5 Ideal Trade Scenarios for the Baltimore Ravens to Pursue This Offseason
The Baltimore Ravens are preparing for a busy offseason, coming off a disappointing year that resulted in missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. General manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office clearly have some holes to fill in order to improve on the team's 8-8 record.
There are many ways to approach upgrading the team's roster, including free agency and the upcoming NFL draft. In addition, the Ravens may look to get creative in assessing current players under contract, both on their own club and those on rival teams.
We've outlined five potential trades that Baltimore could explore this offseason. The moves range from draft-day maneuvering to outright player trades. These scenarios are not intended to be all inclusive, rather a broad overview for consideration.
Let's take a look at how Newsome and company will try to put the Ravens back into playoff contention for 2014.
All contract details courtesy of OverTheCap.com.
Trade Back in NFL Draft and Accumulate Picks
The Ravens currently sit with either the No. 16 or 17 pick in the NFL draft, awaiting a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Based on that slotting, Baltimore could target either an offensive tackle or wide receiver, both positions of need. However, there are a handful of teams who have similar needs later in the draft, notably the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, who hold the 18th and 23rd overall picks, respectively.
Depending on how the draft board looks leading up to the Ravens' selection, Newsome could choose to make a deal—threatening to draft a player likely coveted by either the Jets or Chiefs—and move back in the first round while amassing additional picks in later rounds.
With that strategy, Baltimore could still target a top prospect like offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. The prospect out of Alabama would fill the void left by Michael Oher and pair nicely with Eugene Monroe, assuming the team can re-sign the unrestricted free agent.
According to recent mock drafts by CBSSports.com, analysts Rob Rang and Pat Kirwan both have Kouandjio being selected after the Chiefs, with the Cleveland Browns at No. 26 pulling the trigger on the 6'5", 315-pound standout.
Trade Up in NFL Draft and Select WR Mike Evans
Another approach Newsome could take involves moving up in the first round to ensure the selection of a player high on their draft board.
Based on his size and athletic ability, Mike Evans, the 6'4", 225-pound wide receiver from Texas A&M, could be that player.
There has been a void at wideout ever since the Ravens traded away Anquan Boldin. Evans, like Boldin a big-bodied receiver, would provide Joe Flacco with a target who can stretch the field, while complementing Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta (pending his re-signing).
Fans will be quick to point out that Evans may still be available when Baltimore goes on the clock, as several mock drafts have linked Evans to the team.
For example, three analysts at CBSSports.com—Rang, Kirwan and Dane Brugler—have Evans falling to the Ravens in the first round.
However, there may be competition ahead of Baltimore for Evans' services. Both the St. Louis Rams (No. 13) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 15) could go in the direction of receiver, forcing Newsome to make a difficult decision if the front office has Evans circled as their top choice.
B/R's own Matt Miller has the Rams selecting Evans ahead of the Ravens, as does Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. Charles Davis of NFL.com has the Steelers grabbing Evans before Baltimore makes its selection.
Trade FB Vonta Leach
Outside of the NFL draft, the Ravens may explore trade scenarios with current players under contract. Fullback Vonta Leach falls into the category of someone Newsome should shop around the league.
Leach signed a two-year, $3.75 million contract last season after Baltimore released the veteran fullback in June. He is set to contribute $2.33 million against the cap with only $580,000 in dead money.
Regardless of the method, the Ravens are unlikely to retain Leach given their salary-cap situation and free-agent targets. While releasing him outright would provide the same savings, there could still be value for him among competing teams.
Although 2013 was unproductive for Leach, he ranked as the top fullback in 2012, according to PFF. Even a seventh-round draft pick would provide some additional ammunition for the club heading into the draft.
Trade for WR Danny Amendola
Danny Amendola was in high demand during free agency last season, with the New England Patriots ultimately securing the slot specialist with a five-year, $28.5 million contract.
At the time, the Ravens were rumored to have interest in Amendola, via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. And while Baltimore ultimately came up short in the process, the Patriots may now actually have interest to unload the receiver.
According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, New England may consider cutting Amendola after June 1, a move that would allow the team to spread out his scheduled cap hit of $4.8 million to $1.2 million in 2014 and $3.6 million in 2015.
Originally seen as the clear replacement for Wes Welker, Amendola struggled with injuries in 2013 and was ultimately surpassed by Julian Edelman, an unrestricted free agent the Patriots will likely target.
If New England is already contemplating releasing Amendola, the Ravens could send a late-round draft pick their way to acquire the receiver and then possibly look to restructure his contract.
Trade RB Ray Rice
A move that would have been considered lunacy at the beginning of last year may have merit leading up to the 2014 season.
Ray Rice is less than halfway through a five-year, $35 million contract, yet he has managed to put himself in a position where the Ravens could look to part ways with the six-year veteran.
After five-straight seasons of averaging at least four yards per carry, Rice slumped drastically in 2013, finishing with 660 yards and an average of 3.1 yards. It was also the first time since his rookie season that Rice didn't break 1,000 yards.
In addition to his drop in performance—something that can also be attributed to the offensive line and running scheme—recent reports have placed Rice in an even more difficult situation. According to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, Rice was arrested over the weekend at an Atlantic City casino on assault charges.
When asked about the situation, as tweeted by Wilson, Newsome simply stated that "[w]e have issued a statement. We stand by that statement." He further elaborated that "Ray Rice is still a big part of what we do in 2014."
The scenario to trade Rice would be similar to that of Amendola from a salary-cap perspective. Waiting until after June 1 would help to spread the cap hit over two years, rather than $14.25 million in dead money all this season.
Depending on what the Ravens could get in return for Rice, as well as how his legal troubles shake out, will factor into how realistic this trade could be.
But the discussion should at least be on the table.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.