The Baltimore Ravens began the new league year in a salary cap bind, but they largely relieved that after working out a trade agreement that sent defensive lineman Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions for mid-round draft picks in compensation.
Yet all they have managed to do so far is to hand out a bunch of restricted and exclusive rights tenders and contracts to marginal players on their roster while watching most of their high profile free agents leave in free agency.
They did manage to re-sign one of their own players, however, defensive back Anthony Levine, who was a restricted free agent that they did not tender. He is now back on a two-year contract after gaining playing time due to injury last year.
With both of the Ravens’ starting cornerbacks going down with injuries in 2014, Baltimore had to call upon any number of reserves to play, and Levine became one of the key contributors late in the year.
He played in all 16 games, making three starts as a cornerback after moving from safety, making 29 tackles with four passes defensed. It is, of course, a rather minor signing, and he will revert back to providing depth and contributing on special teams in 2015.
A few of the moves from opening day became official yesterday, including the trade with the Lions for Ngata, who passes his physical to complete the transaction. Ngata is open to working out a contract extension with the Lions, on which he and the Ravens were too far apart after failing to reach a compromise leading up to the beginning of the new league year.
Also becoming official today was the new contract for Ravens pass rusher Pernell McPhee, who will now be coming after quarterbacks in the NFC North after agreeing to terms with the Chicago Bears, who are looking to be players this free agency cycle.
A year ago, McPhee was largely a situational pass rusher in sub-packages, but was highly productive in doing so. The 26-year-old signed a five-year contract worth just under $40 million, which included $16 million in guarantees.
One interesting area to watch is the safety market, and whether or not the Ravens intend to be a part of that process. Due to the abundance of injuries that they had a year ago, they relied upon a combination of Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles to eat up a lot of snaps.
Stewart is currently being courted by multiple teams, including the Broncoes, who are at the risk of losing one of their starting safeties, and the Giants, who just lost one of theirs. The Ravens have Matt Elam, a former first-round pick, still in place, and they have tendered restricted free agent Will Hill, who they do like.
The last remaining significant free agent on the board for the Ravens is running back Justin Forsett, who had a breakout season behind Baltimore’s line last year. But the running back market looks like it’s about to take off, which could increase the likelihood of Forsett being targeted by other teams.