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Top Baltimore Ravens’ pending free agents in 2021

Who are the Ravens’ free agents in 2021? Also, how will the Ravens tackle free agency with 27 different contracts expiring after the season?

Top Baltimore Ravens pending free agents in 2021
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 08: Baltimore Ravens defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) battles with Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo (74) in action during a NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens on November 08, 2020 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Once the NFL season is over, the Baltimore Ravens will have to make decisions on 27 different free agents in 2021. Before the Ravens enter free agency, let’s take a look at Baltimore’s top free agents on offense and defense.

How much cap space do the Ravens have to re-sign their free agents in 2021?

OverTheCap is currently projecting the NFL to have a $176 million salary cap, which is fine for the Ravens. Based on that projection, Baltimore will be $26 million under the cap. That gives them plenty of money to attack this year’s offseason with, and they won’t have many players they have to re-sign, relatively.

Only 27 of Baltimore’s players are entering some form of free agency. Of that 27, 19 are fully unrestricted free agents, which will force Baltimore to make some tough decisions. Who will the Ravens choose to re-sign, and who will they let walk?

The Ravens’ offensive free agents for 2021 aren’t marquee names they should worry about losing

As we head into 2021, Baltimore has eight unrestricted free agents (UFA), one restricted free agent (RFA), and three exclusive-rights free agents to take care of on the offensive side of the ball. Of those 12 total offensive free agents, only four played more than 15 percent of the team’s snaps, and of those four, just three are set to be UFAs.

Willie Snead, Wide Receiver

The most noteworthy of the Ravens’ free agents for 2021 is wide receiver Willie Snead. Snead isn’t one of the NFL’s elite receivers, but it would be tough for Baltimore to watch one of their best players at a position of need walk out the door.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Myles Boykin haven’t lived up to draft expectations, and outside of Snead, Baltimore has nothing else behind them.

Related | NFL Cut Candidates 2021: Alshon Jeffery, Matthew Stafford could be cut this offseason

As a result, the Ravens will likely attempt to bring Snead back. He totaled 33 receptions for 432 yards and three touchdowns on 48 targets. Snead also scored an OVM (Offensive Value Metric) of 33.25, which ranked first on the Ravens and 26th in the NFL among wide receivers.

Matt Skura, Center

The Ravens will have a tough decision to make with Matt Skura. They entered the season with Skura as their starting center. However, despite spending most of the season in that role, he was recently benched for Patrick Mekari, who has outperformed him.

That alone makes moving on from Skura seem like a no-brainer. Baltimore’s already existent struggles in the trenches from this season make it more difficult, though. As is the case with fellow 2021 Ravens free agent Willie Snead, they won’t want to deplete an already-shallow position group. Thus, it might make sense to bring him back on a cheap deal as a backup for insurance.

Gus Edwards, Running Back

Behind Snead, Gus Edwards is the best member of the Ravens entering free agency on offense, so it’s a good thing he’s also restricted.

Edwards played just over a third of Baltimore’s snaps last year and was one of the team’s best RBs. In 2020, Edwards had 153 touches, gaining 852 all-purpose yards and scoring six times. He also generated an OVM of 14.12, best on the team and third-best in the NFL among running backs.

The Ravens will likely choose to tender Edwards, but it wouldn’t surprise if they let him walk instead.

Robert Griffin III, Quarterback

It goes without saying that Baltimore is set with Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback. However, they might want to upgrade at backup quarterback. Robert Griffin III’s contract expiring provides them the perfect opportunity.

Griffin disappointed in relief of Jackson for the second-consecutive season and then was promptly injured, clearing the way for TikTok phenom Trace McSorely. McSorely wasn’t great either, but it was also clear there wasn’t much of a downgrade from Griffin to McSorely.

With that in mind, it would make sense to allow Griffin to become a free agent and to look elsewhere for an upgrade behind Jackson.

Substantial defensive talent could leave the Ravens in free agency

On defense, the Ravens have 13 free agents in 2021. 10 of those 13 are set to be unrestricted free agents, putting Baltimore in an awkward position. Of those 10, eight played more than 15 percent of the team’s snaps, and of those eight important Ravens entering free agency, seven are on the defensive line.

All of their marquee edge rushers hit free agency (Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee)

Baltimore is going to experience a full rebuild at edge rusher this season. Every prominent edge rusher on the roster will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

Matthew Judon played on the franchise tag this season and is the most important edge rusher on the roster. Judon generated pressures and sacks at the highest rate of any Baltimore edge defender. As a result, he’s also the most likely to receive an extension.

Yannick Ngakoue is also likely to earn an extension after the Ravens invested draft capital into acquiring him from the Vikings. Ngakoue wasn’t productive at the same rate that Judon was, but he led all four edge defenders in terms of both sacks and pressures created.

Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee were quite valuable for Baltimore this season, but they’re also the edge defenders that are least likely to return.

Baltimore’s defensive line (Derek Wolfe, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward) is almost as dire as edge rusher

The Ravens are risking a mass exodus at edge rusher this offseason. They could experience one on the interior of their defensive line as well.

Derek Wolfe, Justin Ellis, and Jihad Ward all appeared in at least a quarter of Baltimore’s defensive snaps. The cohort is also all set to become unrestricted free agents.

Ward played the fewest snaps of the three, but he is also the most likely to return. First, he’s the only one of the three that’s on the right side of 30. He’s four years younger than both Wolfe and Ellis. Ward was also the most productive of the three as a pass rusher. Lastly, his tweener role would be the hardest to replace.

Next up would be Wolfe, who was nearly as productive as Ward against the pass. With that said, the best argument Wolfe has is that he was arguably the team’s best run stuffer. If his value is around the same as last offseason, it would make sense for Baltimore to re-sign him.

Finally, you have Justin Ellis, the least likely of the three to return. Ellis is easily the worst pass rusher of the three. He also doesn’t offer much against the run. As a result, it would be surprising if he returned.

Allowing at least one of the three to leave will free up snaps for Justin Madubuike, who was terrific as a rookie this year.

Who are the other Ravens’ free agents for 2021?

Baltimore has other important free agents to decide on as well, though.

D.J. Fluker, Dez Bryant, Tramon Williams, and Eric Tomlinson all played at least 10 percent of Baltimore’s snaps. All of them will become unrestricted free agents. It shouldn’t be too difficult for Baltimore to replace Tomlinson and Williams. However, Bryant and Fluker both play positions where the Ravens already needed reinforcements.

Meanwhile, Baltimore will also have to watch restricted free agents Chris Board, Davontae Harris, and Trystan Colon-Castillo.

Harris played plenty of snaps for them after being added off waivers and should return. Board had a surprisingly large role as well and should also return. Lastly, Colon-Castillo wasn’t great, but he could be a cheap replacement for Matt Skura.

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