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During a time where the current state of sports seems uncertain, Late for Work is a constant you can continue to count on. With that in mind, we’ve got plenty of free agency talk to get into.

Who Will Stay and Who Will Go?

The NFL’s new league year will start this week as planned, and the Ravens’ front office has moves to make (or not make) on impending unrestricted free agents. The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec took a shot at predicting which free agents will stay and who will go.

I highlighted five of the most notable decisions outside of Matthew Judon, who was tagged on Friday.

Michael Pierce

Analysis: Pierce is expected to become a free agent for the first time in this career. He will be one of the top interior defensive linemen available following four seasons in Baltimore and could command 8 to 10 million a year annually in a new contract.

Zrebiec’s Prediction: “The bet here is Pierce will get a pretty significant free-agent contract elsewhere. However, the Ravens will monitor his situation and if Pierce doesn’t get the offers he is seeking, he could return.”

Jimmy Smith

Analysis: Despite only playing nine games last season, Smith was a key piece to one of the league’s top secondaries. He’s only played a full 16-game season twice in his nine-year career, and Eric DeCosta said at the Combine that he expects the veteran cornerback to test the free-agent market.

Zrebiec’s Prediction: “Two months ago, I would have predicted that Smith would be back, largely because of the relationships he has in the building and the ongoing contract talks. But there is a divide with what the Ravens are offering Smith and what he’ll get on the open market. If the money is close, Smith will likely stay, but I don’t see the money being close. Smith is a top-five free agent corner and he’ll get paid as such.”

Patrick Onwuasor

Analysis: Onwuasor started six games last season following standout campaigns in 2017 and 2018. The former undrafted linebacker is a versatile defender but fell behind playing time to L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes.

Zrebiec’s Prediction: “Onwuasor can help a defense if used correctly. His transformation from an undrafted college safety into a play-making linebacker on a top-ranked defense was a nice story, even if it had a disappointing ending. Both sides seem ready to move on.”

Seth Roberts

Analysis: After signing a one-year deal, Roberts totaled 271 yards and two touchdowns last season. He served as a veteran target for Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens have a young core at wide receiver and tight end.

Zrebiec’s Prediction: “Roberts did some positive things despite not getting regular opportunities in the passing game. However, the Ravens want to make some changes with their receiving group and that doesn’t bode well for a Roberts return.”

Chris Moore

Analysis: Moore contributed primarily on special teams last season. He caught just three passes for 21 yards, and never found a consistent role as a receiver in the offense.

Zrebiec’s Prediction: “For much of 2019, Moore wore the look of a player who needs a change of scenery. I’m not sure if the Ravens are interested in re-signing him and I suspect Moore will look elsewhere even if they are.”

Report: Re-Signing Jihad Ward a ‘Sneaky-Good’ Move

Along with De’Anthony Thomas, the Ravens have reportedly finalized a deal to retain defensive end Jihad Ward, according to Zrebiec.

Ravens still getting some work done on signing their own pending free agents. Per sources, they’re finalizing a deal with OLB/DE Jihad Ward who played well for them after he was picked up last year.

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 14, 2020
Ward was one of Eric DeCosta’s mid-season additions in 2019. He totaled seven tackles, four quarterback hits, and one sack in 11 games.

Big fan of the #Ravens re-signing Jihad Ward.

Underrated addition midseason.

— Chibs 🇮🇪 (@LateRoundCorner) March 14, 2020
“Much of his value couldn’t be measured in the box score, though,” Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko wrote. “At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Ward has the size and athleticism to play both inside and out, which proved to be valuable on a front seven that lacked many versatile nor dynamic athletes … Regardless, it’s a sneaky-good move by DeCosta to retain Ward’s services before the start of free agency.”

Ward helped a Ravens defense that had more questions than answers four weeks into the season. He was an underrated asset in Wink Martindale’s defense and would provide depth and versatility to the front seven.

“After starting last season with just five players on the roster, Baltimore was hit with injuries and saw lackluster play at times, forcing them to bring in Ward, Peko and Ellis in the middle of the season,” Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote. “Currently, the Ravens have just two defensive ends on the roster — Chris Wormley and Authentic Ufomba Kamalu Jersey — and with Pierce among Baltimore’s pending free agents, they’d be a little thin in the trenches if the season were to start right now.”

Ravens Reportedly ‘Involved’ in Talks With Christian Kirksey

One way the Ravens can attack free agency is by targeting players who’ve been released. These cap casualties don’t count against the compensatory pick formula, and former Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey could be a target.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the Ravens have been “involved” in communications with Kirksey, but no visit has happened.

I’m told the #Ravens have also been involved in communications on SFA LB Christian Kirksey as well, though he has not visited their facility, at this point, per source.

— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 13, 2020
Kirksey has reportedly already visited the Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Green Bay Packers.

After visiting the #Raiders on Wednesday, former #Browns LB Christian Kirksey is set to visit the #Packers today, per @MikeGarafolo.

— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) March 12, 2020
As LB Christian Kirksey continues his free agent tour with the #Bills, I’m told he wants to make a decision “fairly soon” on the team he chooses.

— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 13, 2020
“At 27, Kirksey could have some of his best football ahead of him,” Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich wrote. “The former third-round pick from Iowa was productive over his first six seasons, finishing with 286 tackles and six sacks over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Kirksey is also effective in pass coverage. He is active in the local community, which is an area of pride for the Ravens.”

Going through Christian Kirksey film, starting w/’16.. Kirksey took on some damn blocks this game vs. NE (graphics via @KlipDraw) –

— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 10, 2020
LB Christian Kirksey

— .-. (@Filmstudyall22) March 10, 2020
Kirksey was one of the NFL’s top linebackers during those two years, but his health has become a concern. He’s played in just nine games over the last two seasons. Those lingering issues could be a red flag for the Ravens, who have a limited amount of cap space to work with.

On the flip side, it may give the Ravens a chance to target Kirksey on a “prove-it” deal, but they could also address the position early in the draft with options like Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray and LSU’s Patrick Queen.

“The interest [from others] could also drive up his price,” Karpovich wrote. “The Ravens would likely be interested in talking with Kirksey because he would fill an area of need. Still, DeCosta might be wary of the injuries and could go in a different direction.”

How the New Collective Bargaining Agreement Affects Lamar Jackson

We’ve got football for at least another 10 years after NFL players and league owners approved the new collective bargaining agreement on Sunday. The main highlights include a 17-game season and an expanded playoff field, but some wrinkles could affect Jackson’s next contract.

Under the new CBA, there’s no financial distinction between fifth-year options. Instead, “everyone’s fifth-year option will be based on performance and can be as high as the franchise tag number for his position,” ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote.

New CBA will benefit Lamar Jackson if he reaches his 5th-year option in 2022 without a new deal:

Under the new deal, everyone’s fifth-year option will be based on performance and can be as high as the franchise tag number for his position.

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) March 15, 2020
Players on their rookie deals are eligible for extensions following their third season, but it could benefit Jackson if he were to reach his fifth-year option. The option is also now fully guaranteed.

Here’s a look at some other interesting tidbits of the new CBA:

  • Practice squad rosters will increase from 10 to 12 players in 2020 and 2021, and 14 in 2022.
  • Teams can activate two practice-squad players per week.
  • A player activated to the 55-man roster could be sent back to the practice squad twice before having to clear waivers.
  • Second-round draft picks will be eligible for the proven performance escalator pay program. Players picked outside of the first round will be eligible for escalators based on Pro Bowl selections.

Quick Hits

“I think he’s going to end up in the Hall of Fame,” Tony Kornheiser said about a recently retired Marshal Yanda.
“That’s why franchising Judon, which they officially did Friday, was viewed as a formality,” Zrebiec wrote. “The tough decision was always going to be what comes next, because franchising Judon doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be on the 2020 roster.”
Important to note with Matthew Judon being tagged as linebacker at $15.8M, which is about $2M less than a defensive end.

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) March 15, 2020
Roby is four years younger than Jimmy Smith and he’s been more durable too, but this is probably a pretty good indication that quality CBs will do well on the FA market. Doesn’t bode well for a Smith return to Ravens.

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 16, 2020

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — This wasn’t the trade many anticipated the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars would make, but it’s one that could go down as the biggest steal in Ravens history.

Baltimore acquired Jacksonville defensive end Authentic Calais Campbell Jersey on Sunday for a 2020 fifth-round pick they got from Minnesota for Kaare Vedvik, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. Basically, the Ravens added a five-time Pro Bowl defender and one of the NFL’s most consistent pass-rushers for a draft pick they received for a backup kicker who lasted three weeks with the Vikings.

The bigger splash, of course, would’ve been if Baltimore somehow pried away young edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from Jacksonville, something for which many Ravens fans had hoped. But that shouldn’t diminish the Ravens filling a massive need with a massive game-wrecker in Campbell, who represents a better value and overall fit.

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Last season, the Ravens had virtually no pass rush on the interior of the defensive line. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.

So, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta called one of his best friends in the business, Jaguars counterpart Dave Caldwell. Baltimore allowed Jacksonville to unload $15 million in salary and got a monster in the middle in return.

When it’s a passing down in the AFC North, Baker Mayfield, Ben Roethlisberger and perhaps Joe Burrow will line up and see 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell staring back at them. Campbell is one of four players with at least 80 sacks and 30 batted passes over the past 10 seasons.

The last time the Ravens had someone with Campbell’s size, athleticism and proven production was Trevor Pryce. Since Pryce’s departure a decade ago, no Baltimore defensive lineman has totaled more than six sacks in a season.

How much respect does Campbell command? An hour after the news of the trade broke, Ravens left tackle Authentic Ronnie Stanley Jersey tweeted: “I smell a dynasty.”

The biggest concerns with Campbell are his age and a decline in sacks production. Campbell will be 34 when the season starts, and his sacks have gone from 14.5 to 10.5 to 6.5 over the past three seasons.

But this is exactly the short-term deal you make for a big-name talent when you’re a team like the Ravens, who have quarterback Authentic Lamar Jackson Jersey under a rookie contract for a few more years.

Durability has been one of Campbell’s strengths, even in his 30s. He has started 90 consecutive games, and his 3,859 snaps is the seventh most by a defensive lineman over the past five seasons.

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Campbell was effective last season, even though he recorded his fewest sacks since 2015. He ranked fourth in best pass rush win rate (16.4%) among players with 200-plus double-teams. The only others who fared better were Aaron Donald (23.5%), Grady Jarrett (21.3%) and Chris Jones (18.4%).

Upgrading the pass rush is Baltimore’s top priority this offseason. The Ravens managed a league-low nine sacks from their four-man rush in 2019, which is why defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale had to creatively manufacture pressure with the most blitzes in the NFL. Baltimore was blitzing defensive backs so frequently that cornerback Brandon Carr finished fourth on the team in quarterback hits.

The Ravens see Campbell complementing Jackson in a way. As DeCosta noted at the NFL combine, Jackson and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense repeatedly jumped out to big leads, which forced teams to go into catch-up mode and pass the ball. If the Ravens face similar scenarios in 2020, they can attack quarterbacks with Campbell in the middle, newly franchise-tagged Matthew Judon off the edge and a secondary with as much talent as any team in the league.

The addition of Campbell is an essential piece for Baltimore’s front seven this offseason, but it’s certainly not the last. The Ravens will look to find a starting middle linebacker, another edge rusher and interior defensive lineman through free agency, their eight draft picks or perhaps even another trade.

In his 14 months as GM, DeCosta has differentiated himself the most from Ozzie Newsome with his wheelings and dealings, taking more of a baseball mentally when it comes to acquiring and moving talent. DeCosta has made six player trades — from sending Super Bowl-winning quarterback Authentic Joe Flacco Jersey to the Broncos for a fourth-round pick to acquiring cornerback Authentic Marcus Peters Jersey from the Rams for a fifth-rounder and reserve linebacker Kenny Young — and he has appeared to come out on top of all of them, including his latest one with Campbell.

There’s a possibility the Jaguars would’ve cut Campbell and Baltimore could’ve signed him in free agency. But it wasn’t worth the risk, especially not when the cost was a pick the Ravens got for a backup kicker.

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One of the more interesting upcoming decisions for the Ravens is whether to pay wide receiver Mike Wallace the big bucks scheduled on his contract for next season.

Wallace signed a two-year deal last offseason, but there is a club option for 2017 that must be exercised by the end of the 2016 league year in order for Wallace to remain on the roster. That deadline comes in eight days.

Wallace made a reported $1.25 million with a $3.5 million cap hit last year. In 2017, he would have a base salary of $4.75 million and cap hit of $8 million if the option is exercised, per Spotrac.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked Wednesday about Wallace’s status, and he gave a hopeful response.

“Circumstances, contracts, salary caps, all that, are another conversation that you have about every single guy,” Harbaugh said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But my anticipation is that Mike Wallace will be a part of our team, and I know he’s working to be a part of our team, and I’m planning on having him back next year.”

Harbaugh wasn’t asked about a potential new deal that could lower Wallace’s cap hit next season and keep him in Baltimore for a longer period of time.

Wallace, 30, proved himself after a down season in 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings, who released him last March. Wallace started all 16 games with the Ravens last season and posted 72 catches for a team-leading 1,017 yards and four touchdowns.

He brought his trademark speed and big-play ability, including a 66-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, 70-yard catch and run against the New York Giants in Week 6 and 95-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9.

“Mike Wallace, to me, was a big, integral part of our team last year,” Harbaugh said.

“Mike Wallace is a top-flight competitor. Mike Wallace is a guy that has a chip on his shoulder right there; that’s what you love about him. The guy wants to compete, he wants to be great, and he works that way. So I want Mike Wallace on our football team.”
If the Ravens parted ways with Wallace, they would be without their top two receivers from last year considering the retirement of Steve Smith Sr.Kamar Aiken is also a pending unrestricted free agent, and if he weren’t re-signed, Breshad Perrimanwould be the only returning wide receiver with double-digit receptions last season.

But things can change quickly this time of year in the NFL. There are a lot of moving parts depending on who the Ravens can re-sign, who becomes available and more.

“We’re bringing everybody back until we’re not,” Harbaugh said. “I think circumstances dictate that. So every one of those guys is in a little bit of a different position and has a different story.”

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Considering it will be the first and only time the starting offense is completely together for a game before Week 1 (minus wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.), it’s the only chance the unit has to pick up momentum.

The Ravens are 2-0 in the preseason and want to make it 3-0 in the contest that will most closely resemble a regular-season game.

“I think a big part of going into the first game of the season is confidence in what we have and how we have done in live games,” Flacco said. “Obviously, it is not as important as a regular-season game, but I think for our confidence as a team – and especially some of the young guys we have out here – to just get them used to winning football, it is pretty important.”

The Ravens’ running back rotation is still being sorted out, but quarterback Joe Flacco has clearly been impressed by the rookie Kenneth Dixon.

On Thursday, Flacco was asked for his take on rookie offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis and Dixon. After saying that Stanley and Lewis are “progressing big time,” Flacco gave a glowing review of Dixon.

“Kenneth Dixon has had a run each week where you thought he was down for five seconds and he gets 6, 7, 8, 9 more yards out of it,” Flacco said.

You can see in practice how shifty he is and how well he sees things and some of the cuts he makes. I think he has been pretty impressive transferring that over to the games.”

On January 6, 2013, in the Wild Card Playoffs round against the Indianapolis Colts, Flacco finished the game 12 of 23 for 282 yards, two touchdowns, and a career postseason high 125.6 passer rating. The 24-9 win at home set up a Divisional round rematch with the Broncos, who entered the game as nine-point favorites after their regular season win over the Ravens, which included a 98-yard interception touchdown return by Broncos’ cornerback Chris Harris that marked the lowest point of Flacco’s season.[35] Continuing his postseason success, Flacco played one of the best games in his career, throwing for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the 4th quarter, the Ravens were down 35-28 and had one last chance to tie the game. After an incomplete pass and a 7-yard scramble, on 3rd down and 3, Flacco heaved a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, sending the game into overtime. The pass has been called the “Mile High Miracle”, and “one of the greatest plays in NFL history”[36] and drew comparisons to Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary”, Terry Bradshaw’s “Immaculate Reception”, and Joe Montana’s “The Catch”.[37][38] The Ravens would go on to win the game in double overtime 38-35 after an interception by Corey Graham from Peyton Manning and a 47-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, sending the Ravens to face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship for a second straight year.[37]

On January 20, 2013, Flacco and the Ravens avenged the previous year’s AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots with a 28-13 win, securing their spot in the 2013 Super Bowl. Flacco threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns, notching his third straight game with a passer rating over 100. With this win, Flacco became the second NFL quarterback to defeat both Peyton Manning (with the Broncos) and Tom Brady in the same postseason since both became starting quarterbacks in 2001 (the first to do so was Mark Sanchez in 2010).