Pre Off-Season To-Do List

Although free-agency officially starts on March 1, there are a number of loose ends and roster moves that the Ravens will need to tie up in the next couple of weeks. They've already made one significant move by designating cornerback Chris McAlister as their franchise player, which was expected for some time.

However, figuring out how much compensation the club will offer to its unrestricted and restricted free-agents is still a major concern. The Ravens also have to decide on which unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights free-agents they want to keep. In addition to those moves, plus a couple of others, here is a list of decisions that the Ravens will need to make before March:


1. Signing McAlister to an extension: By tendering Chris McAlister the franchise tag, the Ravens have basically kept the highly sought after corner off the market. Now, if any other team decides that they want to sign McAlister away from Baltimore, they will have to pony up a large sum of cash and first round picks in exchange. That's not going to happen. The Ravens on the other hand, have now given themselves an extra two weeks or so to sign McAlister to a long-term extension by tagging him. However, if the Ravens reach an agreement with the franchise player between March 15 and July 15, they will lose the right to designate any other player with the franchise tender until McAlister's new contract expires.


Another problem with McAlister's one-year contract staying on the cap is that the deal is worth close to $6 million. By reaching an accord with the cornerback soon, the Ravens could conceivably trim his total cap number down by around $3-$4 million, giving the club even more space under the cap.


2. Re-signing Mulitalo: There is absolutely, positively, no reason for the club to drag their feet even further when it comes to extending Edwin Mulitalo's contract. The veteran left guard is not seeking a highly lucrative contract and if the Ravens offer him a fair market deal, they shouldn't have much trouble re-signing him, because Mulitalo has greatly expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore. In fact, the front office should have extended Mulitalo's contract months ago. If the Ravens lose their best interior lineman and replace him with Mike Flynn, look for opposing defenses to ravage the offensive line up the middle with an even higher frequency than ever before.


3. Tendering Redman and Thomas: Because McAlister's franchise figure will take up so much of the Ravens' cap space; the club should look to tender Chris Redman and Adalius Thomas, their top restricted free-agents, the minimum. By paying a total of $1.126 million combined to both restricted free-agents, the Ravens would retain both players at a good number, because neither player will be a hot commodity on the market. In Redman's case, if another club wants to acquire him, they would have to surrender a third-round pick in exchange. In Thomas' case however, the compensation that the Ravens would receive if another team tendered him with a long-term offer would only be a sixth-round choice. Still, it's unlikely that Thomas would be offered any more than $1-$1.5 million per season by another team, and the Ravens could easily match that offer if they didn't want to lose the hybrid end. Plus, by matching another team's modest price, the Ravens would retain a valuable backup for the next couple of seasons for a cap friendly deal.


4. Restructuring Flynn's contract: Mike Flynn is entering the last year of his contract, and his total cap number raises to around $2.7 million this year, with $2 million of the amount accounting for his total base pay. While Flynn is a versatile player who can play both the guard and center positions at an average level, it's highly debatable that he is worth this much compensation, especially coming into the last year of his deal. Again, because McAlister's somewhat ambiguous salary structure is in place, the club should look to trim as much moveable salary as they possibly can by either extending their starting center's contract or by releasing him altogether. Releasing Flynn would save the club $2 million, while by extending his deal; the Ravens could potentially save around $1 million in space depending on how they would rework his contract.  


5. Re-signing Blake: If the Ravens do reach an agreement with Jeff Blake anytime soon, it should be under the stipulation that the quarterback would have to compete for the starting job along with Chris Redman. There have been some rumblings that Blake doesn't desire to duke it out with Redman during training camp in order to win the post, because the battle could cause a rift in the locker room. However, the only other option that the Ravens have is just handing either player the starting role, and that's not the best alternative for all parties involved. Redman's back condition is still in limbo; Blake still needs to prove that he's more than just a sporadic quarterback capable of excelling in short-term duty, and the organization has to have both players back in some capacity to bolster their depth at the QB position.

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