Prior to the 2013 season, the Ravens got a gift when Elvis Dumervil unexpectedly became available on the market. Dumervil was a high profile talent that the Ravens got a great deal on. Understand that the Dumervil situation was special. However, big name players get cut every season. It’s the nature of the business.
We have looked at possible free agent wide outs and free safeties. Here’s a breakdown of some well-known players who are not free agents, but could be casualties of the cap as they enter the final years of their contracts. Is there another off the radar gift awaiting the Ravens this year?
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Julius Peppers (CHI) – At 34 years old, we saw the first signs of decline from one of the top defensive stars of the last decade. The three-time All-Pro could find himself out of a job if the Bears decide to save $9.81M by releasing him. Also worth mentioning, Jay Cutler’s new contract nets him $22.5M against the cap in 2014. Peppers cap number is $18.18M for 2014, and he didn’t live up to that number last season. The NFL as we all know is a “what have you don’t for me lately” league. The $8.37M in dead money is high, but there have been far worse cases of dead money against the cap in recent years. Peyton Manning accounted for $16M when released by the Colts. Stanford Routt (OAK), Aaron Curry (SEA), and Demeco Ryans (HOU) all accounted for dead money in the $10M-$11M range. Sure they could restructure Peppers, but how many years are they willing to tack onto a 34 year old defensive end?
Sam Bradford (STL) – St. Louis fans have to be asking themselves, “Is this the guy”? After four years, only two of which he played a full season, he’s 18-30-1 as the starter, 58.6 CMP%. Bradford has 59 TDs and 38 INTs in 49 games and a career QB rating of 79.3. According to Pro Football Reference, at this point in his career, Bradford is most similar to Tim Couch, Vince Young, Dennis Shaw of the early 70’s Bills, Dan Pastorini of the early 70’s Oilers, and Mark Sanchez. Coming off knee surgery to repair a torn ACL seven games into 2013, is Bradford worth the $17.61M cap hit, or do you take the savings of $10.42M? The Rams have the second overall pick from the Redskins. Manziel, Bridgewater, and Bortles could all be available if it’s time to cut their losses and move on.
Antonio Cromartie (NYJ) – He had a down year in 2013 getting burnt for seven TDs. Only three guys allowed more scores in their direction than Cromartie’s seven. His salary is set to increase a ton, up to $14.98M. I don’t think anyone expects the Jets to shell that out for a CB whose play is suffering, complains of knee and hip issues, and is becoming an off field distraction with his stance on marijuana (and practically admitting to using the banned substance). The Jets would save $9.5M by releasing Cromartie prior to the final year of his contract.
Will Smith (NO) – Smith has played his entire career in New Orleans, but missed 2013 with a torn ACL in camp. Word around Saints camp is that prior to that he was having trouble adjusting to new Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan’s 3-4 system. At 33 years old, and unfit in Ryan’s scheme, coming off an ACL tear, it’s almost certainty that the Saints will release Smith, and save $11.55M against their cap.
Santonio Holmes (NYJ) – Holmes put up some respectable numbers during his time in Pittsburgh, but has been a disappointment in New York. He hasn’t played a full season since 2011 when he only notched 684 yards, but 8 TDs. Certainly not worth the $10.75M cap number, and the Jets could gladly take the $8.25M in savings. Most mock drafts have the Jets taking a receiver in the first round, likely to be Holmes replacement.
So are any of these guys on the Ravens radar? Not very likely. Peppers would be an upgrade to a defensive line that will probably lose Arthur Jones to free agency. Even if released instead of restructured by Chicago, he’ll still get top dollar that the Ravens will need to allocate elsewhere.
We have our QB so Bradford is out. I don’t see a situation where Tyrod Taylor is not the back up next year. Even if Bradford is released, someone in dire need would allow him to compete for a starting job whereas that would be out of the question here.
I have a feeling that cornerback Corey Graham might follow Teryl Austin along with Jim Caldwell to Detroit. It would open the door for Cromartie here in Baltimore, but is it worth the headache? If the Ravens are patient, as they usually are in free agency, they can let the price tag really drop on Cromartie. He’ll get a physical and they’ll get an idea of how his knees and hips are holding up. If he checks out, maybe he’s an option.
Nothing I’m reading about Will Smith makes him an option for Baltimore. He has trouble in the 3-4 system which the Ravens run. Besides, there is a log jam of OLBs on the depth chart right now.
Holmes is interesting to me. The book on him is a crisp route runner, good burst out of cuts and elusive after the catch. Even at 5’10” he gets his body in front of corners to contest for balls. Looks like a fit for the west coast offense. The dysfunction that is the New York Jets quarterback situation could be why Holmes has seen a drop off in his stats. But his lack of durability is a huge red flag. Durability issues combined with unimpressive stats could make him a very cheap commodity on the market. The Ravens could be without free agent to be Jacoby Jones. Holmes on the cheap, with an actual quarterback throwing his way, could prove to be great value.