Ravens try a little tenders-ness

Before restricted free agents learn their fate, a look at what might happen

March 02, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

When the Ravens give out tenders to their restricted free agents Thursday, Jared Gaither should receive a significant raise and Demetrius Williams could be given an opportunity to leave.

Gaither, the team's starting left tackle the past two seasons, is expected to get one of the highest possible tenders (contract offers) available. The Ravens will probably assign a one-year, $3 million tender to Gaither, which would mean another team would have to give first- and third-round draft picks for the 6-foot-9, 340-pound tackle as compensation. There is a chance the Ravens could give Gaither a first-round tender of $2.3 million, which would require only a first-round pick as compensation.

Either way, it would represent a major pay increase for Gaither, who earned $460,000 last season. Gaither, who will turn 24 this month, has the potential to be a Pro Bowl performer, but there has been speculation that the Ravens have been dissatisfied with his work ethic.

Gaither's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return messages from The Baltimore Sun.

Meanwhile, on the other end of restricted free agency, there is a strong possibility the Ravens won't tender a contract to Williams, which would allow him to go elsewhere. The lowest offer the Ravens could give him is $1.1 million, but the team is likely looking to cut ties and upgrade at the position.

A fourth-round pick in 2006, Williams flashed signs of being the playmaking wide receiver the Ravens have desperately needed. But ankle injuries ended his seasons in 2007 and 2008, and a mediocre preseason dropped him to No. 4 (and behind Kelley Washington) this past season.

Williams didn't make a favorable last impression for the coaching staff when he extended just one arm for a fourth-down pass in the playoff loss at Indianapolis.

"We tried to put Demetrius in situations to be successful as much as we could, and we need more," coach John Harbaugh said last month. "And let me tell you, he wants to do more. And you need to be a better player to give us what we were looking for."

The Ravens have an unprecedented 17 restricted free agents because the NFL is entering an uncapped year. In this new system, players with four years and five years of service who are coming out of contracts will be restricted free agents instead of unrestricted ones.

If another team signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, the Ravens can match the offer or receive the corresponding draft pick as compensation.

Two agents said Monday that the Ravens haven't informed them of any contract tenders. A Ravens official said the team likely won't announce the level of tenders.

Here's the projection on how the Ravens will handle their other 15 restricted free agents:

First-round tender
Mark Clayton, starting wide receiver: Clayton hasn't lived up to expectations, but the Ravens have to give him a 10 percent increase from last year's $2 million salary. So, a first-round tender ($2.5 million) makes financial sense.

Second-round tenders
Sam Koch, punter: The Ravens want to protect Koch because they don't want to use a pick on a punter in such a deep draft. It's expected they'll use a second-round tender on him for a second straight year.

Dawan Landry, starting safety: He bounced back from a slow start, and his production has exceeded his original draft round (fifth).

Le'Ron McClain, starting fullback: This tender might ordinarily be high for a fullback, but the Ravens know other teams might view McClain as a primary ball carrier.

Troy Smith, backup quarterback: The Ravens can decide to trade him for less than a second-round pick, but a low tender would allow a team to sign Smith for a fifth-round pick.

Fabian Washington, starting cornerback: The Ravens have to give him a 10 percent increase from last season anyway, so they'll place a second-round tender of $1.8 million.

Marshal Yanda, starting guard: If they place the low tender on Yanda, it could be a risk because another team might be willing to trade a third-round pick to acquire him. It's a safer bet to use the second-round tender.

Low tenders
Antwan Barnes, backup linebacker (fourth-round pick as compensation); John Beck, backup quarterback (third-round pick); Chris Chester, backup offensive lineman (third-round pick); Billy Cundiff, kicker (no compensation); Edgar Jones, backup tight end (no compensation); Adam Terry, backup offensive lineman (no compensation).

Note: If the Ravens use an upgraded tender on Gaither, low tenders to former second round picks (such as Beck, Chester and Terry) would only get third-round picks as compensation.

No tenders
Tony Moll, backup offensive lineman; Prescott Burgess, backup linebacker. The Ravens can still re-sign Moll and Burgess to cheaper, one-year deals after not tendering them as restricted free agents.

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