Baltimore Ravens: 5 Free Agents Who Could Return in 2016
The Baltimore Ravens' 2016 free agent class is highlighted by two of the few remaining players from their Super Bowl XLVII victory. One of them is left guard Kelechi Osemele, a mauler in the trenches who has become the second best player along the offensive line after Pro Bowl stalwart Marshal Yanda. The other is placekicker Justin Tucker, one of the clutchest kickers in the game with 10 gamewinning field goals in just four seasons.
Both the Ravens and their fans would love to bring both Tucker and Osemele back. Yet the reality of today's NFL could make that a difficult thing to happen. On Friday, the news came out that the Ravens plan to use their franchise tag on Tucker. This move shows just how highly the Ravens value Tucker, who currently ranks as the second most accurate kicker in NFL history.
Osemele on the other hand, could be a tough sell to return to Baltimore. Osemele and Cordy Glenn of the Buffalo Bills look to be the two premier offensive linemen in this year's free agency class. Osemele could easily command a bidding war between any of the number of teams in desperate need of an offensive lineman. Like Ben Grubbs and Michael Oher before him, Osemele could become the next offensive lineman to price himself out of the Ravens' range.
Beyond Osemele and Tucker, there are several other interesting names in the Ravens' free agency class. The Ravens tend to not be too active in pursuing high profile free agents on the open mark. They prefer to sign their own as long as they can sign them at a reasonable price. Right player, right price may be a cliche term but it's usually a guiding principle for the Ravens this time of year.
With that in mind, here's a look at several Ravens slated to hit free agency who are likely bets to be back in purple and black in 2016.
Morgan Cox, LS
Lest anyone forget, Morgan Cox was one of just three Ravens to make the Pro Bowl in 2015. Long snapper remains arguably the least glamorous position in all of football, so much so that they are merely selected by the Pro Bowl coaches. Really one of the only times anyone even notices the long snapper is when they commit a horrendous error.
That's just not something Cox does. His consistency is a big reason why Tucker has enjoyed so much success in his brief career. Cox, Tucker and punter Sam Koch refer to themselves as the Wolfpack. It looks probable that the three of them will continue to spearhead a Ravens' special teams unit that remains among the best in the NFL.
Shareece Wright, CB
Shareece Wright got attention for all the wrong reasons during his Ravens debut. That came in Week 6 when the passing attack of the San Francisco 49ers, his former NFL team, torched him repeatedly. Wright somehow recovered from that dreadful showing and went on to be one of the most important players in the Ravens' secondary. According to Pro Football Focus, Wright allowed just 124 yards and one touchdown over the next 10 games.
Wright was a big reason why the Ravens had the top pass defense in the NFL during the second half of the season. By bringing him back, the Ravens can pair him and former high school teammate Jimmy Smith as their starting corners for 2016. This could also enable them to move Lardarius Webb over to safety and it could at least buy some time if they decide to draft a corner of the future early. Crazy as it sounds, Wright could potentially be a Week 1 starting corner just one year after being cut in the middle of the season.
Kamar Aiken, WR
Kamar Aiken is the biggest name among the four Ravens' Restricted Free Agents. He proved to be a breakout player on offense, as he was the only offensive skill player to start all 16 games. Somehow Aiken not only avoided the injury bug, but he also led the team in catches (75), yards (944), and touchdowns (five).
The only possible deterrent to Aiken staying is the fact that he will almost certainly lose the starting job next year, whereas if he goes to another team he could possibly start. The Ravens hope to start Steve Smith Sr. and 2015 first round pick Breshad Perriman at receiver. Yet Aiken should still have a role in the offense, especially with Perriman's injury history and Smith entering 2016 as the oldest receiver currently on an NFL roster. Both those players have tremendous upside, but they are also risky players to count on for an entire season so it would not be shocking to see Aiken return to the starting ranks at some point.
Terrence West, RB
It's no secret that the Ravens' backfield is quite unsettled going into 2016. Justin Forsett will be 30 years old at the start of the season and despite having only 733 career carries, he's not a sure thing at running back. Neither is third year player Lorenzo Taliaferro, who has missed significant time due to injuries in both his first two NFL seasons. This presents tremendous opportunity for both Javorius Allen and Terrance West, the two young running backs that had to carry most of the load for the Ravens in the final month of the 2015 season.
West still has a lot of potential as he prepares to enter just his third NFL season. He has failed to stick on with either the Cleveland Browns or the Tennessee Titans, both teams with running games in disarray. West is unlikely to start next season but he could be a good third string running back behind Allen and Forsett. As an exclusive rights free agent, West does have a lot riding on this as he surely does not want to go to his fourth team in just three years.
Ryan Jensen, G
Though he's been under the radar, Ryan Jensen could actually become a key player on the Ravens' offensive line. There is a lot of uncertainty in this position group with Osemele possibly leaving and Eugene Monroe possibly getting cut. Plus they could easily draft a top tackle prospect in the first round with the sixth overall pick.
Osemele's departure could leave the opportunity for Jensen to contend for the starting left guard position. It's no sure thing, however the 2012 sixth-round pick overcame long odds when he cracked the starting lineup late in 2015. Injuries had caused him to play just one game over his first three seasons, so it was encouraging to see him play 11 games and start six in 2015. Osemele's shoes will be tough to fill but as an exclusive rights free agent, it would make sense for Jensen to get another chance in Baltimore.
James Reagan writes for the Baltimore Ravens on Pro Football Spot. You can follow me on Twitter @james__reagan. What free agents do you think the Ravens should make an effort to keep? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.