AFC North Free Agency Watch Day 1: Baltimore Ravens

If you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the opening day of free agency was basically a total snoozefest, outside of the front office evidently prank calling Darrelle Revis’ agent, unless there is some other reasonable explanation for that communication.

But that wasn’t the case around the rest of the AFC North, with the other three division teams making moves and losing some of their own free agents. This was especially true of the Baltimore Ravens.

While it was inevitable that the Ravens had to find something to do with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata’s $16 million cap hit, perhaps trading him to the Detroit Lions did not seem like the most obvious solution.

In typical fashion, the front office sent along with the veteran a seventh-round draft pick in return for two draft picks, in the fourth and fifth rounds, in 2015. While Baltimore is losing a very good player, the truth is that he is a player they could afford to lose with the emergence of Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan.

The decision to move Ngata, of course, was primarily about the salary cap, and they had little choice but to make it. They also saved a little over $2 million in cap space by restructuring outside linebacker Terrell Suggs’ contract.

Ngata was just one of a small handful of players who are now officially former Ravens, however, with the Denver Broncos signing tight end Owen Daniels, who filled in admirably in his one-year stint in Baltimore. The team is hoping that Dennis Pitta will actually be healthy this season, if at all possible.

The bigger hit, however, was losing out on wide receiver Torrey Smith, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers despite rumors of the team putting their starting quarterback on the chopping block. He was heavily recruited by Anquan Boldin, his former teammate with the Ravens, with whom Baltimore won the Super Bowl a few years back. Smith’s contract is reportedly for $40 million over five years.

Though it has not yet been made official as of the time of this writing, the Chicago Bears have reportedly reached an agreement with Ravens pass rusher Pernell McPhee on what is also believed to be a five-year contract worth $40 million. That was too rich for the Ravens’ blood, especially with Suggs and Elvis Dumervil already under contract.

The Ravens have yet to make any significant free agent signings of their own as they used this opening period to create cap space, rather than spend it. They did, however, sign nine of their 11 exclusive rights free agents, including some players who could help fill the gaps created by their departures, such as wide receiver Kamar Aiken and pass rusher Steven Means.

The Ravens’ biggest remaining free agent is running back Justin Forsett, who had a breakout season a year ago, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. He is being sought by a handful of teams, and it’s no guarantee by any means that he will return to Baltimore.

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