Here's what the Baltimore Ravens should do with their prime free agents. The NFL free-agency period begins March 12.
I'm not sure if you've heard this already but Flacco is no longer under contract. The Ravens will either sign him to a long-term deal, put the franchise tag on him or handcuff him to Steve Bisciotti's desk. The end result is all the same: He's not leaving the Ravens.
If the Ravens had the cap room, they would bring back most of their free agents. That's just not the reality of the situation. With the retirement of Ray Lewis, the biggest need is at inside linebacker. If there is one free agent that the Ravens need and can afford, it's going to be Ellerbe. He was playing better than anyone on that defense toward the end of the season.
SHOULD LET WALK
It's going to be difficult for the Ravens to let Kruger walk. Baltimore invested so much time, energy and patience in Kruger, who finally reached expectations last season. But Kruger is going to get a contract the Ravens aren't going to be able to match. Like Kruger, Williams will get a deal that's out of the Ravens' price range. To fill that void, Baltimore is going to need Jimmy Smith to step up as he did in the Super Bowl.
McKinnie was key in solidifying the Ravens' offensive line in the playoffs. He's still a risk when you consider he was overweight in spring workouts and missed the first three days of training camp. Baltimore's cap situation will force the Ravens to go with offensive linemen under contract like Michael Oher, Jah Reid, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele.
S Ed Reed. The Ravens will handle Reed like they handled Lewis in 2009. They will make Reed an offer and let him see if he can get something better in free agency. Lewis eventually came back to the Ravens. But Reed should draw more interest than Lewis on the open market, especially with potential suitors like the Patriots and Colts. It could come down to whether Reed allows the Ravens to match the offer.