Baltimore Ravens Free Agents: Who Stays, Who Goes?

Sep 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele (72) reacts during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele (72) reacts during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Ravens have a critical offseason ahead. Here are our predictions of which free agents stay and who leaves the team.

Free agency is one of several key parts of the NFL offseason and the Baltimore Ravens have some decisions to make about the future of several players.

The fate of many key players will be in the hands of the team and their agents in the upcoming months. Some of the Ravens biggest stars are eligible for free agency. Justin Tucker and Kelechi Osemele are the two sought-after names that are currently no longer under contract and Baltimore has decisions to make regarding these two and several others.

The front office also has some work to do with several players still under contract. Joe Flacco must restructure his contract to give the Ravens more cap flexibility. Lardarius Webb is moving to safety and his contract must be adjusted. There are several other players that can either redo their deals or face the potential of being cut.

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The Ravens took care of some of their 2016 concerns during the season by giving contract extensions to Pro Bowlers Marshal Yanda and Sam Koch. The problem is that the team will have another year in which the salary cap is a hassle as approximately $7.9 million is currently available. That’s why the restructuring of Flacco’s deal is so important. It will have a impact on how much Baltimore will have to spend this offseason.

Baltimore has several players that fall under the exclusive-rights free agent category. These players are no longer under contract, but only have two years of NFL experience. Teams can offer the free agent a three-year veteran minimum contract that the player must take. These players are not eligible to negotiate with other teams and can only play for the team they played for previously. Here is the list of Ravens that qualify as a ERFA (those expected to make 2016 roster are marked with an asterisk *):

Exclusive-Rights Free Agents:

Many of these players have a role on the team. Klay was the primary returner for most of the season. Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews and Terrance West were all key parts of the offense once injuries ravished the team. I would expect to see all four players offered a contract and a shot to make the team next season. It also would not be a surprise if the Ravens decide to offer all 11 players chance to compete at training camp.

As far as players who will make the team next season, expect West and Klay to be the most likely to make the 2016 team.

Restricted Free Agents:

This is where things start to get interesting. Aiken has earned himself a contract, but it remains to be seen if the Ravens offer the deal or opt to go with the qualifying offer. It would mean that he can negotiate with other teams and the Ravens have the rights to match any offer received. If the Ravens decided not to match the offer, Baltimore would be awarded a draft pick based on the level of the qualifying offer.

Long story short, expect Aiken to be the only player to potentially negotiate a contact to head elsewhere. The Ravens really need to keep the only healthy playmaker they had on offense this season and it would have to take a staggering offer from another club for Aiken not to be back next season.

This is where things get dicey for the Ravens. As previously mentioned, Tucker and Osemele are not only the two biggest names that could be on the block for the a Ravens, but the NFL. Each will be coveted around the league should they not return to Baltimore next season. They are going to command a good chunk of change and the front office will likely have to decide between one or the other to make the cap work.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Tucker will likely land a contract similar to that of New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who signed a NFL-record for a kicker this past offseason. Gostkowski signed a four-year extension for $17.2 million, with $10.1 million in guaranteed money.

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Upshaw, the Ravens first choice in the 2012 draft, is likely set to leave after four disappointing seasons. Baltimore has recently used draft picks on Carl Davis and Timmy Jernigan, and both have played well enough to allow the Ravens to send Upshaw on his way. Do not call Upshaw a bust, but he never became the force that many expected from the second rounder.

Schaub and Clausen are both gone because Baltimore will likely decide to go with Ryan Mallett as their backup quarterback. Mallett played well enough in his two starts to earn the job behind Flacco.

The biggest name not highlighted is that of Osemele. The Ravens might have out-priced themselves by placing Osemele at left tackle over the final few games. He was already in line for a massive payday at guard, but showing teams that he is capable of playing tackle as well did not help Baltimore. They would love to keep him, but the finances might make that impossible.

Next: Ravens Tight End Grades

All of these predictions come at the current state of the Ravens salary cap. The Ravens have some decisions to make regarding several players that could alter the plan of action. If the Ravens somehow move Eugene Monroe and his hefty contract, Osemele has a chance to stay.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment below!