The Baltimore Ravens continued on their mission to become cap compliant before the new league opens up on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, as a result of using the nonexclusive franchise tag on MVP-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson which caused them to go over the cap by $8.356 million per overthecap.com.
On Friday, March 10, 2023, the team reportedly restructured the contracts of a pair of prominent players.
First came the news that veteran defensive tackle Michael Pierce agreed to take a pay cut to clear some cap space and remain with the team. A few hours later, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec reported that running back Gus Edwards is also having his current deal reworked.
According to spotrac.com, Edwards was slated to have a base salary of $4.3 million in 2023 with a cap hit of $5.6 million and was rumored to be cut as a potential salary cap casualty.
The specifics of the restructuring have yet to be reported but according to spotrac.com, the Ravens are down to being just $2.2 million over the cap. While they’re almost out of the red, general manager Eric DeCosta will still need to clear even more space in order to make move for a veteran at a position of need in free agency, sign their entire draft class, and have some leftover for injury insurance during the season.
Being able to hold onto Edwards who is not only a fan favorite but is regarded as one of the best power backs in the league. He averages 5.2 yards per carry in his career, is rarely ever tackled for negative yardage, and almost always moves the chains or crosses the goal line in short-yardage situations.
In his first game back from injury this past year he recorded a pair of touchdowns in the red zone from one and seven yards out.
Prior to suffering torn ACL that cost him the entirety of the 2021 season, Edwards recorded over 700 rushing yards and at least 2 touchdowns on the ground in each of his first three seasons in the league per Pro Football Reference.
With the rapid devaluation of the running back position in terms of annual average salary for star and nonstar players alike, lowering Edwards’ cap hit in the final year of the two-year extension worth $9 million he signed in 2021 made perfect sense.
Ravens Still Need More Depth at RB
As exciting as this latest positive development is, the team’s backfield is still light at the moment in terms of players under contract through the 2023 season.
Both Edwards and Dobbins are entering the final year of their current deals and Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake are slated to hit unrestricted free agency come March 15 at 4 p.m. eastern standard time.
The team could very well be open to bringing back one of their two pending free agents with a slight likely preference going to Hill given his value on special teams, lack of treadwear on his legs, and age at 25 years old compared to Drake who is 29. He is one of the best gunners in the league and can provide a spark in the return game as well.
This year’s draft class has several promising prospects at running back that will get pushed down the board given the position they play and will be ripe for the picking in the mid-to-late rounds.
A player like Kenny McIntosh who played for new Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken for the past two years at the University of Georgia would be a likely target for the team in the fourth round if he’s still around by No. 124 overall.
Ravens Attend Private Workout of 3-Time Pro Bowl WR: Report
As much as they need another running back to help their rushing attack, the team’s top priority this offseason right behind getting Jackson signed to a long-term deal is providing him with more weapons to throw to in the passing game.
They are clearly turning over every stone and exploring every avenue in their pursuit to do just that as the team was one of several that were represented at the private workout of three-time Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr. in Arizona on Friday, March 10, 2023, according to a report from Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports.
Beckham sat out the entire 2022 season as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s Super Bowl as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Prior to going down with the injury, he was on his way to probably earning MVP honors of the big game after recording 2 catches on 3 targets for 52 receiving yards and a touchdown in 24 offensive snaps in the first half.
He was on a Hall of Fame trajectory to begin his career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014 and recording over 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his first three seasons according to Pro Football Reference.
Before he started getting hampered by injuries, Beckham was regarded as one of the best receivers in the league, and if he can regain a semblance of his former glory, he can be again even if it is not quite at the elite level anymore.
Depending on how he looked during his workout and what his salary demands are, Beckham would be well worth a one-year prove-it deal contract littered with incentives. As long as they don’t get into a bidding war for his services, he’d be a low-risk-high-reward gamble that could pay major dividends.