OC – Jason Brown
LB – Terrell Suggs
LB – Ray Lewis
FB – Lorenzo Neal
S - Jim Leonhard
TE – Daniel Wilcox
CB – Corey Ivy
LB – Bart Scott
OT – Chad Slaughter
PK – Matt Stover
WR – Terrence Copper
QB – Kyle Boller
QB – Todd Bouman
This list is a combination of need and signability, and also cap ramifications. I have a feeling that someone (probably Miami or Detroit) is going to make a big push to sign Jason Brown, but as long as his deal isn't a cap killer, the Ravens need to re-sign him. He is only 24 and he anchored a much better than expected offensive line last year. This OL has a chance to be something special for the next few years, and it would be a shame to see him go. Now, the Ravens DO get Marshal Yanda back, and his return as a starting guard would allow the team to move Chris Chester to center. But Brown is somewhat undersized at 6'3" and 320 lbs. Chester is 6'3" and 305 lbs. Both have good technique, but are susceptible to being bull rushed. I don't want to have to keep the RB or the FB back for max protect all the time, but of the two, Brown has better technique and could easily put some more muscle on his frame without losing any of his quickness.
I put Suggs ahead of Ray Lewis for one reason. Suggs is 26 and in the prime of his career. He is a hybrid DE/LB who can rush the passer and drop back into coverage. Basically, he is the game changer that Ray was back in 2000. That is not to say that Ray is not a very good player. But Ray is not the same player he was 9 years ago. He couldn't be. His position is too violent. He has lost a step, but compensates for it with his film study and his knowledge of how the game flows. He can read a play as well as if not better than anyone who has EVER played the game. And that might be even more impressive than his still quite formidable physical skills.
Of the 3 LBs that are UFA's, that leaves Bart Scott out of the loop. Now if he (as well as Suggs and Lewis) were to subscribe to the idea that Terrell floated out to the world the other day then a lot of things could change. But looking at it from cold, hard reality, Scott is the odd man out. I think he signs with the Jets, or as a consolation prize to the Cowboys if their push to sign Lewis fails. If Lewis or Suggs (or God forbid BOTH) DOES bolt and he is still available the Ravens will snatch him up pronto (unless HE decides to follow one or both of them. All three are close friends on AND off the field, and that could help or hurt the Ravens' chances of signing them depending on how the dominoes fall).
Neal, Leonhard, and Wilcox are all vital cogs that keep the team moving, and none should blow the market open to the point that signing them isn't economically viable. Neal is invaluable as a leader in the huddle as a safety blanket for both the RBs and for Joe Flacco. He is a 16 year veteran who still brings the pain every time he steps on the field. Nothing on the field surprises him, and his emergence on the team coincided with the team going on a major hot streak. The combination of him, LeRon McClain, and Haloti Ngata on the goal line offense is nigh unbeatable. Leonhard offers solid play in the defensive secondary as well as good hands and better than average punt and kick return ability. Wilcox is a decent blocker, but more importantly, Todd Heap has not had a good season in a couple of years. It could be injury and it could be that he is no longer a front line starter. Wilcox is no Tony Gonzalez, but he will do at least as well as Heap has been doing recently, and is a better blocker and gunner on special teams.
Stover is a special case. He is worth keeping strictly from the standpoint that kickers as a rule do not cost that much against the cap and he is a fan favorite. The only negative I have with keeping him is that the Ravens also need to keep a kickoff / long kick specialist, and that is a valuable roster spot. But it is worth it from the standpoint of what he means to the team and to the fans.
Boller is above Bouman only because Boller is a really good man who has been nothing but a stand up guy who took more punishment (both on and off the field) than any one man should have. But we have 2 good QBs and he is going to want to be able to compete for a starting job, and there will probably be someone somewhere that will be willing to give him a shot (again, the two most likely culprits will be the Jets or Detroit).
Any other name is just there because they are an UFA and to keep them would add depth to the team with players familiar with the system that we run.
Next post, I am going to look at the other players that could move, and the consequences for both the Ravens and the team that signs them if it is another team.