The Baltimore Ravens have some decisions to make this offseason on the defensive side of the ball as several key contributors are set to hit the free agent market beginning next Wednesday, March 13th. One of the guys whose future is still being decided is inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
The team decided not to use the franchise tag on the 26-year-old linebacker prior to yesterday’s 4 p.m. Eastern Time deadline, so he will be a free agent come Wednesday. However, according to NFL.com, the team would still like to re-sign Mosley albeit at a lower rate than the $15.44 million that he would have earned with the franchise tag.
There is no question that Mosley has been a solid player for the Ravens during the course of his five-year career. But, the real question is how far they should go in trying to re-sign him.
In that regard, Mosley’s counting stats are impressive, placing him in the top-tier of linebackers in the league. Over his five years in Baltimore, he’s missed just three games while compiling 597 tackles, 43 for loss, five fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. He has been particularly good against the run, grading out at a 87.0 in Pro Football Focus’ system which ranks sixth out of 89 qualifiers. In coverage, that rank was lower as his 73.8 grade in that area ranks 24th among the same group.
That presents some issues when evaluating Mosley’s value in today’s league. Offenses have become increasingly pass-heavy making run-stopping inside linebackers, not obsolete, but less sought after. It’s not to say that Mosley isn’t capable of playing well in coverage, but he doesn’t rate out among the top of his group the way that franchise tag salary would have suggested.
Another complicating factor is the Ravens history of developing defensive players. The franchise has been pretty successful at turning second-day picks into useful contributors on the defensive side of the ball. Pernell McPhee, Brandon Williams, Brent Urban, Za’Darius Smith, Tavon Young and Matt Judon were all drafted in the 3rd round or later and have been strong contributors to the team’s defense.
On the other hand, that run of hits on later round picks is hard to rely on as draft success is slightly overperforming what might be expected. In addition, Ozzie Newsome was running the show for the last 22 years and now, his lieutenant, Eric DeCosta takes over. DeCosta could continue the run of success or, things could come slightly back down to earth.
So, with all of that in mind, is Mosley a need for the Ravens? Or should they look to the draft once more to find a defensive contributor?