Breaking down the Ravens' top free-agent decisions
With a 5-11 season finally over, the injury-laden Baltimore Ravens can finally look ahead to the 2016 season. With their starting quarterback, running back, and top receiver all due to be back for the beginning of the season, the offseason is about keeping key players on board, and trying to add some impact players through free agency and the draft. They’ll need to be conscious of the salary cap, but have shown in the past that they can find value in free agency.
With that in mind, here’s what we’d do if we were in Baltimore’s shoes this spring:
K Justin Tucker
(Editor’s update: The Ravens placed the franchise tag on Tucker on Feb. 26.)
Our highest-graded kicker in total grade this year, Tucker’s booming leg helps the Ravens both in scoring points and in the field-position battle. Just 11 of his 74 kickoffs were returned in 2015, while he made 33-of-40 field goals, with just one of those misses coming from inside 50 yards.
OT/G Kelechi Osemele
Osemele (79.6 overall grade) is a good offensive lineman who can be one of the best guards in the league on his day. A tough matchup at his best, we’ve seen him take over—and dominate—defensive linemen on occasion. So, why shouldn’t the Ravens re-sign him? Well, they have already invested heavily in the position with Marshal Yanda, so unless they see him as an option at left tackle, it’s a lot of money to invest in one position. They may see him as a left tackle, especially after having him play there in the final four weeks of the 2015 season, but he didn’t stand out there, allowing eight total pressures and committing four penalties.
QB Matt Schaub
The Ravens brought Schaub in to be a solid backup QB after Tyrod Taylor left in the offseason. He graded negatively in both starts after Joe Flacco got hurt, prompting the Ravens to go with Jimmy Clausen, and then Ryan Mallett, instead. With Mallett under contract, it’s unlikely that the team will see value in bringing Schaub back as the team’s No. 3 QB.
OLB Courtney Upshaw
Upshaw (54.7) has yet to develop as a pass-rusher since entering the league in 2012, but at the very least, he is a good run-defender. Unfortunately for him, the Ravens are likely to use 2015 fourth-round draft pick Za’Darius Smith even more in 2016, so the opportunities for a player like Upshaw, who never managed more than 21 total pressures in a single season in Baltimore, are unlikely to be worth the cost.
CB Brandon Boykin
The Ravens have had issues in the secondary in recent years, both with performance and health. While they need to be careful not to be too flashy in free agency, they can still make some moves, and Brandon Boykin (76.9) could be an option in the slot. Boykin played just 281 snaps in Pittsburgh last year, but has graded positively in coverage every season since entering the league. He’s the perfect option in the slot for the Ravens if they do decide to move Lardarius Webb to free safety.
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