Ravens have been quiet in free agent market; possibilities at receiver and cornerback still available
NFL free agency is nearly a week old and there are two teams that have yet to sign a player from outside their organization — the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Ravens have yet to work out a deal with their star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, to whom they issued the nonexclusive franchise tag earlier this month.
Those circumstances are not unrelated.
So far, the Ravens have re-signed five of their 20 free agents this offseason — cornerback Trayvon Mullen, running back Justice Hill, safety Geno Stone, outside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips and long snapper Nick Moore. They have also lost three players to free agency — guard Ben Powers signed with the Denver Broncos; tight end Josh Oliver bolted for the Minnesota Vikings; and center-guard Trystan Colon inked a deal with the New York Jets. Additionally, veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell was released in a cost-cutting move.
As free agency nears the end of its first week, Baltimore has a little more than $7.5 million in salary cap space, according to Over The Cap. Only seven teams have less.
Therein lies the problem: Jackson and his roughly $32.4 million nonexclusive tag is still in limbo, leaving the Ravens hamstrung in terms of maneuverability when it comes to free agency.
Still, there has been some activity.
Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin visited with the Ravens on Friday, according to multiple reports. Monday, current Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey tweeted that free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. “looks like a Raven to me is all I’m saying.” And the team on Monday hosted wide receiver Nelson Agholor, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
Receiver and cornerback are Baltimore’s two biggest areas of need this offseason.
The free agent market for receivers isn’t breathtaking — particularly for what the Ravens could afford. But Humphrey’s tweet shouldn’t be discounted as merely wishful thinking when it comes to Beckham.
Saturday, Beckham seemed to suggest he had received at least one offer in the $4 million range — something he also made clear he’s not interested in. The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots have been linked to the free agent receiver, and both have more cap space than Baltimore, but the Ravens were also among the teams at Beckham’s workout earlier this month as he recovers from a second torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s Super Bowl. Adding Beckham would seemingly be a nice carrot for Jackson as well.
Agholor, meanwhile, would certainly be a cheaper option for the Ravens, with the 29-year-old expected to fetch a one-year deal in the $3 million range. He’s coming off an uneven 2022 season in which he was on the field for just 45% of the Patriots’ snaps, catching 31 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns.
D.J. Chark was once a possibility, but according to NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo, he’s in talks with the Detroit Lions about a return. The Carolina Panthers are also among his suitors.
The best receiver options for the Ravens are probably via trade and/or the draft. The Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, a three-time first-team All-Pro who has six 1,000-yard seasons over the past nine years with at least 100 catches in four of them, is on the trade market but would be costly. And Baltimore has just five picks in next month’s draft.
As for cornerback, Mullen’s re-signing doesn’t give the Ravens enough help.
The Eagles’ Darius Slay certainly would have, but the five-time Pro Bowl selection signed a two-year extension with Philadelphia over the weekend. Ditto James Bradberry, who is returning to Philly on a three-year deal.
Ya-Sin, however, remains one of the best players at any position still available on the free agent market. The 26-year-old, who spent his first three years with the Indianapolis Colts before being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders last March, rates as the fifth-best shutdown corner in the league, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. His projected annual value is also about $10.8 million, per Spotrac.
Another potential move: Baltimore could re-sign Marcus Peters, whose market value is expected to be around $6.4 million.
With not a lot of top-end free agent cornerbacks available, it’s expected the Ravens will also look to the draft. Maryland’s Deonte Banks, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo and South Carolina’s Cam Smith are among those who could be available when the Ravens draft at No. 22 overall in the first round.