The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2019 regular season with the best record amongst the entire NFL. First-year general manager Eric DeCosta assembled one of the most complete rosters in all of football by adding and developing pieces on both sides of the ball last year and will be looking to upgrade even further in 2020.
Baltimore’s offense had one of the most successful seasons of any offense in NFL history in 2019. They beat the all-time single-season rushing record as a team, averaging 206.0 rushing yards per game, and set franchise records in both points per game and yards per game. Their ferocious rushing attack was largely predicated on MVP Lamar Jackson but a couple of strong drafts last April and in 2018, have propelled the Ravens to maybe the most exciting young offense in the NFL. Along with Jackson, key players like Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Hayden Hurst are locked into their rookie deals for at least the next two seasons.
Going into the off-season, DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome have done a tremendous job managing the Ravens salary cap situation. The Ravens are estimated to have just under $28 million in cap space, before cuts, and have almost no key free agents on both offense and defense set to hit the open market. However, that doesn’t mean that Ravens brass won’t have a couple of big decisions to make in regards to their pending free agents.
The start of the off-season means that every team has a clean slate and the Ravens should be focused on contending for a Super Bowl in 2020. DeCosta had one of the best off-seasons in Ravens history last year and will be looking to keep the momentum going again this year. This is the 2020 offensive edition of Baltimore Ravens Walk/Cut/Keep.
Baltimore Ravens Free Agency Walk/Keep/Cut: Offense
Note: Players that did not play a significant amount of snaps in 2019/through their Ravens career (i.e Hroniss Grasu) or are upcoming exclusive rights free agents (i.e Gus Edwards), have been disqualified from this list.
Seth Roberts (WR) – Verdict: WALK
Roberts was signed to a one-year(s)/$1.7 million deal last off-season and did exactly what most thought he would do. He came up big on a couple of plays but was mostly, like many of the Ravens receivers, utilized as a run blocker more than a constant receiving threat. The wideout played in all 17 games for the Ravens and finished the year catching 21 balls on 35 targets for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Not mind-blowing stats by any means, but then again, none of Baltimore’s receivers really had big numbers either.
Roberts served his purpose in a Ravens offense that seldom threw the ball and upgrading at the receiver position is a must. Baltimore wide receivers only caught a total of 69 passes the entire season. Jackson may have led the NFL in touchdown passes but it was clear he had little chemistry with any wide receiver not named Hollywood Brown. Moving on and trying something different at wide receiver makes a lot of sense for the Ravens.
Matt Skura (C) – Verdict: KEEP
Dealing with Skura is going to be a hot-button issue for DeCosta this off-season. In just his second season as a full-time starting center in the NFL, Skura played at an elite level for a team that had dominant offensive line play all season long. He played every snap of the Ravens first 10 games helping his unit finish as Pro Football Focus’ second best-rated offensive line in 2019. He exited the Ravens Week 12 Monday Night Football matchup with the Los Angeles Rams with a knee injury and missed the remainder of the season. This was expected to be a large blow to the Ravens offensive line, but undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari played very well in replacement over the next six games.
This now leaves the daring a question; can the Ravens can afford to move on from Skura and trust Mekari to be a full-time starter? The answer is both complicated and simple.
Skura is an upcoming restricted free agent meaning he has a little bit of power when it comes to his and the Ravens negotiations. The first-round tender option only pays him around an estimated $3.5 million but his market value, according to Sportac, is over $10.5 million per season. Therefore, it may be in Skura’s best interest not to sign a qualifying offer and request a trade to a team in which gives him the payday he’s looking for. Giving up a first-round pick for a center would be a steep ask for any team but it’s still possible.
It is likely that Skura remains a Raven for one more season at a good value before becoming an unrestricted free agent next year.
Chris Moore (WR) – Verdict: WALK
While Moore has been a favorite of head coach John Harbaugh, retaining him seems like a stretch. He’s been a continual contributor on special teams, at both gunner and returner, but has made little impact on offense over his four years as a Raven. A fourth-round pick of the Ravens back in 2016, Moore has never recorded either 20 catches or 300 yards in a season. He played over 35% of offense snaps both 2017 and 2018 but has still only made five starts as a Raven in four years. Finding upgrades at the receiver position are more important than keeping a lifelong special-teamer. Cutting special-teams specialist Justin Bethel after signing him to a one-year(s)/$2.0 million deal could prove to be precedent.
De’Anthony Thomas (WR/KR) – Verdict: WALK
After the Ravens’ kick/punt returning group showed very little promise to begin the season, Thomas was brought in to try and give the unit a spark. However, he didn’t fare much better. Thomas finished his eight-game stint with the Ravens in 2019 averaging the lowest yards per kick returned of his entire career while averaging the second least average yards per punt returned — in a season where he returned 10 or more punts. Couple this with him being a complete non-factor as a receiver and it doesn’t look like Thomas will be back in Baltimore for 2020. The Ravens have had return issues for more than a couple of seasons now and need to address this issue in the draft or free agency.
James Hurst (OL) – Verdict: CUT
What came as a surprise to some, Hurst was extended following the 2017 season due to his ability to play all over the offensive line. He’s started games at left guard, left tackle and right tackle over the past four seasons. His versatility has been his strongest selling point but he’s found it hard to stick in the starting lineup. Hurst has been succeeded in training camp multiple times by different players and doesn’t look to have a shot at starting anywhere with the Ravens improved offensive line play. His on-field play, when called upon, hasn’t been great either.
The problem with Hurst is not that he isn’t a reliable backup, but rather his cap hit. He is set to count as $5.25 million against the cap over the next two seasons. With all the Ravens draft capital in the upcoming draft, it’s almost inevitable that DeCosta will pick at least one offensive lineman which would add another young player to an already solid unit. Cutting Hurst would give the Ravens an extra $2.75 million of cap space, paying for the rookie contracts of whoever is drafted in April, and also a little extra wiggle room to pursue larger impact free agents. His four-game suspension only adds to the case for cutting Hurst.
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