I’m interested to see the reception to this mock. With the exception of the draft, in which I did try to analyze needs and assign picks based on scouting reports that are extremely premature, I was ruthless and did some things that probably won’t be popular. Take comfort in the fact that I am not the GM, just an outside observer with a different football philosophy than this Front Office. Your favorite players will probably still be here because this team tries to have its cake and eat it too.
Going briefly over my thoughts for the direction to take in the off-season, our biggest need in my book is the offensive line. We’re about to invest in a quarterback, and you can call an OL insurance on that investment. Flacco, while he does have mobility, is a pocket passing quarterback who needs solid protection on the blind side that he’s simply not being afforded right now, in addition to better protection from other spots on the line. KO should continue to progress, and even now I believe he’s serviceable at RT, however, the ideal scenario would be getting him in a guard next season and getting Oher at RT for his last year, bringing in a real LT.
The rest of the draft is on the defense then, IMO. I don’t think the defense is as bad off as it appears right now. We need a new DC and a different scheme to be sure, and with as horrid as the rankings of this defense are I expect we’ll get one. Having Suggs and Webb back is going to make a difference next year. This leaves DL help, either at the 5-tech or NT, as the second biggest need followed by ILB and FS. I think we need pass rush help too in addition to some cornerback depth. Personally I would use this opportunity to make the transition back to the better defensive scheme in the 4-3, but I don’t think that’s going to happen so I won’t project my mock as such.
Mock Free Agency:
With incoming revenue deals taking shape, the new salary cap for next year should be around $125 million, giving the Ravens approximately $20 million in cap space since contracts for next year are just past $105 currently. Some of it needs to be saved for rookies, obviously, and if Flacco is tagged most of that is going to him.
Anquan Boldin – He needs to be cut or traded. I would miss his production, especially if the next offensive coordinator utilizes him correctly in the slot, but we simply can’t afford him. He has the third highest cap hit right now of the players under contract for next year. Cutting him would free up $6 million in cap space. With some promising young prospects at receiver, we need that money elsewhere. This one is hard because I don’t know how good our prospects are, but the NFL is a cruel business.
Ed Reed – He’s been out of position way too much this season, which has been a big reason for this defenses struggles. At his age he lacks the recovery speed to make up for it like he used to, and it has caused this defense to get burned way too much this season. And that’s despite the fact that he’s been scared to tackle. His injury issues have caught up to him, and we simply can’t afford to pay him the millions he’s going to want. I’d rather he retire, but the sad fact of the matter is it’s time to move on from the future Hall of Famer. I hate to say it, I really do, but I truly believe he’s been a liability this season.
Cary Williams – How this dude was talked about for the Pro Bowl I don’t know. He’s a major coverage liability, and probably thinks he deserves more than that contract he was offered earlier. He didn’t deserve that one either, IMO, so he’s gone.
Paul Kruger – time to try to develop another situational pass rusher. We’ve seen Kruger’s ceiling and it’s fairly low, and a few good moments don’t make up for all the bad when Suggs was out and he was starting. The guys behind Suggs in the rotation should be developed to one day take over for the getting older man, just in case Upshaw doesn’t develop that pass rush we desperately need. I don’t want to invest Kruger.
Sergio Kindle – Give up guys, his career is over.
Ray Lewis – He’ll enter retirement hopefully. I don’t know if he has the physical ability to be effective without a quality ILB next to him, which we don’t have right now, but his days as the primary ILB in a 3-4 are sadly done. Come back as a coach Ray, but don’t be another All-Pro that refuses to acknowledge when it’s time to hang up the pads. This
nets us $5.4 million in cap space (wow, Ray Lewis is overpaid).
Dannell Ellerbe – It’s time to move on. He’s shown some improvement this season, but he’s not a long term answer.
Matt Birk – Anytime we play a good NT he gets blown up. It’s time for Birk to hang up the pads. This nets up $2.75 million in cap space.
Which gives us a raw cap space estimate of $34.15 million. The $14.5 million freed up through Boldin, Birk, and Lewis essentially pays for Flacco next season, leaving roughly $20 million to play with. Personally I would try to drop some more room by trading Ray Rice. You simply cannot afford to pay a QB like Flacco and a RB like Rice on the same team, and getting him elsewhere could net useful assets we desperately need while freeing up his $5.75 million cap hit. If the coaching staff thinks Pierce can go they have to consider it. Should a new OC come about next season and Flacco performs the way we all hope he can, I imagine they’ll have a hard time justifying keeping Rice with the other issues the team is going to have. Jacoby Jones could also be a cap casualty next season since cutting him would free up $3 million, or you could swap him for Boldin. I think one of them goes, but for this scenario I’m using Boldin. Bobbie Williams is not that bad of a backup guy to have for the price, and cutting him only nets $1.2 million so I did not cut him in this scenario.
I just felt the need to point out that I’ve actually done rough estimates on the math and I’m not going off on a wild spending spree like some people. Technically speaking, we would have the money to sign Jake Long, but it’d be a tight squeeze on the cap. He’s also coming off a down year where he struggled before getting injured, which is a serious concern. If we can get him for around $8 million on a shorter term deal I would do it, but I didn’t for this scenario.
Joe Flacco – Unless he’s tagged, I think we get a discount since his season has been inconsistent, albeit decent. Still, not what I would qualify as an elite showing. If he’s smart, could justify taking a pay cut to bring in a real LT. I’m guessing he gets something along the lines of $12-15 million a year.
Dennis Pitta – Reliable target, and hopefully doesn’t cost much because his stats aren’t that incredible compared to other TEs and he’s rather old for his experience level.
Ed Dickson – RFA essentially means he’s under contract. Otherwise I’d dump him.
Art Jones – RFA and has shown some progression at five-tech. If that continues we still need him.
Ramon Harewood – I’m not convinced he exists anymore, but he is an ERFA.
Morgan Cox – Just for completions sake.
Those last players will be fairly cheap due to their statuses. I believe we would still have about $18 million to play with in Free Agency.
Brenden Albert, LT – I’m guessing many of you haven’t heard of him, but he’s quietly become a top 10 LT in the league. He currently ranks 9th on PFF’s pass blocking efficiency rankings, and it’s hard to get much better than him outside Thomas, Clady, and Ferguson. If the Chiefs don’t tag him, I say pounce on him since he’s a bit under the radar and we might be able to lock him for a fairly reasonable price. A LT is worth paying big money to, and I’d rather invest is someone that actually understands the concepts of pass protection than a scrub like Oher next off-season. I think he’d come to a winning team for $8-9 million a year, so I’ll err on the side of caution and go $9 (leaving about $4-5 million to play with when you account for draft picks).
Dan Koppen, C – Veteran depth on the OL that could be cheap. Denver might re-sign him to protect Manning though.
Randy Moss, WR – He’s behaved for Jim and I think this gets him another chance in the league for a year or two. If you look at the numbers, while Moss hasn’t been putting up monster numbers he still has high average yards per catch. For a cheap deep threat who adds a veteran back to the WR core who has been known to help the younger guys, I think this is a pretty good move.
I’m hoping there’s some OLB, DL (5-tech or NT), or DB depth that I’m not seeing. I’d use the rest of the cap space on that.
It's probably still a bit early to start doing a mock. Most underclassman haven't declared their status yet, there's still scouting reports to read, but I guess here's as good a first shot as any.
Round 1: Barrett Jones OT/OG/C, Alabama – This guy might be our best shot at left tackle outside of free agency, having won the Outland Trophy as an LT in the SEC last year before moving to center this year. That drops his stock, since he’s going to be evaluated more as an interior lineman, dropping him into our pick range. Even if he can’t play that position, Jones can play any of the other four spots on the line and has tremendous scheme versatility. I’m not sure Gradkowski is the answer at center, and if he is we need a real replacement for Grubbs. You have to love the versatility in the pick. Jones has solid technique, is very smart which is how good lineman should be (he was working on his masters this season). He’s had success pass blocking in SEC on the blind side, and that’s about as good of a representation of one’s skills as you can ask for. Textbook fundamentals make up for his lower athleticism (not that it’s bad, just not as flashy as some of his teammates), and that’s what you want if this team decides to continue zone blocking. It’s not about raw strength, it’s about using the right technique and being in the right spot to make the play. Regardless, Jones is one of my favorite guys in the draft and I think he’s underrated. He’s not going to be a JO, he lacks that physical blessing, but he could be our Matt Light and that’s all you need really. In summary, there is a spot on the offensive line somewhere that this guy can fill, and that’s our area of biggest need in my book, especially if we can't nab a real LT.
Round 2: Kawan Short, DT, Purdue – My question on him is where to line him up. He’s probably big enough to play NT, but Ngata would also do well there and Short could line up at DE. Either way, Short provides some needed pass rush from the DL. I’m confident that Ngata, Short, and Jones are an improvement on the current line. I think with coaching and time he could become a great five-tech. He turns it on and off it seems sometimes, which I believe is what people said about Ngata coming out of college. His size and speed make him worth the risk, and I think he can be coached up.
Round 3: Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia – drug issues are a big time concern for the league right now so I think he’s gonna drop a bit. He has obvious playmaking talent and good instincts though. While not as consistent as I would like, but I think he could hold the position down, and at a much cheaper price than Ed Reed.
Round 4: Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford – Aggressive and plays in a 3-4 right now. Character concerns drop him at least here, but we might need to trade up a bit to get him. I worry about him matching up against TEs, but he does defend the run and apply pass rush well enough to grab him here. Does need to wrap up better and work on block shedding at times.
Round 5: Michael Buchanon, DE/OLB, Illinois – situational pass rusher who is great at speed rushing. Needs to develop pass rush moves, some character concerns drop him here. Good length, maybe a little undersized. Replaces Kindle as the speed rush prospect.
Round 6: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinatti – Decent pass catching stats. Worth the risk here.
Round 7: Melvin White, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette – gigantic CB. Small school prospect who could be a late contributor. With Cary leaving and my faith in Jimmy shaken, this could be a decent depth pick with upside.
Wow, that was way more verbose that I thought it was. It's a good portion of my thought process in writing, but I apologize for the length.
Edited by T3hRaven, 17 December 2012 - 03:10 PM.