Late For Work 3/12: Ravens Free Agency: Who Stays? Who Goes?

Ravens reportedly $14.44 million under cap, RB Jacobs a ‘perfect fit,’ no Gaither return.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 8:00 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Who Stays? Who Goes?

Get ready.

Free agency is almost here.

The market doors open tomorrow at 4 p.m., but the team that came within a dropped pass of the Super Bowl last season will primarily focus on retaining its own free agents.

The Ravens will likely protect their restricted free agents – cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe – by assigning them tenders before tomorrow’s free-agent bonanza.

But how many of the 13 unrestricted free agents can Ravens brass hold onto?

John Eisenberg offers his predictions of who will stay and who will go:



RB Ray Rice (franchise tag)

G Ben Grubbs (unrestricted)

C Matt Birk (unrestricted)

S Tom Zbikowski (unrestricted)

CB Lardarius Webb (restricted)

C Andre Gurode (unrestricted)

CB Cary Williams (restricted)

DT Cory Redding (unrestricted)

CB Haruki Nakamura (unrestricted)

LB Jarret Johnson (unrestricted)

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (unrestricted)

LB Jameel McClain (unrestricted)

LB Dannell Ellerbe (restricted)

TE Kris Wilson (unrestricted)

DT Brandon McKinney (unrestricted)

LB Edgar Jones (unrestricted)


The scribe notes that Baltimore would like to hold onto Grubbs, Johnson and McClain, but once the three stars test the market, he says the Ravens won’t be able to match the offers they’re likely to receive.

A caveat is that if one defensive star – Johnson, McClain or Redding – ends up staying, Eisenberg believes it will be McClain because of his youth.

If Matt Birk returns and the Ravens draft a center, Gurode would no longer be needed as an insurance policy.

And while both Zbikowski and Nakamura are in the same boat as unrestricted backup safeties and special-teams contributors, Eisenberg believes only one will stay and Nakamura “is a favorite of John Harbaugh’s.”

Ravens $14.44 Million Under Salary Cap

The league announced the salary cap number Sunday, coming in at an expected $120.6 million. It’s essentially a flat cap, only slightly increasing from last season’s limit of $120.375 million.

The Ravens are currently $14.4 million under the 2012 limit, reports the Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson, who also explains what numbers have already been accounted for.

The $14.4 million figure already includes:

  • $5.831 million carried over in remaining salary-cap space from last season
  • $7.742 million in a franchise tender to Rice
  • $7.082 million in dead money after releasing Domonique Foxworth, Chris Carr and Lee Evans
  • Money for all 40 players already under contract for next season

The $14.4 million figure doesn’t include:

  • Potential restricted free agent tenders, including a $5.484 million for Webb and Williams, and another $1.97 million to $1.26 million for Ellerbe
  • Potential exclusive-rights free agent tenders, including Morgan Cox, Danny Gorrer, Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan

After the Ravens assign their tenders, which needs to happen before tomorrow at 4 p.m., Wilson predicts they will be approximately $5.7 million to $7 million underneath the salary cap.

Wilson notes the Ravens are saving room for a Joe Flacco contract extension, and he believes Grubbs and Johnson will depart. He reports McClain is regarded as a priority to retain.

McClain Hopes For Return To Baltimore

Linebacker Jameel McClain is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time tomorrow afternoon.

His value will be determined on the open marketplace, which will affect whether the Ravens can retain their former rookie free-agent signee.

McClain will anxiously await phone calls from various suitors, but he wants more than anything to hear from General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

Baltimore is home,” McClain told the Times’ Wilson. “It’s a great organization with a lot of great players. Staying there would be the ideal situation. We all know how this game goes. This game shakes up in many ways. It’s a business. If it was totally up to me, I would choose the Ravens. I’m hoping that phone rings for me, but there’s only one call I really want to hear.”

Wilson wrote that McClain would fit into what the Philadelphia Eagles need right now, but McClain hasn’t considered that option.

“To be honest, I haven’t looked that far ahead,” he said. “I know it’s ironic. I believe everything in my past has led to this point. Baltimore is what I’m thinking about right now. Everything else is speculation.

“I don’t get into those conversations. Patience is a virtue, I’ve learned that throughout my life. I’m focused on being a better Jameel McClain, a better player, a better person, everything.”

RB Jacobs Would Be A ‘Perfect Fit’

A new name has surprisingly emerged as a potential veteran back up to Rice.

The New York Giants plan on releasing running back Brandon Jacobs, reported the Newark Star-Ledger Friday, after the two sides apparently couldn’t come to an agreement on a pay cut.

“So he’s available … and would be a perfect fit for the Ravens’ power running style,” wrote Eisenberg.

Last year the Ravens shifted more from a power running style to a stretch zone scheme, however.

Eisenberg notes that Jacobs is already used to sharing the work load, having done so in New York with Ahmad Bradshaw. He is an experienced veteran who could ease the burden on Rice and help keep the star fresh.

“A day ago, it was impossible to envision Jacobs, 29, carrying the ball for the Ravens in 2012, and understand, they may prefer someone else, such as Cedric Benson or any of a number of other candidates,” wrote Eisenberg. “As always, how the player’s salary fits under the cap could prove decisive.”

Don’t Expect Gaither Return

Former Ravens supplemental draft pick and starting left tackle Jared Gaither could become one of the top free-agent tackles if he doesn’t re-sign with San Diego Chargers.

Things are going in the right direction for Gaither after the Ravens let him go via free agency last year and the Kansas City Chiefs cut him after a disappointing start to the season capped off by a costly false start penalty. He acquitted himself well after starting five games in San Diego last season.

Some Ravens fans would like to see Gaither return to Baltimore.

Don’t hold your breath, says ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

I don’t see a reunion with the Ravens,” the AFC North blogger wrote. “He doesn’t want to come back to Baltimore as a backup, and the Ravens don’t want to deal with his work ethic again.

“What Gaither did in his five starts in San Diego at the end of the season will entice a team – perhaps the Chargers again – to sign him to a nice-sized contract. Gaither will be a starter in 2012, but it won’t be with the Ravens.”

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