Ravens Mail: Which free-agent running back fits Ravens?

It's time to click open our weekly Baltimore Ravens mailbag ...

@jamisonhensley: Brian and Jack, Pierre Thomas is the one free-agent back who makes the most sense for the Ravens. But let me start off by saying I believe the Ravens will try to keep Justin Forsett. He's a known commodity, and he isn't going to demand market value the way wide receiver Torrey Smith and pass rusher Pernell McPhee will. If Forsett doesn't re-sign, the Ravens will look at the running backs recently cut, because cap casualties don't count against the team's compensatory picks. That's what the Ravens' history tells us. That list includes Thomas, Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson and Peyton Hillis. The best fit is Thomas, because the Saints run zone-stretch plays like the Ravens. He's a one-cut runner with good vision and balance. Thomas will get pigeon-holed as a third-down back because of his age (30), but he's an all-around back. He can run, catch and block. And, like Forsett, Thomas would be a good influence on a young running back group. For what the Ravens need, I would say Forsett and Thomas should top the team's list.

@jamisonhensley: The Ravens planned to have a little more cap room this year, but they weren't expecting to cut Ray Rice. He would've had a $7.75 million cap number if he was on the team. Now, he is counting $9.5 million against the cap. So, the Ravens lost a net of $1.75 million and lost a starting running back. To get back to your question, the Ravens should be in better cap shape in 2016. The Ravens currently have six players with cap numbers over $6 million in 2016, as compared to 10 players (when you include Rice) in 2015. Of course, a huge chunk of the 2016 cap is earmarked for quarterback Joe Flacco, and the Ravens' top priority next offseason is to reduce his $28.55 million cap hit. The Ravens will also have to use a lot of their 2016 cap room to retain free agents such as cornerback Jimmy Smith, guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and kicker Justin Tucker. A lot can happen until the start of free agency next year. The Ravens can sign players to extensions and they might use the franchise tag. But it certainly looks like the Ravens will have more cap room than this offseason.

@jamisonhensley: It's not being stubborn. It's looking out for himself, which is exactly what he should be doing at this time of the year. If Haloti Ngata believes he would get more in the open market than what the Ravens are offering, he shouldn't sign the extension. This is a business. There's no loyalty when it comes to the almighty cap. The Ravens would've cut Ngata last week if he wasn't an impact player. Because he is an impact player, the Ravens want to figure out a way to lower his cap number and keep him around for a few more years. Base salaries aren't guaranteed in the NFL, so players usually don't have the upper hand. When they do, it's hard to criticize them.

@jamisonhensley: Cary Williams is a possibility because the Ravens would like to upgrade at cornerback and there is a familiarity with him. The Ravens' interest will start to wane as Williams' asking price increases. Based on the interest shown in Williams this week (visits with the Seahawks, Titans and Jets), he isn't going to come cheap. So, a reunion doesn't look great at this point. As far as Bernard Pollard goes, the Ravens have a need at safety, but it's safe to say they won't be calling Pollard. While his outspoken nature is refreshing, it often leads to short stays. He's played on four teams in nine seasons. For those who don't remember, Pollard didn't attend the Ravens' Super Bowl ring ceremony after being cut and insinuated he was upset with coach John Harbaugh. It wasn't the smoothest exit.

@jamisonhensley: I don't see the Ravens letting Smith get to free agency anytime soon. The Ravens picked up his $6.898-million option to stop one of the league's best young cornerbacks from hitting the market in 2015. If the Ravens can't sign him to an extension, it's unlikely they will allow Smith to reach free agency in 2016. The expectation is the Ravens will use the franchise tag. And the Ravens have shown they are willing to use the tag twice to keep coveted players such as Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs. So, there's a chance that Smith won't become a free agent until 2018. Smith's injury history isn't great. But there shouldn't be a concern as long as Smith can come back and show no drop-off in his play.

@jamisonhensley: General manager Ozzie Newsome mentioned the possibility of signing Tucker to an extension last year, but that obviously didn't go anywhere. The Ravens have a history of rewarding players who have exceeded their current contracts, and they would have one fewer free agent to worry about in 2016 if they can sign Tucker to a five-year deal this year. But the Ravens are getting Tucker at a bargain right now. He will likely make $2.356 million as a restricted free agent, and there are eight kickers making more than that. The Ravens also could use the franchise tag on Tucker next offseason as well. As long as Tucker continues at this high rate of success, he will inevitably become the NFL's highest-paid kicker. It's just a matter of when.

@jamisonhensley: Percy Harvin is an electric playmaker and returner. He is also going to have plenty of interest in the free-agent market when the Jets cut him. With their cap situation, the Ravens aren't going to get into adding bidding wars. The teams most linked to Harvin are the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers.