Posted on 12 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 11 March 2014 by Brett Dickinson
The past several weeks, I have examined possible targets for Baltimore, leading up to this day, as free agency begins at 4pm. The two biggest holes for the Ravens after last year’s disappointing 8-8 season is clearly Wide Receiver and Offensive Line. The team needs to do all it can to build around Joe Flacco, after paying him as their franchise player. After already examining some options in the trenches for the Ravens HERE, this is some more players of interest for the lineman hungry team (you can also find thoughts on WR options HERE and HERE). This is a look at possible offensive line targets for the Ravens.
ERIC WINSTON (OT Arizona Cardinals)
Winston has been a prototypical RT since coming into the NFL as a third round pick out of Miami in 2006. He started his career under Gary Kubiak, while being a successful run-blocker in the zone-blocking scheme. Though he has bounced around to the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals the past two seasons, he has played in every game in his eight year career.
Though Winston is not the greatest athlete, he did start his college career as a TE, before eventually moving to the offensive line. He does have the ability to push defensive lineman back, while holding blocks down the field. He is a strong locker room presence, as always been considered a high-character guy.
As he is turning 31 in the upcoming season, Winston will be more of a stop-gap than long term solution for any team looking for a RT. His contract demands will not be significant, as he is looking for a team to stick with. His familiarity with Gary Kubiak will give the Ravens an advantage when negotiating with the veteran.
RYAN HARRIS (OT Houston Texans)
Harris has bounced around the NFL, after having some succes season in Denver to start his career. After being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, he found a home as a third tackle for the Texans. At 28, he still has some football left in him, whether it be as a starter or injury replacement.
With his frame, he is an ideal RT in the zone-blocking scheme, with his ability to be a road-grader in the running game. He has two years experience with Gary Kubiak, who understands his strengths and weaknesses.
Harris will be looking for a starting spot in free agency, with limited options on the market, as teams may be more inclined to go with a younger player to groom. He is another free agent that is more likely a stop-gap in free agency than a long-term solution. He is a depth player that the Ravens could pursue, offering an opportunity compete in training camp.
ZACH STRIEF (OT New Orleans Saints)
As mentioned in the last OL post, the Saints are cap-strapped, while trying to handle the Jimmy Graham situation. They may not be willing dole out any money to a player not at a key position (LT or C) along the line. He has championship experience, as well as a team captain for a very good organization.
He has been an underrated cog for New Orleans the past couple seasons, especially with the turnover they had at other spots on the line (LT, LG and C). Playing in such a high-octane offense means he is familiar with a fast pace and ability to get to the second level. He has been asked to block in space with the amount of screen passes they deploy on a regular basis.
Strief may be the best RT on the market, meaning teams trying to lock up the position will likely have to overpay for his services. Though at 30, he still has several good seasons left, to solidify the right side for win-now teams. He obviously is looking for another opportunity to get another ring, limiting the franchise that could vie for him.
Posted on 11 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 11 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 06 March 2014 by Brett Dickinson
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BK: After the Ravens were able to sign Dennis Pitta to a five year deal, I was convinced that the Ravens would use the franchise tag on LT Eugene Monroe. Monday’s deadline came and went, with Baltimore declining to use the franchise tag. Brett, are you surprised that the Ravens decided not to use the franchise tag on Monroe, now the top left tackle on the market?
BD: While it was a realistic option to tag a player they gave up two picks for just last year, the move (or lack there of) does not surprise me. The salary number for a franchised Tackle would reach above $11 Million for the upcoming season; a hefty sum for a player Ozzie Newsome has limited experience with his presence on the roster. The Ravens will do everything in their power to resign him before free agency starts next week, but would have lost some negotiation power, when putting that type of price range on his value with the franchise tag.
Monroe will hit the market as the top offensive lineman available, with several teams looking for a stalwart LT. Reports are that Miami will make a strong push for him, along with other teams that could use upgrades at the position such as: the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and regrettably the Pittsburgh Steelers. Competing with that amount of teams drastically lowers the chances that he will back on Joe Flacco’s blind side this upcoming season.
The good news is that the Ravens can find a similar option via free agency (or even the draft). Looking at young LTs such as the Kansas City Chiefs Branden Albert, Oakland Raiders Jared Veldheer, Cincinnati Bengals Anthony Collins or St. Louis Rams Rodger Saffold (Read profiles on Albert and Saffold HERE), leaves them plenty of talent to consider. The front office may have examined the availability of those players, who may have price tag more cohesive to money they have set for aside for LT. Also, the drop-off from Monroe and the rest of the free agents is not severe, where the Ravens may even value one (or maybe several) of them as better fits to the new offensive scheme.
With that being said, Baltimore still has holes to fill at several other key positions. Everyone knows the needs at the WR, FS, TE, RB, DL and LB, after watching the Ravens fail to defend the Super Bowl title last season. So Barry, which players out on the market intrigue you as upgrades for an 8-8 roster?
BK: As we write this blog on Thursday, the number of salary cap casualties continues to grow. With free agency beginning on Tuesday, teams are looking to cut veteran players that will command too much money, and give them the flexibility to sign players that best fit their scheme and needs.
The position that has been hit the hardest by the cap cuts is Cornerback. Veterans like Champ Bailey, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, and Cortland Finnegan will all be searching for new teams this offseason. While the Ravens seem to be set with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb as their starters, depth in the secondary is a current concern. Despite all of the available players, Corey Graham is probably the team’s best option; his knowledge of the system, special teams prowess, and ability to move outside on third downs (Webb typically moves inside) make him more valuable than any of the aforementioned players. Many of the available cornerbacks on the market are one-trick ponies that do not offer teams the ability to play special teams. Look for the Ravens to explore the cornerback market, but take back the known commodity in Graham.
Two players who might come up on the Ravens radar are Jacksonville Jaguar G Uche Nwaneri and Philadelphia Eagles WR Jason Avant. The Ravens had success with an experienced lineman from Jacksonville in Monroe, and Nwaneri could provide quality depth at the guard position. Nwaneri has 92 career starts, and would allow the Ravens to part ways with Jah Reid, who never lived up to expectations. Avant is a proven veteran who could really thrive as a third down target for Joe Flacco. With Marlon Brown on the roster, and the Ravens expected to draft a wide receiver in the early rounds, Avant’s work ethic and mentorship could pay large dividends moving forward. Both of these veterans would have to come at the right price, and I have some concerns as to how cap casualties will view the Ravens as a potential destination. After an 8-8 season, off the field issues, and other AFC contenders (Miami, Indianapolis) with money to spend, can the Ravens compete for veteran players the way that they used to?
BD: That is a real question, and may be the part of the reasoning on why to extend Terrell Suggs, instead of cutting him. Without Ray Lewis, the team lost its main free agent recruiter; something the boisterous Suggs could help replace.
Oh and those TWO SUPER BOWL TROPHIES on display at the Castle could help…
Posted on 06 March 2014 by Brett Dickinson
After examining the available WR options in the past weeks (as seen HERE and HERE), it is time to look at other needs for the Ravens. The offensive line play was horrendous last season, needing upgrades along the entire unit. With the impending free agency of both starting tackles from 2013, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher (as well as adding competition to Center with Gino Gradkowski), the Ravens will be active in adding pieces to help the run game and pass protection. This is a look at possible offensive line targets for the Ravens.
BRIAN DE LA PUENTE (C-New Orleans Saints)
The Saints are tightly up against the cap, while still trying to work out a long-term deal with superstar TE, Jimmy Graham. With that being said, they may have no option, but to let the three-year starter in the middle of their line walk away via free agency. Though New Orleans would prefer to keep stability in front of Drew Brees, many teams will line up to solidify the Center position for the next several seasons, likely pricing him out of their range.
De La Puente is a smart player, who has made the line calls for an extensive offensive playbook. He is not an overly powerful blocker, but uses athleticism and technique to get into the second level of defenses As a Saints Center, he has proven to utilize an unique ability to block in space, with the creative screens they deploy consistently.
Though he will be in high demand, De La Puente will not break the bank, as he is not considered one of the top free agents in this class. He will want to take advantage of his recent success though, after bouncing around on five different practice squads, until getting a starting opportunity. At 29, he is currently in his prime at Center, making this his real opportunity to find a long-term home.
RODGER SAFFOLD (OT-St. Louis Rams)
The Rams have made Saffold a top priority, before free agency begins next week. He was a valuable asset to St. Louis, as he has played both tackle positions in his first four seasons. There may be some contention in negotiations though, as the organization wishes him to take over duties at Guard, while he has stated in the past to play Tackle (and more specifically on the left side).
Saffold is a great athlete, with ideal size to handle the key blind side protection for Quarterbacks. He is built in the same mold of Texans LT (and former All-Pro), Duane Brown, with the ability to move defenders with his leverage. His major issue is injury concerns, as he only played in all 16 games once (during his rookie season).
At only 25, Saffold is still coming into his own as an offensive lineman, with plenty of room to grow upon an already solid start to his career. He could be a cheaper option than top tackle options in free agency (including Eugene Monroe), but has greater upside than most, as he probably has not hit his peak yet. With the positional contention with St. Louis, he will most likely test his options on the market.
BRANDEN ALBERT (OT-Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chiefs have an important decision with the former first round pick, who was a Pro-Bowler in 2013. He is another player that prefers to stick at LT, but Kansas City may be inclined to move last year’s top overall pick, Eric Fisher, into that role. If the two sides cannot agree on his future position, Albert will try to find a team willing to accommodate his demands.
He has experience playing in different style offenses, as the Chiefs switched over to a zone-blocking scheme under Andy Reid. Albert has progressed over his career, making him one of the top offensive lineman on the market. His good combination of size and speed fits well in the new breed of athletic tackles, that can attack defenders on the second level.
He is a young, still developing player at only 26, who will be a hot commodity for many tackle hungry teams. Though he will come in slightly cheaper than Eugene Monroe, it will take a big commitment from teams trying to lock down their blind-side for the next several years. He is from Maryland, which may (or may not) give the Ravens an advantage on bringing him closer to his family.
Posted on 05 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 04 March 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 03 March 2014 by Brett Dickinson
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
Each week on the Brett & Barry Show (Saturdays 9am-12pm), we gather each others’ analysis of the big news stories and headlines of the week for a couple minutes a piece in a segment we call Rapid Fire. We will post our answers in blog form every week to a visual version, with links to our segment in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.
Listen HERE to last week’s Rapid Fire Segment.
Barry 1: During the first week of Spring Training, Frank Robinson visited the Orioles in Sarasota, where he bumped into prospect Josh Hart in the hallway of the facility. When Hart did not recognize the Hall of Famer, Manager Buck Showalter assigned him a research report on Robinson’s career and impact for the organization and the MLB. What is your reaction to Showalter handing out a homework assignment to the 19 year old prospect?
BD: I absolutely love this move by Buck, as a man that knows baseball and the history of the game. I think more players need to understand how they received the opportunity to be on a major league roster; it started with players, like Frank Robinson, paving the way. A lot is lost with younger generations, when it comes to appreciation for those who changed the game for the better. Josh Hart will not only be a smarter person because of this “assignment,” but a better ball player as well. He has the opportunity to make millions upon millions of dollars in the near future, which would not have been possible without Frank Robinson.
Brett 1: After a conference game between Utah Valley and New Mexico State, a brawl broke out on the court, when a player threw the basketball at his opponent (Watch the Video HERE). Players, coaches and even fans began throwing punches after a court-storming. Should the NCAA ban court-storming, citing safety issues for everyone involved?
BK: Although the Southeastern Conference has had success in banning the joyous, silly tradition, I do not think that the NCAA has the willpower or ability to get involved. This particular incident is very sad, as two schools made national news for the wrong reasons. I hope that we can get back to rooting for our respective teams, enjoying rivalries for what they are, and allow college students to enjoy a major victory with their team.
Barry 2: We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Seahawks QB, Russell Wilson, was working out with the Texas Rangers during Spring Training (read our reaction HERE). Now Heisman winner and National Championship QB, Jameis Winston is playing baseball for Florida State during the football off season. Do you think he could be a professional two-sport star?
BD: Like I mentioned before, I am not opposed to the idea of another Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan or Bo Jackson, wrecking havoc in two different sports. The problem is none of those athletes were a QB; it just takes too much dedication in preparation to become elite in the NFL. Winston could be the first overall pick in next year’s NFL draft, which means he will have the added pressure of performing right away. Taking time away from the mental grind that is involved in not only mastering an offensive scheme, but earning the respect of your teammates as the face of the franchise and leader of the team, would simply be a mistake.
Brett 2: Thankfully ESPN analyst (and QB guru), Ron Jaworski stated that he would not take Texas A&M QB, Johnny Manziel, in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft (making me feel much better about my analysis). You already know that I do not believe he is a first round prospect (let alone a top 10 pick, as heard HERE), but what is your reaction to “Jaws” analysis on the controversial former Heisman winner?
BK: Jaworski’s analysis on Manziel may not be popular, but it is more accurate than those experts who consider Johnny Football to be a top 10 prospect. The success of Russell Wilson, a shorter quarterback with abnormally large hands and great awareness, has paved the way for Manziel to be fairly evaluated. However, there are a lot of question marks when it comes to Manziel, both as a person as a player. Teams in the top 10 who are in the market for a quarterback (Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland) would all be making a mistake to use their first selection on Manziel. By giving Manziel a mid-round grade, Jaworski is essentially saying that the former Heisman winner would be best served in a backup role to start his career, with the potential to become a starter. Following the NFL Combine, Manziel still appears to be a top 10 pick, but teams would be wise to take note of the dissenting opinion.
Barry 3: This NFL off season, most players are taking time off relaxing, preparing their minds and bodies for another grueling season. Well, Ravens second year Safety, Matt Elam, has a different approach; he took a job as a shoe salesman at Finish Line to gain a better understanding of the business (which he plans to invest in the future). What is your reaction to Elam taking a job this off season, preparing for his life after football?
BD: After the past couple weeks of bad news for the Ravens, this definitely uplifts the spirits, when looking at a young man that just simply gets “it.” Elam obviously already has an understanding that football does not last forever, while preparing for a career after he hangs up his cleats. Realistically, he could only hope to last in the NFL for the next decade; meaning he needs to find a way to occupy his time for the following 40-50 years of his life. Add in the fact that with his notoriety as a professional athlete, the money he does make while on the field, will likely not last to support his family in the future. Elam has proven to be a smart and mature young man beyond his years, with his humility to clock in and out of a “low-paying” job; professional sports needs more people like this.
Brett 3: Reports came out that the Browns tried to work out a deal to trade for San Francisco 49ers Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh. Looking at a deal that would cost multiple draft picks, for a coach who has led his team to three straight championship games (and one Super Bowl loss). Would you make such a deal if you were either team?
BK: The Cleveland Browns should not be ashamed to admit that they were interested in Jim Harbaugh. He has proven himself to be one of the top coaches in both college and professional football, and his track record of taking bad teams and turning them into winners speaks for itself. The Browns have not had the proper leadership in place for quite some time, and getting a man like Harbaugh via trade makes sense, no matter what the cost. Unlike Robert Griffin III, there isn’t an injury risk associated with dealing a number of high draft picks.
If I were the San Francisco 49ers, I would have entertained, but not accepted an offer for Harbaugh. While the 49ers could absolutely put the extra draft picks to good use, there is no way of putting a value on Harbaugh’s relationship with QB Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers are just too close to winning the Super Bowl to make such a drastic change.
Posted on 01 March 2014 by WNST Audio