The Ides of March are upon us.... and that means NFL Free Agency signings begin this coming Monday...
It also means Arthur Jones, the 6-3, 313 lb. veteran Defensive End for the Ravens who was drafted out of Syracuse in the 5th round of the 2010 Draft, is on the verge of his big payday.
One way or the other, whether re-signed by the Ravens or another team that outbids the Ravens, Arthur Jones is about to get paid.
He's not exactly a household name, and perhaps less famous than his brother who is an MMA champion...
But Arthur has steadily made a name for himself with defensive coaches around the league who run a 3-4 system.
I rank Jones as the Ravens' most valuable Free Agent going into the 2014 signing season.
The concern among Ravens fans is that the team will concentrate so heavily upon upgrading its offense, it will not have enough cap room left to afford to re-sign Jones, who is going to be offered contracts upwards of 3 years-$29 million-$13 million guaranteed...
Here's the current complete list of Ravens who are available on the free agent market:
Key free agents: OT Eugene Monroe, DT Arthur Jones, WR-KR Jacoby Jones, LB Daryl Smith, OT Michael Oher, SS James Ihedigbo, CB Corey Graham, TE Ed Dickson.
Jamison Hensley ran a column on ESPN.com on Friday which looked at the other side of the coin: Where are the Ravens looking to spend their money in free agency?
To sum up:
The biggest hole on the team is offensive tackle. Monroe and Oher, the Ravens' starting tackles from last season, are both unrestricted free agents. The Ravens want to get bigger on the interior of the offensive line, which indicates they want to upgrade from center Gino Gradkowski. The other need on offense is a wide receiver or tight end who can convert third downs and make yards after the catch. In other words, they are looking for someone to complement wide receiver Torrey Smith beyond tight end Dennis Pitta, who was re-signed this week. On defense, the priorities are at middle linebacker and free safety. The Ravens want to bring back Smith, but they will need to replace him if they can't. With the Ravens moving Matt Elam to strong safety, they need to add an athletic safety whose strength is coverage.
[Where does that leave Arthur Jones? In my opinion, the Ravens may feel they can use the Franchise Tag on him...but that would mean $13 million as a cap hit...and with all the other holes that need filling, there may not be enough money left to pay Jones...]
Anyway, here's how Hensley breaks down the projected Ravens spending in free agency:
"What to expect: With $26 million in salary-cap space, the Ravens need to get a left tackle, center, wide receiver, middle linebacker and free safety in free agency. Baltimore is trying hard to keep Monroe and Smith before free agency begins. If the Ravens fail to retain Monroe, left tackle has to be the focus early in free agency. The contingency plan is to either re-sign Oher (which isn't ideal because he's better at right tackle) or move Kelechi Osemele from left guard to left tackle. The options at center aren't as appealing after Cleveland put the transition tag on Alex Mack. The other free-agent centers are 20-something and middle of the road: Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith, New Orleans' Brian De La Puente and New England's Ryan Wendell. At wide receiver, the top targets should be Denver's Eric Decker, New England's Julian Edelman, Seattle's Golden Tate and New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks, who has been linked to the Ravens since the end of the season. When it comes to free safety, the biggest name is Buffalo's Jairus Byrd. But Miami's Chris Clemons and Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea are solid starters as well."
Again, unless Arthur Jones wants to work out a home-town discount deal, I don't see any room in that projected budget for re-signing Arthur Jones. That would be too bad, as Ravens fans would miss his big plays.