With the 2015 NFL Draft now just a few weeks away and the vast bulk of the free agency period now behind us, we have already gone through the roster changes that the Pittsburgh Steelers have made on a position-by-position basis.
Now it’s time to turn our focus to the rest of the AFC North, and see how the Steelers’ division rivals have fared during free agency. Three of them made the playoffs last season, but they all entered this offseason with issues, whether cap-related or talent-related.
The first team up is the Baltimore Ravens, who headed into free agency with their fair share of salary cap concerns. With defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on the books for a massive salary cap hit, the front office tried to work out a last-minute extension to reduce the figure, but the two sides were unable to work out a figure.
As a result, the Ravens pulled the trigger on a trade that sent the Pro Bowler to the Detroit Lions, in exchange for a fourth and fifth-round draft pick. But Ngata is not the only significant component that the Ravens ended up losing.
The Ravens made great use of pass rusher Pernell McPhee on passing downs last season, as he racked up a number of sacks in a limited role. He parlayed that performance into a nice new contract for himself with the Chicago Bears, which Baltimore could not match.
Three former Ravens are now also Denver Broncos, as the aforementioned signed both tight end Owen Daniels and safety Darian Stewart. Daniels was the Ravens’ primary tight end last year, while Stewart ended up becoming a starter as well and played well.
In addition to those two players, the Ravens also ended up trading center Gino Gradkowski to the Broncos for a draft pick, where he figures to battle for the starting job there. Gradkowski was bad enough in that role for the Ravens a couple years ago that they traded for a starter themselves.
The other significant loss for the Ravens in free agency was the departure of starting wide receiver Torrey Smith, who signed a pricey new contract with the San Francisco 49ers, where he rejoins his former teammate and fellow Super Bowl champion, Anquan Boldin. Boldin played a part in recruiting Smith to join him in the Bay Area.
Of course, the Ravens’ offseason wasn’t just straight up losses. They did retain many of their own, including starting running back Justin Forsett. Also retained were depth players in the secondary and along both lines, including Chris Canty, whom the Ravens cut.
The Ravens also cut wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who signed with the San Diego Chargers, and running back Bernard Pierce after an arrest. The latter was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Baltimore added safety Kendrick Lewis, who figures to be a starter, as well as backup quarterback Matt Schaub, while they signed restricted free agents—kicker Justin Tucker and safety Will Hill—to tenders. Schaub replaces Tyrod Taylor, who signed with the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens still have a handful of free agents unsigned, but none of them appear to have much of a market right now.