The start of free agency is now less than two months away after the 2022 Ravens were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.
Entering Wednesday with 47 players under contract for next season, the Ravens are still waiting for the NFL to set the 2023 salary cap, which reportedly could exceed $220 million after it sat at $208.2 million this past season. Of course, what salary cap flexibility Baltimore has will largely depend on the status of free-agent quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is expected to receive the franchise tag if a long-term agreement isn’t reached by early March. For what it’s worth, OverTheCap.com projects the Ravens to have just under $29 million in space based on a $225 million cap, but that doesn’t account for Jackson, whose tag is projected to cost more than that.
In other words, general manager Eric DeCosta will definitely need to create more cap flexibility by extending, restructuring, or even terminating the contracts of select veteran players, especially if he doesn’t strike a long-term agreement with Jackson. The window for using the franchise tag or transition tag opens on Feb. 21 and closes on March 7, and teams must be in compliance with the 2023 salary cap by the start of the new league year on March 15.
A look back at last year reminds that most of the Ravens’ 2022 free-agent class didn’t return, which is the nature of the beast in the NFL.
Below is a look at Baltimore’s 2023 class of free agents:
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The Ravens will have the opportunity to extend any of the following unrestricted free agents before they’re permitted to officially sign with any of the 32 teams beginning March 15 at 4 p.m.
OLB Vince Biegel — Vying for a roster spot before tearing his Achilles tendon in early August, the 29-year-old seems unlikely to be part of next year’s plans.
RB Kenyan Drake — The veteran back had his moments filling in for J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards over the first half of the season, but he was a healthy scratch for four of the last five games.
CB Kyle Fuller — The Mount St. Joseph product tore his ACL in Week 1 and was already coming off a rough 2021 season in Denver, leaving his football future up in the air.
RB Justice Hill — Though the 2019 fourth-round pick averaged a career-high 5.3 yards per carry returning from last year’s Achilles injury, his touches remained limited and you wonder if he’ll aim for a fresh start elsewhere.
OLB Justin Houston — Houston turns 34 later this week and has expressed interest in returning to the Ravens, but his production slowed considerably after registering nine sacks over his first seven games of the season.
QB Lamar Jackson — You probably hadn’t heard, but the 2019 NFL MVP is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, which is a pretty big deal.
OT Ja’Wuan James — Opening the season as Baltimore’s starting left tackle, James didn’t make it through the second quarter of Week 1 before tearing his Achilles and has now played in just four games since the start of 2019.
OLB Steven Means — The 32-year-old journeyman tore an Achilles in Week 2 and likely won’t factor into Baltimore’s plans for 2023.
TE Josh Oliver — Despite playing a more prominent role as a blocker, Oliver may not find room in a crowded tight end group that includes a pair of 2022 fourth-round picks, especially if offensive coordinator Greg Roman doesn’t return.
CB Marcus Peters — Ozzie Newsome often said he’d rather part with a veteran a year early rather than a year too late, which could be the way the Ravens approach the 30-year-old Peters unless he’s open to a team-friendly deal.
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul — Pierre-Paul, 34, still sets a good edge against the run, but the two-time Super Bowl champion’s pass-rushing contributions were pretty minimal over 14 games.
G Ben Powers — One of the better stories of 2022, Powers should do well for himself on the open market as an established starter, but he figures to be out of Baltimore’s price range with other roster needs and limited cap dollars.
WR Demarcus Robinson — Relative to expectations as a late-August signing, Robinson had a decent campaign, but it was an incredibly low bar at a position that needs significant improvement this offseason.
CB Kevon Seymour — The 29-year-old was one of the Ravens’ best special-teams players and could return at a low cost.
DE Brent Urban — Urban, 31, could be in the conversation to return as 5-technique depth at a low cost, especially if Calais Campbell isn’t back next season.
WR Sammy Watkins — That Watkins played so much after being claimed off waivers in late December illustrated the woeful state of the wide receiver position.
CB Daryl Worley — Like Seymour, Worley is a good special-teams player and could be back in the picture at some point to compete for a roster spot.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that occurs, Baltimore has the right to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens elect not to match, they would receive compensation based on which restricted tender they offered that player.
There are three different tenders that can be made: a first-round tender ($5.432 million in 2022) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($3.986 million in 2022) would fetch the competing team’s second-round pick, and a low tender ($2.433 million in 2022) would bring the competing team’s draft choice equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the competing offer sheet and would not receive any draft compensation if they chose not to.
With unheralded restricted free agents, the Ravens typically forgo a tender and will sometimes attempt to re-sign them at cheaper rates.
The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:
OL Trystan Colon (undrafted) — With Powers potentially departing and Colon having made four career starts between center and guard, the Ravens likely want to keep the latter around for depth and competition at left guard.
QB Tyler Huntley (undrafted) — Though he’ll probably be thinking about his nightmare goal-line fumble all offseason, Huntley is a solid backup who could become even more relevant with Jackson’s future in such flux.
LS Nick Moore (undrafted) — Cost will be the only question here as the Ravens appear happy with Moore’s work as the long snapper.
LB Del’Shawn Phillips (undrafted) — Phillips was a regular special-teams contributor who appeared in 16 games and could return on a minimum deal.
S Geno Stone (seventh) — You’d expect the Ravens to try to keep Stone in the mix, especially if veteran starter Chuck Clark is released to save cap space this offseason.
ILB Kristian Welch (undrafted) — Welch appeared in all 17 games on special teams and is a decent candidate to return on a minimum deal.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. The Ravens tender most exclusive-rights free agents with the idea that there’s nothing promised beyond the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.
DB Ar’Darius Washington (undrafted) — Promoted to the 53-man roster this past weekend, Washington should return and figures to compete at the nickel spot, especially if Kyle Hamilton shifts to a starting safety role next year.