The Ravens can begin their free-agent shopping on Monday, but before any deals are done with free agents, the Ravens still have some housekeeping to take care of before the start of the new year on Wednesday.
Before 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Ravens must decide whether to tender their restricted free agents, and the biggest name on that list is wide receiver Kamar Aiken. The other restricted free agents are safety Brynden Trawick, receiver Marlon Brown and tight end Chase Ford.
If the Ravens want to keep Aiken, they probably need to assign him a second-round tender, which would cost roughly $2.55 million. That means if another team made Aiken an offer that the Ravens refused to match -- and the Ravens would have the right to match any offer -- the Ravens would receive a second-round draft pick as compensation.
If the Ravens offer Aiken the low-round tender ($1.67 million), the Ravens would get nothing in return if Aiken left because he was undrafted.
Aiken was the star to emerge from the Ravens injury-ravaged receiver corps last season, leading the team with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns.
Although the Ravens expect Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman to return from injuries, Aiken has shown he belongs in the Ravens plans going forward.
To ensure that, expect the Ravens to assign him the second-round tender.
The Ravens would probably like to get away with a low-round tender, which would save them nearly $1 million in cap room. Every dollar helps. But the chance of losing Aiken to a team with more cap money -- and getting nothing in return -- is a chance the Ravens can't afford to take.
As for the other three restricted free agents, the Ravens could assign a low-round tender to Trawick, a backup safety who has been a valuable special teamer (when not crashing into Jacoby Jones...). Trawick had a team-high nine special teams tackles this season. But are the Ravens willing to commit $1.67 million to him? It's also possible Trawick will not be tendered but will be offered a lower-priced deal.
That's more than is expected for Ford or Brown. Brown's stock has plummeted since his rookie season. Brown, who had 49 catches for 524 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, fell out of favor in 2014 -- a series of drops didn't help -- and finished with 24 catches for 255 yards. This past season, Brown had 14 catches for 112 yards. If Brown's NFL career continues, it will probably be elsewhere.
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