Grading the Ravens' 2014 free-agent signings

Free agency doesn't begin until March 10, so let's take a look back at how the Baltimore Ravens fared with their free-agent signings in 2014 (this covers the period from mid-February to the beginning of June). All the grades are based on overall production for the past season, contract value and other options available.


TE Owen Daniels (Texans): One year, $1 million. He went from being a complementary role player to the third-leading receiver when Dennis Pitta went down with a season-ending hip injury in Week 3. Daniels finished with 48 catches, one fewer than Torrey Smith. All four of his touchdowns came in wins, and half of them broke ties. This was a huge upgrade over Ed Dickson. Grade: B-plus.

RB Justin Forsett (Jaguars): One year, $730,000. This was the best value deal in all of free agency. A journeyman who had played for four teams in four seasons, Forsett took advantage of the abrupt release of Ray Rice and became the NFL's fifth-leading rusher as well as a Pro Bowl running back. The Ravens essentially settled on Forsett after failing to land Chris Johnson in free agency. Consider this: Forsett nearly doubled Johnson's rushing total in 2014 and cost $3.2 million less (in salary and guaranteed money) than Johnson. The Ravens were 6-1 when Forsett gained more than 70 yards rushing. Grade: A-plus.

WR Steve Smith (Panthers): Three years, $11.5 million ($3.5 million guaranteed). The Ravens decided to go with the older and cheaper Smith over pursuing Julian Edelman, who re-signed with the New England Patriots for $17 million over four years. For the short term, the Ravens got a better value in signing Smith over Edelman. Even though Smith faded late in the regular season, he still led the Ravens with 79 receptions (30 more than any other Ravens player) and 1,065 yards receiving (nearly 300 more than any Ravens player). Those numbers were more than what Anquan Boldin had in any of his three seasons with the Ravens. Grade: A.

SS Darian Stewart (Rams): One year, $1.3 million ($300,000 guaranteed). He proved to be the team's safety net when rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks didn't develop into a starter in 2014. Stewart was simply adequate. He doesn't have great speed or instincts, but he started 14 games for role-player money. There wasn't much out there in free agency in this price range, and that proved true by how those safeties performed in 2014. Louis Delmas graded out behind Stewart by Pro Football Focus, and Chris Clemons was cut by the Houston Texans before the start of the regular season. Grade: C-plus.

C Jeremy Zuttah (Buccaneers): Acquired for a fifth-round pick. He's an average center in the NFL, but he represented a significant upgrade over Gino Gradkowski. Zuttah's athleticism fit well in the Ravens' stretch zone-blocking scheme. There were times when he was physically outmatched, especially the games against Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon. Overall, Zuttah was more than worth a fifth-round pick. Grade: B.


NT Terrence Cody: One year, $730,000. He spent the first nine weeks of the regular season on the physically unable to perform list after having offseason hip surgery, and he ended up playing one game this season (a total of eight snaps). The Ravens then cut Cody before his one-year deal officially expired because he was indicted on animal cruelty. Cody's presence just served as a reminder of how badly the Ravens missed by using a second-round pick on him in 2010. Grade: F.

WR Jacoby Jones: Four years, $12 million ($4.5 million guaranteed). The only bright spot was Jones ranking second in the NFL in kickoff returns (30.6-yard average) and returning one 108 yards for a touchdown at Pittsburgh. This was a season full of struggles for Jones. He muffed two punts and dropped five passes. His nine catches were his fewest since 2008. I thought this was a good deal when the Ravens re-signed Jones, but they have to be regretting this one after he failed to make plays consistently. Grade: C.

S Jeromy Miles: One year, $795,000 ($35,000 guaranteed). He was a veteran core special-teams player who finished with five tackles on coverage teams. Miles also started two games at safety, recording one of the Ravens' 11 interceptions this season. Grade: B.

OT Eugene Monroe: Five years, $37.5 million ($19 million guaranteed). The Ravens really had no other choice but to sign Monroe, given their need at left tackle. But Monroe fell way short of expectations after becoming the Ravens' most expensive free-agent signing. He missed a career-high five games and graded out as the No. 120 offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus (three sacks allowed, 14 quarterback hurries). Monroe was also the most-penalized offensive player on the Ravens with nine flags drawn, which included three for holding and two for false starts. Grade: D.

TE Dennis Pitta: Five years, $32 million ($16 million guaranteed). He was on his way to having a great season before deja vu struck. Pitta went down with a season-ending hip injury for the second straight year. He had 16 catches for 125 yards before the injury. If Pitta can return to his previous form, this will be a good deal. If he can't, you can chalk it up to bad luck. Grade: Incomplete.

ILB Daryl Smith: Four years, $13.6 million ($3.5 million signing bonus). He was one of the Ravens' most underrated signings for a second straight season. Smith finished second in tackles (two behind C.J. Mosley) and had one sack, one interception, two forced fumbles and nine pass breakups. He did lose a step from the previous season in coverage, and he likely won't finish out this contract because he'll turn 33 in March. But his consistent play was often overshadowed by Mosley. Many will be surprised that Pro Football Focus had Smith graded as the No. 7 inside linebacker last season, which was three spots higher than Mosley. Grade: A-minus.