The Baltimore Ravens decided on Tuesday to not place the franchise tag on C.J. Mosley, meaning the veteran linebacker will be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 13.
Which is good news for the Browns ... or is it?
Cleveland has money to spend in free agency and could conceivably craft a deal for Mosley that the Ravens - who only have about $18.5 million in salary cap room - would simply not be able to match. The idea of adding a four-time Pro Bowl player to the Browns roster, while simultaneously weakening a division rival, is something that should appeal to general manager John Dorsey.
NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman describes Mosley as a player that “has developed into one of the league’s most consistent and prolific linebackers, totaling 574 total tackles in five seasons (fifth over that span) and missing just three games.”
So who wouldn’t be behind the idea of adding Mosley in free agency?
Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus, for one, as Gayle weaves a cautionary tale for team’s looking to cut a big paycheck to Mosley:
Diving into the five-year grades for every off-ball linebacker with 1,500-plus defensive snaps since 2014, Mosley’s 78.6 overall grade ranks 16th and his 87.0 run-defense grade ranks sixth among the 89 qualifiers. The concern is the replaceability (and therefore lack of value) of strong run defense and his lackluster coverage ability, as he ranks just 24th on the aforementioned list in coverage grade (73.8) and has earned a 73.0-plus single-season coverage grade just once in his career.
Mosley tied for 151st among qualifying defenders in PFF’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric at 0.34 in 2018, and he tied for 25th among all off-ball linebackers; better coverage linebackers (i.e., Matt Milano, Cory Littleton, Zach Brown) all ranked significantly ahead of him.
Good, not great coverage and strong run defense at off-ball linebacker can be added to the roster for far less than the price tag likely pinned to Mosley in free agency.
The Ravens reportedly want to keep Mosley, just not for the $15.44 million it would have cost them under the franchise tag, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
The Ravens know Mosley better than anyone else, so if they don’t believe he is worth that much money, Dorsey should be paying attention. Dorsey can still put together a contract that the Ravens would be unable or unwilling to match, but some financial prudence may be in order.
And if Dorsey needs a reminder about what a linebacker not performing up to his contract looks like, all he has to do is put on some game tape of Jamie Collins from last season.