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Ravens' NT Brandon Williams ranked among top 10 free agents

Ravens' NT Brandon Williams ranked among top 10 free agents

Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams is ranked among the top 10 free agents on the market in a list compiled by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, and tackle Rick Wagner also makes the top-25 list, checking in at No. 24.

That only underscores what was already conventional wisdom around Baltimore: The Ravens will have a tough time holding on to either player given interest around the league and their typically thin amount of salary cap space.

At the "State of the Ravens" address on Tuesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the team has had preliminary discussions with some agents representing their pending free agents.

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"We have talked to some of the players before they left and let them know that we really would like to retain them," Newsome added. "A lot of the legwork has been done."

Williams and Wagner headline a pending free agent group for the Ravens that includes fullback Kyle Juszczyk, special teams ace Anthony Levine and safety Matt Elam.

Williams comes in at No. 9 on the NFL.com free agent list, and at this point, it would seem likely he will test the market and see what offers are out there. He is going to like what he sees.

"Williams is a one-man solution to your favorite team's run-stopping problems," Rosenthal wrote. "Damon Harrison paved the way last season for nose tackles to get paid like pass rushers."

Harrison signed with the New York Giants for five years and $46.2 million, with $24 million guaranteed.

Can, or would, the Ravens offer Williams a similar deal? Probably not, and that's nothing against Williams, who is a popular and respected player. He has probably been the Ravens most consistent defensive player over the past couple of seasons. But the Ravens have undrafted rookie Michael Pierce available at a fraction of that cost, and they could then turn their attention and resources to more pressing needs.  

As for Wagner, Rosenthal ranks him as the 24th-best available free agent, and he predicts that Wagner could command "north of $10 million per season in this market."

The salary cap, while not set yet, is expected to rise by $10 million or more. So the Ravens will have more money to work with. Then again, so will everyone else.

"With the salary cap escalating as it is, then the salaries of the players are escalating also," Newsome said. "You have to play the game."

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There are plenty of interesting reunions in store for the Ravens this season

There are plenty of interesting reunions in store for the Ravens this season

With short contracts and shorter shelf lives, NFL players find themselves jumping between franchise quite often over the course of an average career. As a result, almost every matchup between teams any given Sunday could be construed as a reunion between player and organization.

The Ravens are no exception. If anything, 2019 sets up to have more compelling meetings than usual. Let’s highlight some of the most intriguing.

Week 2 vs. Arizona Cardinals, LB Terrell Suggs

It won’t take long for the Ravens to see a familiar (if no longer friendly) face on the opposing sideline.

“Sizzle” is one of the most beloved Ravens in franchise history, and is on the short list of most impactful players in Baltimore football history. He spent his entire career in Baltimore after being drafted in 2003, but now will finish back home in Arizona. 

Fans will have just one week to get used to seeing Suggs in red before having to face him on the field.

Week 7 at Seattle Seahawks, FS Earl Thomas

This one is the reverse of the rest of the list, but still should be mentioned. Thomas is an iconic athlete in Seattle sports history, and led them to a Super Bowl victory as the main figure among the Legion of Boom.

His return to Seattle will be the biggest talking point in the NFL that week, and it’s not something the Ravens will be able to ignore. You can be sure they’ll want to win one for their new defensive leader.

Week 12 at Los Angeles Rams, FS Eric Weddle

Speaking of free safeties, the man Thomas replaces in Baltimore found himself a new home out west. Weddle returns to the West Coast after spending three seasons in Baltimore, where he carved out a role as a prominent leader in the secondary and one of the most respected veteran voices in the locker room.

Weddle is credited with much of the Ravens’ defensive success in recent year, and while they did a nice job replacing him with Thomas, it will still be strange seeing him wear something other than purple.

Week 14 at Buffalo Bills, WR John Brown

Brown only played one season in Baltimore, but he fit in well with the team and was a nice deep threat on the field. He looked to be having a career year receiving passes from Joe Flacco, but once the offense switched to a run-heavy approach behind Lamar Jackson, Brown saw his usage drop off a cliff.

Week 15 vs. New York Jets, LB C.J. Mosley 

Mosley, was the best homegrown linebacker in Baltimore since Ray Lewis hung up his cleats. He wasn’t as fiery as #52 was, but his smarts and leadership were above question during his time with the Ravens. Alongside Weddle, Mosley was the on-field key to the team’s historic defense in 2018, and his loss will be felt in a major way.

It’s hard to blame the Ravens for passing on the contract he ultimately received from the Jets, but it will still be bittersweet to see him wearing green and not purple, especially if the Ravens fail to address inside linebacker in the draft.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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Four games to watch in 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens

Four games to watch in 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens

For a day with very little impact on how the upcoming NFL season will play out, schedule release day generates a lot of interest in fan bases across the NFL.

It makes sense. Football runs the world, and fans are desperate for any information they can get. By mid-April, we’re all tired of hearing rumors about the top prospects to be selected in next week’s draft, and the schedule announcement allows us to imagine the possibilities coming in the fall. Every fan today projects their team to go somewhere between 9-7 and 11-5.

We’re certainly not immune to the excitement that comes with the schedule announcement, even if we already knew the matchups. Let’s take a look at four games to watch in 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens.

Week 4 at home vs. Cleveland Browns, September 29, 1:00 p.m.

The Ravens won’t have to wait long to get a chance to see the new-look Browns up close. Cleveland will come to Baltimore at the end of September, in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch for the Ravens. As the lone home game sandwiched between road trips to Arrowhead Stadium and Heinz Field, this will be a crucial matchup.

The Week 17 game last season was an epic clash between rookie quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, and the two looked poised to battle it out for AFC North supremacy in the next decade.

Cleveland looks even better after a busy offseason capped by the acquisition of Odell Beckham, Jr. to pair with Jarvis Landry in the receiving core. Freddie Kitchens certainly has plenty of toys to play with in his offense and will provide a compelling matchup against the historically strong Ravens defense.

Whenever the Ravens got their first look against the suddenly-favored Browns, it was going to be a big deal. Coming in the first month of the season makes it all the more exciting.

Week 9 at home vs. New England Patriots, November 3, 8:20 p.m. (Sunday Night Football)

M&T Bank Stadium is going to be *rocking* for this one.

Not that anyone in Baltimore needs extra incentive to get up for a matchup with the hated Patriots, but this game has a few factors going for it. 

The Ravens will be coming off a bye week, so fans will be ready to see some football again. They also have a somewhat manageable start to the season, meaning both teams should have decent records heading into this clash.

It also helps that this is the lone Sunday Night Football matchup scheduled for the Ravens in 2019. And, of course, the Patriots are yet again the defending Super Bowl champions.

This is the first time since 2013 the Ravens will get to host the most dominant team of this era, and it comes in prime time. It’s safe to say every football fan in Baltimore has this one circled on the calendar.

Week 12 on road at Los Angeles Rams November 25, 8:15 p.m. (Monday Night Football)

The other three selections on this list were obvious. The fourth could have gone to either the Chiefs in Week 3 or the Rams in Week 12. The Rams have a bit of an advantage, not only because they are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, but also because the Ravens already played the Chiefs late last season.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Rams game comes in prime time, as the Ravens’ only Monday Night Football matchup of the season. 

What really swayed it to the Rams is the reunion with Eric Weddle. The safety provided great leadership both on and off the field in Baltimore, and though he will ultimately be remembered as a Charger, his impact in Baltimore was profound.

Now he’s patrolling the middle of the field in Los Angeles, and the Ravens will have to match wits with their former “coach on the field” safety. 

Week 17 at home vs. Pittsburgh Steelers December 29, 1:00 p.m.

Come on, you didn’t think we were going to leave out the Ravens hosting the Steelers, did you?

For the first time in a while, neither matchup between these AFC North rivals is scheduled for prime time. It seems like an annual meeting on Sunday Night Football is a requirement for these two.

But while it’s not scheduled currently, no one would be surprised to see a close division race leading to NBC flexing this game into the final slot of the NFL’s regular season.

Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s nice to see the Ravens see their biggest rivals in the final game of the season, rather than the Bengals and Browns as has happen so often recently.

Antonio Brown may be out in Pittsburgh, but as long as Ben Roethlisberger is in town, this will make for a tough matchup, and Ravens fans will get to look forward to a 16-week build up before this slobber-knocker.

To see the Ravens' full 2019 schedule, click here.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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