With the early May compensatory deadline now passed, after which unrestricted free agents can be signed by any team without penalty against their 2020 compensatory pick calculations, the Baltimore Ravens are perhaps among the top teams who are most likely to take advantage of this late ‘wave’ of free agency—and not simply because that is in fact what they often do.
Baltimore should have north of $10 million in cap space available to them, give or take, when all is said and done, and they still have some holes to fill that they really didn’t get around to addressing, or addressing significantly, perhaps especially the inside linebacker position after they lost C.J. Mosley in free agency.
As you might recall, the Ravens reportedly already tried to angle their way toward a starting inside linebacker after the deadline. Brandon Marshall claimed that the team asked him to wait to sign after the deadline. He declined and signed a starter-level deal elsewhere.
Subsequently, Baltimore failed to acquire any inside linebacker talent from the draft, even if they signed a few as college free agents. But there are other potential areas that they might look to boost, such as the outside linebacker position, where they lost two key players, as well as an interior offensive lineman.
General Manager Eric DeCosta seems to be of the opinion that the league is shifting its collective thoughts toward free agents, wherein he believes that the post-draft signing period after the compensatory pick is a non-formula is going to be much more active.
“Teams that were strapped against the cap or looking for bargains would not get involved in the first week or first 10 days”, he said. “It used to be the second phase came later in March after the first wave of big, big contracts”.
“Some teams didn’t really understand the process as well as other teams, and they didn’t pay attention to the types of picks they might get back”, DeCosta went on. “But now, everyone is in tune to the whole comp picks formula and how you can trade them and it has raised the value of comp picks. Now everyone is focused on that May 8 date”.
Where exactly would this lead, however, if the entire league collectively adopted this approach? Could it amount to an accusation of collusion, whereby teams conspire to delay market-value employment opportunities in order to gain certain advantages?
I could certainly imagine the NFLPA becoming curious to learn more about DeCosta’s theory about a growing shift toward free agency becoming more prominent after the draft, which could potentially have an overall net negative impact on players’ compensation potential.
Alternatively, it could also have the opposite effect. If more teams are in the market in May, there will be more opportunities to shop one deal to another. The draft will eliminate some teams, but it will also make clear to others exactly what they need and how badly they need it.