed out his potential earnings by recording more than 60 catches and appearing in at least 50% of the team’s snaps. It’s not clear whether the two sides have discussed altering Pitta’s deal again or if the veteran would be open to an adjustment.

Pitta signed a five-year, $32MM contract with the Ravens in February of 2014, a gutsy move considering that he missed most of 2013 with hip issues. Years later, Pitta is healthy and producing again, but his price tag could be too rich for the Ravens’ blood.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 3 Offseason Needs: Baltimore Ravens

In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Baltimore Ravens, who have now missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the John Harbaugh era. Despite calls for their dismissal, Harbaugh and his top assistants will be back in 2017 in what will likely be a do-or-die year for them. There is enough of a foundation for the club to make a playoff push in 2017, but they will need to have a strong offseason in order to return to the postseason.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits For 2017:

  1. Joe Flacco, QB: $24,550,000
  2. Jimmy Smith, CB: $12,600,00
  3. Marshal Yanda, G: $9,125,220
  4. Elvis Dumervil, LB: $8,375,000
  5. Mike Wallace: $8,000,000
  6. Dennis Pitta: $7,700,000
  7. Lardarius Webb, S: $7,500,000
  8. Terrell Suggs, LB: $6,950,0000
  9. Eric Weddle, S: $5,750,000
  10. Shareece Wright, CB: $5,333,333

Current Projected Cap Room (via Over the Cap): $15,387,844

Other:

  • Must exercise or decline 2018 fifth-year option for LB C.J. Mosley

Three Needs:

1) Wide Receiver Help: GM Ozzie Newsome’s greatest weakness has been his ability to draft difference-making wide receivers. Breshad Perriman, whom the team selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, missed his entire rookie campaign due to injury, and though he was able to stay healthy throughout the entire 2016 season and showed some flashes of his potential, the jury is decidedly out on the UCF product. As it stands now, ex-Raven Torrey Smith is the best receiver the club has ever drafted, and though he had a productive career in Baltimore, he does not belong in the same conversation as AFC North elites like Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (88) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As such, the team has been forced to rely on acquiring veteran possession receivers on the downside of their careers. Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Derrick Mason all enjoyed some success with the Ravens, and now that Smith has retired and Kamar Aiken appears to be on his way out, Baltimore will likely need to turn to free agency yet again. The market for veteran wideouts is fairly underwhelming, as the Ravens will likely not be in play for the biggest fish in the free agent pool, Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery will probably get a Green-esque contract, and the Ravens simply cannot afford to spend that much (nor is it their practice to make such a splash in free agency).

Pierre Garcon seems like a perfect fit, as he is a quality possession receiver who would nicely complement Perriman and Mike Wallace (the latter of whom has been discussed as a potential cap casualty, though given his production in 2016 and Baltimore’s dearth of receiver talent, it would be shocking if the Ravens were to part ways with Wallace). However, the Redskins would reportedly like to have Garcon back, and even if he does not return to Washington, the Ravens will face stiff competition for his services.

That leaves less appealing options like Kenny Britt and Brandon LaFell, as Terrelle Pryor will likely stay in Cleveland or will be too pricey for the Ravens’ liking, and Kenny Stills’ skill-set is too similar to that of Wallace and Perriman. Of course, the Ravens could always pounce on an intriguing cap casualty like Brandon Marshall — if he is released — or Victor Cruz, though such players come with plenty of question marks.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, who hold the No. 16 overall selection in the 2017 draft, this year’s rookie class of wide receivers is lacking in top-end talent. Clemson’s Mike Williams, the consensus No. 1 wide receiver in the class, has a nice combination of size and speed but could be off the board by the time the Ravens are on the clock. Western Michigan’s Corey Davis or USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster should still be available, with Davis looking like the better all-around prospect (Smith-Schuster projects as a possession receiver at the next level).

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North Notes: Bengals, Smith, Ravens, Vikes

With Cincinnati’s offensive line facing offseason uncertainty, a reunion with former Bengal/current Viking right tackle Andre Smith could make sense for both parties, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines (Twitter links). Smith, whom the Bengals made the sixth overall pick in 2009, played seven seasons in the Queen City before inking a one-year deal with Minnesota last year. If he did rejoin Cincinnati, Smith would slot back in at right tackle, where 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi recently struggled. One problem with such a scenario, per Dehner, would be forcing 2015 second-round pick Jake Fisher — who played well at right tackle last year — to guard, a position he hasn’t played much of in the NFL.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Although Kyle Juszczyk would view a return to the Ravens as “phenomenal,” the veteran fullback would consider other any offers that might be proposed this spring, he tells SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). The 25-year-old Juszczyk led all NFL fullbacks in both offensive snaps (465) and receptions (37) in 2016, although the lack of fullback usage in the league figures to drive down his market. In terms of positional spending, the Chiefs’ Anthony Sherman currently leads all fullbacks with a $2.1MM annual salary. Juszczyk, a former fourth-round pick out of Harvard, will join a free agent fullback class that includes Patrick DiMarco (Falcons), Marcel Reece (Seahawks), and Jerome Felton (Bills).
  • Former Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner has joined the University of Michigan as an offensive analyst, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Turner’s father, Norv, resigned as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator midway through last season, and while Scott was retained to finish out the campaign, he was fired by the Vikings last month. Although Turner had coached in the NFL since 2011, he didn’t have many options around the league if he wanted to continue leading quarterback rooms — the only QB coaching job still available is in Kansas City, per Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy (Twitter link).
  • Cornerback Bene Benwikere‘s one-year deal with the Bengals is worth $690K, the minimum for a player with three years experience, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Still only 25 years old, Benwikere took visits with four other clubs (including the Jets) before signing with Cincinnati. He’ll compete for a spot in the Bengals’ secondary that includes Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III, Josh Shaw, and pending free agent Dre Kirkpatrick.

Marty Mornhinweg Will Coach Ravens' QBs

  • The Ravens will not hire a formal quarterbacks coach for the 2017 season, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will lead the QBs room, while Craig Ver Steeg — whom previous reports had indicated would become Baltimore’s new quarterbacks coach — will remain an offensive assistant.

Ravens Trying To Re-Sign Ricky Wagner

Ravens right tackle Ricky Wagner could be the best soon-to-be free agent bookend in the NFL, but the club is trying to keep him off the open market, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link). While Wagner “rebuffed” the Ravens’ initial offer, the team is motivated to re-up both him and nose tackle Brandon Williams.

Ricky Wagner (featured)

Wagner, whom the Ravens chose in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, is coming off a 14-start season – his third straight campaign with at least that many. Along the way, the 27-year-old ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 18th-best tackle among 78 qualifiers, and he could seek a deal worth around $10MM per annum as a result. That would be a bank-breaking amount for a right tackle, as would the $14.4MM-plus franchise tag, and either route could prove too rich for a Baltimore club which currently only has in the neighborhood of $15MM in spending room.

As for Williams, it has been known since last month that the Ravens are going to make a strong effort to prevent him from hitting free agency March 9. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta called Williams an “‘A’ player” for the Ravens a couple weeks ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Could Pursue Tony Jefferson

  • The Ravens could be suitor for free agent safety Tony Jefferson, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who notes Baltimore “wouldn’t mind pairing” Jefferson with Eric Weddle in the back end. Jefferson, 25, could make sense for a number of teams and is expected to be one of the top safeties available. However, no club signed him to a restricted free agent offer sheet last year when the cost for doing so would have been minimal.

Will Ravens Ask Pitta To Take Pay Cut?

  • Will the Ravens ask Dennis Pitta to take a pay cut after a solid season? He was willing to do it last year because he missed an entire season of action, but it’s not clear if he’ll go for a repeat of that after a quality 2016, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. If the Ravens ask him to take a pay cut and he says no, they could gain $3.3MM by releasing him. There’s also $3MM to be saved if they release Benjamin Watson, but Hensley seems to think they’ll exercise patience and see what they have in the veteran.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Wallace, Browns

Here’s a look at the AFC North:

  • Mike Wallace‘s contract is probably the most difficult cap decision facing the Ravens, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes. After a 1,000-yard season, Wallace is the Ravens’ best receiver and they’re looking thin after Steve Smith‘s retirement and Kamar Aiken heading to free agency. However, Wallace has the fifth-highest cap hit on the team at $8MM and they can save $5.75MM if they drop him. In theory, Wallace could be dropped if the team can get a cheaper possession receiver to put next to speedsters Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore.
  • The Browns shouldn’t rush into a long-term deal with restricted free agent Isaiah Crowell, Tony Grossi of ESPN.com writes. With a first- or second-round tender, the Browns can either retain the young tailback or cash in on a compensatory pick if another team signs him away. Grossi says it would be “stupid” for another team to make that kind of investment in Crowell and I’m inclined to agree. Crowell has skills, but he’s not worth a valuable draft pick in addition to a free agent deal.
  • The Steelers were without defensive end Cam Heyward for the second half of the season but the D-Line actually managed to stepped its game up. Now, as Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, both the starters and reserves are under contract for next season except Ricardo Mathews, who started five games. Now, the unit can grow together for an additional year and that should mean an additional step forward. As for Mathews, the Steelers may not re-sign him after L.T. Walton came on strong to close out the season.

Opinion: Ravens Should Pursue Pierre Garcon

Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon would be a quality free agent pickup for the Ravens, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com argues. The Ravens have a history of success with 30-something WRs (Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr.) and Garcon could nicely complement the speed of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Recently, GM Ozzie Newsome talked about his desire to add a receiver with experience and Garcon fits the bill.

2017 NFL Draft Order Set

With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the offseason is officially underway for all 32 teams. We now have the complete draft order for the entire first round, with one exception which is noted below.

The Patriots, of course, will have the honor of having the last pick. The Falcons, after losing in heartbreaking fashion, will have the penultimate selection in the first round.

Here is the complete order, via ESPN.com’s Field Yates (Twitter links):

1. Browns

2. 49ers

3. Bears

4. Jaguars

5. Titans

6. Jets

7. Chargers

8. Panthers

9. Bengals

10. Bills

11. Saints

12. Browns

13. Cardinals

T-14. Eagles (via the Vikings)

T-14. Colts (Note: The Vikings and Colts have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broke by coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 14 and the other team getting the No. 15 pick.)

16. Ravens

17. Redskins

18. Titans

19. Buccaneers

20. Broncos

21. Lions

22. Dolphins

23. Giants

24. Raiders

25. Texans

26. Seahawks

27. Chiefs

28. Cowboys

29. Packers

30. Steelers

31. Falcons

32. Patriots

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.