Friday, March 7, 2014
Ranking the Baltimore Ravens' free agents
By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Ravens took some punch out of the free-agent rankings countdown when they signed tight end Dennis Pitta, who was No. 1 among the team's 13 unrestricted free agents.
I will still keep Pitta in the rankings because he was technically a free agent this offseason, and I've added the two salary-cap casualties (linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach) to the list as well.
Eugene Monroe is expected to generate a lot of interest in free agency and could be too expensive for the Ravens to re-sign.
2. Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle: One of the top offensive tackles available in free agency. His age (26 years old) and upside along with the increase in the NFL salary cap could result in top-five left tackle money for Monroe.
3. Jacoby Jones, wide receiver-returner: In two seasons with the Ravens, Jones proved he is a dynamic playmaker and a game-changer. He is an explosive returner but a one-dimensional wide receiver. The fact that Devin Hester and Trindon Holliday are free agents won't help Jones' value.
4. Arthur Jones, defensive tackle: He's improved his play with each passing season, making an impact as a run-stopper and interior pass-rusher. Jones is expected to be pursued by multiple teams, which means he's unlikely to return to the Ravens.
5. Daryl Smith, middle linebacker: The Ravens are trying to re-sign him before free agency starts, but there are a lot of teams looking for middle linebackers. In his first season with the Ravens, Smith led the Ravens with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
6. Michael Oher, offensive tackle: He never reached the expectations of a first-round pick. Oher's strengths are durability and versatility. The biggest knocks against him are false starts and pass protection. He's considered the contingency plan for the Ravens if they can't re-sign Monroe.
7. Jameel McClain, inside linebacker: The Ravens know he can still play. They just didn't think he was worth a $3.2 million salary this year. McClain could return if the Ravens can't re-sign Daryl Smith. But there's no guarantee he will come back. McClain is currently visiting teams.
8. James Ihedigbo, safety: He was among the biggest surprises on the Ravens defense last season. The Ravens, though, are moving in a different direction by shifting Matt Elam to strong safety. The team would be interested in keeping Ihedigbo as a core special-teams player, but he'll likely want to find a place where there's a better chance to play defense.
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9. Corey Graham, cornerback: The Ravens won't be the only team interested in Graham, a starter for the Super Bowl team and Baltimore's interception leader last season. Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the former Ravens secondary coach, may want to bring him to the Lions.
10. Ed Dickson, tight end: His play declined the past two seasons, especially with dropped passes. Dickson doesn't expect to return, and a fresh start could help him.
11. Terrence Cody, nose tackle: He was a disappointing second-round pick who never established himself as an impact player. It was telling in 2012 when he was beaten out by Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who was out of football for a year, for a starting job.
12. Vonta Leach, fullback: The three-time Pro Bowl lead blocker was phased out of the offense when the Ravens decided to spread out teams with three receivers. Leach has an uncertain future considering his age (32) and the declining interest in fullbacks.
13. Jeromy Miles, safety: He's a solid special-teams player who has never developed as a safety. Miles will land with a team that puts an emphasis on special teams. So, don't rule out a return to the Ravens.
14. Bernard Scott, running back: He was a stop-gap signing when the Ravens needed a third running back. The Ravens need to upgrade that spot this season, and they probably regret cutting Bobby Rainey at the end of the preseason.
15. Dallas Clark, tight end: He turns 35 before the season starts, and his 31 catches were his fewest since 2006. No one would be surprised if Clark retired.