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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2013 class of free agents

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, six restricted free agents, and 10 exclusive-rights free agents.
The 2013 salary cap was officially set to $123 million last week and the Ravens have roughly $11 million in cap space after signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract. Most media attention focuses on unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens’ list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players will eat up a sizable portion of that remaining cap space.
Of course, the Ravens still have the option of cutting players under contract or potentially re-signing or restructuring the contracts of players already committed to the organization to create more cap space.
A new wrinkle to consider this year is the NFL allowing teams to enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the three days leading up to the start of the new league year (March 12 at 4 p.m.), meaning the rumors and speculation will pick up this weekend before the start of the signing period.
To see how I fared last year, check out my 2012 free-agent forecast HERE.
Unrestricted free agents
LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens’ top priority among their unrestricted free agents, Ellerbe easily figures to trump the three-year, $10.5 million contract Baltimore awarded Jameel McClain in a deep inside linebacker market last offseason and will be looking for a deal worth at least $20 million. 
S Ed Reed: LEAVES
Skinny: If the future Hall of Fame safety is willing to take a modest two-year deal, he could have his chance to finish his career in Baltimore, but I’m guessing Reed will bolt for a more generous offer from another team looking for his services.
LB Paul Kruger: LEAVES
Skinny: With rumors of the situational pass rusher potentially fetching more than $8 million per season, the Ravens will turn to Courtney Upshaw for an increased role and move on from Kruger, who is not strong against the run and played in only 22 of 62 defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLVII.
CB Cary Williams: LEAVES
Skinny: With Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, and Chykie Brown all under contract, the Ravens will remember their depth at cornerback and allow Williams to seek a well-deserved payday somewhere else.
OT Bryant McKinnie: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will explore other options on the open market, but McKinnie should be an affordable stopgap as they’ll look to draft a left tackle of the future on the first or second day of April’s draft.
NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu: LEAVES
Skinny: The 34-year-old’s comeback was a nice story last year, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has made it a priority to upgrade the depth at defensive tackle, making Kemoeatu’s return unlikely at this point.
S James Ihedigbo: STAYS
Skinny: With Reed’s status in doubt, Ihedigbo is a nice depth player the Ravens would like to re-sign at the right price and he was a strong special-teams player last year as well.
DL Ryan McBean: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens had high hopes for the former Denver Bronco last year before a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason opener, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to retain McBean’s services at a cheap rate.
S Sean Considine: LEAVES
Skinny: Though he was a solid special-teams contributor, the Ravens are likely to fill Considine’s spot with a younger, cheaper option.
TE Billy Bajema: LEAVES
Skinny: With Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason, the Ravens should look to a younger option with some upside to fill their third tight end spot.
CB Chris Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: The slew of injuries at the cornerback position midway through the season prompted the Ravens to sign the speedy veteran, but his services will no longer be needed.
LB Ricky Brown: LEAVES
Skinny: A preseason concussion landed the veteran on injured reserve, but Brown was little more than a camp body last summer.
Restricted free agents
(The Ravens can offer a first-round, second-round, or low tender to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer sheet from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. If the player originally went undrafted, it simply provides the team the right to match an offer sheet but awards no compensation for losing the player.)
TE Dennis Pitta: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens may explore a multi-year extension for their talented tight end, but the second-round tender should be enough to keep Pitta in Baltimore for the 2013 season.
DL Arthur Jones: STAYS
Skinny: Jones started six games and really emerged in the second half of the season as an impact player along the defensive line, making him a likely candidate to receive a second-round tender.
TE Ed Dickson: STAYS
Skinny: Though his blocking skills are underrated, Dickson’s dwindling role as a receiver makes it likely that he’ll receive the low tender, meaning another team would have to fork over a third-round pick — the round in which he was drafted in 2010 — to sign him.
LS Morgan Cox: STAYS
Skinny: Happy with Cox’s services, the Ravens will either offer him the low tender or re-sign him to a lower salary than the $1.32 million attached to the tender.
OL Ramon Harewood: STAYS
Skinny: The 2010 sixth-round pick clearly fell out of favor after starting the first five games of the season at left guard, but the Ravens could look to sign Harewood at a lower rate after non-tendering him.
WR David Reed: LEAVES
Skinny: It’s possible the Ravens would re-sign Reed at a smaller salary, but they have several young wide receivers and Deonte Thompson can back up returner Jacoby Jones, which could prompt the 2010 fifth-round pick to seek an opportunity for more playing time elsewhere.
Exclusive-rights free agents
CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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