It's clear that coming off a 5-11 season, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make regarding their 2016 roster. To be sure, injuries were a huge part of the story this past season, but there figures to be significant roster turnover after one of the worst seasons in team history. And as always, the salary cap figures to have a major influence on how the Ravens go about constructing their 2016 roster.
Over the next two weeks, we'll be examining each Ravens position group with an eye toward 2016. Who stays? Who goes? We began with the offensive line. Today, it's the wide receivers.
Note: For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit the roster to just those players on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve. (And click here for free agency terminology.)
Under contract: Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman, Steve Smith Sr., Darren Waller, Cam Worthy
Unrestricted free agents: Chris Givens
Restricted free agents: Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown
Exclusive rights free agents: Jeremy Butler, Kaelin Clay, Daniel Brown, Chris Matthews
The Ravens receiver corps will look a whole lot different than it did this past year, when a revolving cast of characters was summoned to fill the holes created by a slew of injuries. In fact, all five receivers currently under contract ended the season on injured reserve.
Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman and Michael Campanaro are all expected to return healthy and would all be near the top of the depth chart -- but at this point, the health of none of those can be considered a given. Smith, who turns 37 in May, is determined to return from his Achilles injury, and his un-retirement should be a huge plus to the Ravens passing game.
Campanaro has yet to show he can stay healthy for long, and Perriman's next play will be his first. The Ravens still don't quite know what they have in last year's first-round pick.
Contractually, the biggest offseason storyline will be what to do with Kamar Aiken, a former undrafted player who is a restricted free agent. More than anyone else, Aiken thrived in the Ravens patchwork passing game, obliterating his previous career highs with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns. If the Ravens offer Aiken a low tender, they risk having him signed away by another team, and the Ravens would receive nothing in return since he was undrafted.
Or, as they did with undrafted Justin Tucker, they could offer Aiken a second-round tender, which might scare off potential suitors and would net the Ravens a second-round pick if Aiken were signed away by another team. A second-round tender is expected to be about $2.5 million. That would be a nice raise for Aiken, who made less than $600,000 last year, but he has earned it.
It would be surprising to see the Ravens tender Marlon Brown, who clearly was phased out of the Ravens plans and finished with a career-low 14 catches.
More likely, the Ravens will let Brown go, will look to add a cheap, veteran free agent receiver or two and a draft pick and will let them compete with their exclusive rights free agents for the final roster spots.
First things first, though: The players the Ravens are counting on need to stay healthy and contribute.