Ravens Fitting A Lot Of Value Under Their Cap
Any contract talk this offseason surrounding the Baltimore Ravens has been associated solely with QB Joe Flacco. However, now that Flacco is tied down to a cap-friendly long term deal, it's worthwhile to check who represents value and who doesn't on the rest of the roster.
WR Torrey Smith
Last season was somewhat of a breakout season for Smith. Statistically, the 24-year-old didn't surpass his rookie season. He actually caught one less pass, had just one more touchdown and 14 more yards in the regular season. However, Smith showed up when his team needed him the most.
Despite suffering a family tragedy on the night before the Ravens-Patriots matchup in Week 3, Smith finished the game with six receptions, 127 yards and two touchdowns. When the Ravens faced the daunting prospect of travelling to Denver to face the Broncos in the playoffs, Smith came up huge with two more touchdowns and 98 yards. He repeatedly beat Champ Bailey deep in that game and could have easily doubled his statistical output if Flacco could have hit him deep a couple of other times he broke free downfield.
Because he is only entering his third season and still on his rookie contract, Smith is slated to earn less than $1 million this season. For a legitimate top receiver, that is excellent value.
OT-OG Kelechi Osemele
As a rookie last season, Osemele started every single game on the Ravens' journey to Super Bowl success. With that said, he did not stay in the same spot the entire time. Osemele was the team's starting right tackle during the regular season before injuries to others forced him to move inside to left guard. Without Osemele, the Ravens wouldn't have had the flexibility to bring in Bryant McKinnie and move Michael Oher back to his preferred right tackle spot.
As a late second-round pick, the Ravens had relatively high expectations for their young offensive lineman, but they definitely didn't expect him to be so good so quickly. Osemele is set to earn just $760,000 this coming season despite already being a key figure upfront.
CB Lardarius Webb
Webb is a superstar cornerback and one of the most versatile defensive backs in the NFL. His worth to any team is incredible when he is fully healthy. However, because Webb tore his ACL six games into last season, his outlook for the coming season is somewhat dampened. Webb could still start the season on the active roster, but it is unlikely that he will be at his best by Week 1.
Considering he is owed over $5 million for this coming season, his contract hurts the franchise. Webb won't be rushed back because he is too valuable to the team's future, nor will he be asked to take a paycut. Hopefully for the Ravens, he will return to his very best as quickly as possible.
FB Vonta Leach
The former Houston Texans' fullback is clearly the best player at his position in the NFL. He is set to earn over $4.3 million for the coming season, a figure that isn't excessive for his talent. The only real issue with paying Leach that kind of money is the fit with his teammates. Leach has been an important figure for Ray Rice since he arrived in Baltimore, but having invested so heavily in Joe Flacco, the Ravens appear set to move to a more pass-heavy offense.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will likely look to spread the field with multiple-receiver sets more, which will limit the number of snaps that Leach sees. He can still be an effective pass blocker in a single-back set with Flacco, but figures to be competing with Rice and Bernard Pierce in that scenario rather than leading the way for them.