The Baltimore Ravens had a total of 13 unrestricted free agents entering the 2014 league year and have successfully signed six of them, while seeing five go to other teams, with two more currently unsigned.
Let’s track what has happened with the Ravens’ free agents under the headings of “Gone Well!” / “Oh Well…” / “NOT Well” … prioritized and ranked in each category…
We start with the category of what has gone well, and there is a lot to write about and celebrate …
Eugene Monroe – Offensive Tackle – After a year where the Baltimore Ravens offensive line had a rather wretched season, there were going to need to be some wholesale changes. Retaining the best player on the line (along with Marshal Yanda) was a must-do priority. It was not a “given” that this would happen. But $37.5 million over five years got it done with the 26-year-old. The only thing bigger than this signing is the man himself!
Dennis Pitta – Tight End – Most Baltimore Ravens writers and sources would list the Pitta signing rather than Monroe as the highest priority and most important. I understand that, though it seems to me that keeping defenders from hanging onto Joe Flacco’s arms while attempting a pass (as in much of 2013) is a higher immediate priority than the guy who will catch the ball if it can indeed be thrown. But without doubt, Pitta was a huge signing (five years, $32 million) for the Ravens at the very last moment before the franchise tag deadline. There is no doubt that there exists a strong “sense for the game” relationship between Pitta and Flacco, and with the tight end missing for much of the season, the passing game was out of sync. Along with new acquisition Owen Daniels, this should be rectified.
Daryl Smith – Linebacker – After nine seasons in Jacksonville, Smith came to the Ravens and had arguably his best season ever while making the loss of Ray Lewis much less painful for the team. He totalled 123 combined tackles, more than the previous high of 107 in both 2011 and 2009. Again, far from a certainty to be re-signed, the deal came together for $16.1 million over four years.
Jacoby Jones – Wide Receiver / Kick Returner – I almost wrote for his position “Playmaker.” That is what Jones was for the Ravens with several game-highlight plays that spelled the difference between victory and probable defeat. Most writers seemed to presume that Jacoby was a goner for the Ravens. But it certainly helped the situation that Gary Kubiak was hired. It seemed also that Jones, while in New York to talk with the Giants, had a “come to Jesus” moment where he realized he needed to be back in Baltimore. He will be – for four years at $12 million, and I’m thrilled – I love to watch this guy play because ANYTHING can (and just might) happen at any moment.
Jeromy Miles – Defensive Back / Special Teams – Yes, in the case of Jeromy Miles there is a position called “special teams.” He can fill in at safety, but he is a critical piece of keeping things under control in kicking situations – making eight coverage tackles. Two other central and critical players on special teams that have been retained are Anthony Levine on an exclusive-rights deal and linebacker Albert McClellan on a two-year contract for $2.2 million. It is my belief that special teams players are under-valued and are sadly only noticed when something goes wrong.
Terrence Cody – Nose Tackle – The 25-year-old former second-round selection recorded 15 tackles in 12 games last season. He is in improved health now, having had better seasons in 2011 and 2012 before dealing with two surgeries in the offseason a year ago. He is a backup for Haloti Ngata and will be a part of the rotation to plug the middle.
Michael Oher – Offensive Tackle – Yes, I put this in the “gone well” category. He simply did not play well, but for some reason (like, a shortage of good tackles in the league) the Titans think he is worth $20 million over four years. Good luck with that! He has proven to be durable and never missed a start with the Baltimore Ravens – so, that is worth something. But, it was time for him to go, and as a fine person we wish him well in this new home.
This second category contains the names of those who won’t be back in Baltimore and who, yes, it would be nice to still have, but, at what price? And losing them makes you have a ho-hum “oh well” reaction. Good to know you, have a happy rest of your life …
James Ihedigbo – Safety – This is a significant moment in the history of The Baltimore Wire sports blog … are you ready? Yes, this is the final time I will have to look up how to spell Ihedigbo. He signed with the Lions for $3.1 million for two years were he can reconnect with former Ravens secondary coach and new Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Ed Dickson – Tight End – There was never much anticipation by anyone that Dickson would be back. He was a disappointment in many ways, and it was a bit of an enigma as to why. So a new start with the Carolina Panthers may be just what he needs.
There was no possibility that the Baltimore Ravens could hope to retain the entire list of desired players, and two defenders sadly “got away.”
Corey Graham – Cornerback – Likely the #1 loss for the Ravens, Graham signed with the Bills for four years at $16.3 million. A key player in both the Super Bowl run and throughout the past year, he recorded 74 tackles, defended 12 passes and pulled in four interceptions in 2013. Replacing Graham will be a challenge that is yet to be finally addressed.
Arthur Jones – Defensive Lineman – Everyone on the Ravens would have loved to be able to retain Jones, but it was rather universally understood that the expense would be too high. Indeed, $33 million later he is signed by the Colts for five years. He too will join a former Ravens defensive coordinator – Chuck Pagano.
Still in the Well
OK… I did not mention this category at the top, but, it refers to those two Ravens who remain available and unsigned at this moment …
Dallas Clark – Tight End – There is a good chance that the long-time tight end will retire this year, though it looked much the same a year ago, and then a team (Ravens) had a sudden need. Could that happen again somewhere? Maybe. He turns age 35 in June, and in the 2013 season caught 31 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns over 12 games.
Bernard Scott – Running Back – After four seasons with the Bengals, he only played in two games for the Ravens, gaining 14 yards on four carries. The Ravens do need running back help, and toward that end signed Justin Forsett as a third back. Beyond that it is expected that they will gain at least one back from the draft.
Well, well, well … it is difficult to imagine how it might have realistically gone much better for the Baltimore Ravens than it has with the list above. Multiple issues are clarified, needs have been checked off the list, and focus is given to the direction to take with the draft and any other free agents from the outside. It has truly gone well.