Baltimore Ravens free agents: What's next for Jihad Ward?The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. — Aaron Kasinitz The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
Feb. 14-- Feb. 14--At least 21 Baltimore Ravens are in line to enter some form of free agency March 18 when the next NFL business year begins. And we'll take time over the next few weeks to study some of those players, their potential market value and the likelihood that they return to Baltimore. We continue today with a defensive lineman who arrived midway through last season.
Player: Defensive end Jihad Ward
2019 stats: 14 games (11 with Baltimore; three with Indianapolis), seven tackles, one sack, four quarterbacks hits
Estimated market value: $1.5 million per year
Ward's career was in limbo back in October, when the Colts became the second team to cut him within a span of 13 months. A former second-round pick out of Illinois, Ward seemed to have trouble finding his fit on an NFL roster -- until he landed in Baltimore.
The Ravens signed Ward on Oct. 8 as part of a larger wave of defensive renovations and thrusted the Philadelphia native into a large role. He played at least 50 percent of Baltimore's defensive snaps in 9 of the team's final 10 games, serving as an edge setter on early downs and an interior rusher on passing downs.
His stats weren't gaudy, but Ward drew praise from teammates for his effort and versatility.
At the very least, he proved he could contribute to a title-contending NFL team.
After signing modest contracts with the Colts and Ravens, Ward can probably seek a slightly larger payday this offseason. He is only 25, carries valuable physical traits and gave a significant boost to the AFC North champions in 2019.
From Ward's perspective
After frustrating stops in Oakland, Dallas and Indianapolis, Ward found a better situation in Baltimore and might want to return to play for a defensive coaching staff that found a way to use his skills. In Indy, he mostly lined up as a nose guard, where he turned out to be an awkward fit. The Ravens moved Ward around the front seven to get more out of his athleticism, and they reaped the benefits.
Still, Ward has every reason to consider how much another team would be willing to pay him after his resurgence of sorts in 2019. He's made a little more than $4 million over his four-year NFL career, according to Spotrac, and he's probably facing his best chance to earn a more lucrative contract as a 25-year-old unrestricted free agent.
Perhaps the ideal scenario for Ward is that the Ravens offer him a deal with at least $1 million in guaranteed money, providing a chance for him to pad his bank account and return to a team that values his talents. It'd be tempting to see what else is out there, though.
From the Ravens' perspective
The Ravens' midseason defensive facelift resurrected their season and vaulted the team to a franchise-record 14 regular season wins. Ward played a hefty part in that turnaround, helping stabilize some of Baltimore's weak spots.
With Michael Pierce, Matthew Judon, Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes and others in line to enter free agency, the Ravens are looking at a thin front seven. They need to restock talent there, and Ward could give them what they need most -- a versatile and reliable player who won't break the bank.
Baltimore's famously disciplined front office isn't likely to overextend to keep Ward if he hits the open market and another team throws a bloated offer his way.
But if the Ravens can retain a young, hungry and established player on a cheap deal, they should do it. Even if Ward doesn't supply star power or address all of Baltimore's defensive issues, his return would ease pressure on general manager Eric DeCosta as he works to plugs holes on the roster. lookahead
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Aaron Kasinitz covers the Baltimore Ravens for PennLive and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronKazreports. Follow PennLive's Ravens coverage on Facebook and Youtube.
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