While the majority of the unrestricted free agents who have signed major contracts one week into the new league year are guys who have been in the league just four, five, maybe six years, the Baltimore Ravens have utilized a very different approach.
Thus far, the Ravens have signed three outside free agent: 31-year-old Eric Weddle, 35-year-old Benjamin Watson and 29-year-old Mike Wallace, who will turn 30 before he plays his first game in Baltimore.
This shouldn’t surprise anybody, but it’s rather intriguing. The Ravens have failed to post a winning record in two of the last three seasons, yet they continue to invest heavily in old guys.
Weddle signed a four-year, $26 million deal with $13 million guaranteed; Watson signed a two-year, $7 million contract with $3 million guaranteed; and Wallace signed a two-year, $11.5 million pact. All three should start at reasonable rates, which might partially explain why a tight-for-cap-space Baltimore team went this route, but it can’t just be about the fact it’s cheaper to sign 30-somethings than it is to sign 20-somethings.
Wallace (30) and Watson (35) will start alongside 36-year-old Steve Smith, with all three catching passes from 31-year-old Joe Flacco, who will be protected by 29-year-old Eugene Monroe, 30-year-old Jeremy Zuttah and 31-year-old Marshal Yanda. That aging trio will be charged with paving the way for 30-year-old running back Justin Forsett.
On defense they’ll be led by the 31-year-old Weddle and the 33-year-old Terrell Suggs. The starting cornerbacks — Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith — will be 30 and 28, respectively. And they may even bring back 33-year-old Chris Canty, who hasn’t found work since becoming a cap casualty earlier this month.
Baltimore is clearly rolling the dice on experience and leadership in lieu of high ceilings and upside.