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Ravens Insider: Ravens do not extend Gus Edwards, Kevin Zeitler, Geno Stone, who are set to become free agents


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The first indication that the Ravens’ roster could look substantively different in 2024 than it did in 2023 took place when 4 p.m. Monday came and went quietly in Owings Mills.

That was the deadline for Baltimore to extend the current contracts of running back Gus Edwards, right guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Geno Stone and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin before their deals were voided and they became free agents. That the team did not sign any of them to an extension, as it did with wide receiver Nelson Agholor on Sunday, means — potentially — some or all of that group might not be back.

It is both mildly surprising and not altogether unexpected.

First, to maintain salary cap flexibility last year after signing quarterback Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260 million extension, the Ravens added void years to various contracts. That allowed them to push cap charges to future seasons to lessen the impact in 2023, which in turn also gave them room to sign a handful of veteran free agents who were meaningful contributors to a team that came within one win of reaching the organization’s first Super Bowl in more than a decade.

It also meant it would affect next season’s roster — by not extending any of them, the Ravens will have about $8.5 million in dead money counting against the 2024 salary cap, not to mention a few more holes to plug.

By not reaching an extension with any of them, it was perhaps telling, too, of general manager Eric DeCosta’s plan moving forward.

Edwards, who will turn 29 in April and carry a $1.8 million cap hit next season, had 810 yards rushing last season, and his 13 touchdowns were the third-most among running backs. But his 4.1 yards per carry were the fewest of his career by nearly a full yard, a lot of his scores came from close to the goal line and his touches dwindled late in the year, including in the postseason when he had just 13 carries in two playoff games.

Zeitler, meanwhile, was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 12-year career and was a dependable performer on an offensive line that has another free agent in left guard John Simpson and two aging, injury-prone tackles in Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses. But he also dealt with knee and quad injuries last season, will turn 34 next month, and with his contract accounting for $4 million in dead money next season, bringing him back later wouldn’t add up.

There are different reasons why Stone and Ya-Sin might not be back.

Stone, 24, was second in the NFL with seven interceptions and put together the best season of his career. But Baltimore already has two starting safeties in Marcus Williams and All-Pro Kyle Hamilton, and Stone’s performance is likely to land him a much bigger payday, along with a starting role, elsewhere.

Ravensxe2x80x99 Geno Stone cleans out his locker as players packed up their belongings a day after their season-ending loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)
Ravens safety Geno Stone, cleaning out his locker last month, is set to become a free agent. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Ya-Sin, meanwhile, signed with the Ravens in May to replace the departed Marcus Peters. But the 27-year-old suffered a knee injury in training camp and was outplayed by others, specifically Ronald Darby and Arthur Maulet. They, too, are free agents and would almost certainly be prioritized ahead of Ya-Sin should the Ravens re-sign any of them.

It’s still possible the Ravens could re-sign any of the aforementioned players later if their value doesn’t reach expected levels in free agency, but it seems most unlikely for Zeitler given the cap ramifications.

In keeping Agholor, the Ravens at least maintained most of their top four receivers for Jackson, with the veteran joining Zay Flowers and Rashod Bateman for another season (while the possibility of Odell Beckham Jr.’s return remains more complex). But Monday marked just the first of many deadlines DeCosta will be faced with in the coming weeks.

The next notable one will be March 5, the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, their top impending unrestricted free agent, is a likely candidate for it.

The 26-year-old led all NFL interior defensive linemen with 13 sacks and it’s unlikely Baltimore would just let him walk. Using the tag, which seems the most likely scenario, will cost the cap-strapped Ravens about $20 million next season.

After that, the next key date will be March 11, which is when free agents are allowed to start talking to teams, and Baltimore has nearly 20 more players set to hit the open market. There is also the scouting combine later this month and the draft in April.

Said DeCosta: “We’ll be busy.”

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