Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

Is Jernigan ready to replace Ngata if needed?

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Is Jernigan ready to replace Ngata if needed?

Posted on 09 February 2015 by Luke Jones

As the future of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata appears to be moving toward a resolution after months of speculation, little focus has been placed on the man who could replace him on the starting defensive line.

The 22-year-old Timmy Jernigan provided a good return in his rookie season after the Ravens selected him with the 48th overall pick last May, but does the Florida State product satisfy the “80-20″ rule quoted by some as justification to release Ngata if the sides are unable to work out a contract extension in the coming weeks? It’s easy to look at Ngata’s scheduled $16 million cap figure for 2015 and a potential $8.5 million in salary-cap savings and sign off on a divorce from a financial standpoint, but general manager Ozzie Newsome must be sure a deep — but young — defensive line has the means to replace the five-time Pro Bowl selection.

Despite missing five games due to knee and ankle injuries in his rookie season in Baltimore, Jernigan flashed his potential on more than one occasion, but did the Ravens see enough in his part-time role to envision heavier responsibilities as soon as this coming season? At least one veteran teammate was impressed as Jernigan filled in for Ngata during the latter’s four-game suspension for Adderall use.

“He’s a dog. He’s going to be a really good football player for a long time in the National Football League,” defensive end Chris Canty said in late December. “I noticed that when I came here for the minicamp [last June], just his aggressive play, his physical nature, his quick twitch jumping off the ball. He’s got a lot of great attributes. He’s constantly learning from [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] and some of the other vets on the nuances of the game.”

It may be that four-game ban that provided the Ravens with the necessary leverage and confidence to negotiate more rigidly with Ngata this offseason. In four games as his primary replacement to close the regular season, Jernigan collected two sacks and seven tackles and earned a positive grade from Pro Football Focus in all but one contest — the 25-13 loss to Houston in which little went right for the Ravens.

Prior to suffering the ankle injury that forced him out of the regular-season finale against Cleveland and the wild-card round against Pittsburgh, Jernigan played in more than half of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in three straight games and fared well in an increased role. It was the only time all season he held an expanded role as he typically served as a replacement for Ngata or Brandon Williams every few series and as a rush specialist in certain passing situations.

Of all 3-4 defensive ends who appeared in at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps, Jernigan earned PFF’s 14th-highest cumulative grade while Ngata finished ninth. The optimist views such an assessment as there being room for Jernigan to grade even higher with more opportunities while skeptics may wonder if extensive playing time might expose the young defensive lineman’s shortcomings.

At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, the undersized Jernigan doesn’t compare to Ngata’s 6-foot-4, 340-pound presence, but few players do. And let’s not forget how third-year nose tackle Brandon Williams will fit into the picture after emerging as an above-average player in his first season as a starter. Comparing Jernigan’s skill set to Ngata in his prime would be unfair, but his quickness, strength, and leverage at the 3-technique project well — even if he lacks Ngata’s massive frame — against the run and as a rusher.

In 330 defensive snaps last year, Jernigan amassed 23 tackles and four sacks. Ngata collected 31 tackles, two sacks, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 546 defensive snaps. According to PFF, Jernigan’s 12 quarterback hurries and seven quarterback hits outdid Ngata (14 hurries and two quarterback hits) and the rookie registered 14 “stops” (defined as the number of solo tackles including sacks made which constituted an offensive failure) compared to Ngata’s 16.

Durability is a question as meniscus surgery sidelined Jernigan for four games early in the season, but he rebounded quickly from the ankle injury in Week 17 to return for the divisional round after only a one-game absence. Returning to a rotational role, Jernigan sacked New England quarterback Tom Brady and collected another tackle in the 35-31 loss that ended Baltimore’s season.

It might be unfair to ask whether Jernigan will be the better player in 2015, but wondering if the young defensive tackle will outperform Ngata by 2016 and 2017 when the veteran is approaching his mid-30s is an entirely different matter. And that could be the tipping point as the Ravens try to determine a dollar figure that makes sense for extending their 31-year-old defensive tackle, who had a strong 2014 season but battled nagging injuries that hindered his play in the previous two years.

“Once he puts it all together and the game slows down for him, it’s going to be scary,” said Canty late last season about Jernigan’s potential. “It’s going to be really scary. He’s going to be really, really good.”

Depending on what happens with Ngata, the Ravens may need Jernigan’s full potential to be realized sooner rather than later.

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Former Ravens running back Lewis’ Super Bowl XLVII ring auctioned off

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Former Ravens running back Lewis’ Super Bowl XLVII ring auctioned off

Posted on 08 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Super Bowl XLVII ring given to former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was sold in an auction for more than $50,000 on Sunday.

Despite the fact that Lewis didn’t play for the 2012 NFL champions, owner Steve Bisciotti chose to award Super Bowl rings to members of the Ravens Ring of Honor that also included Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary, and Matt Stover at the time. The owner may now think twice about that decision after Lewis sold the ring to a pawn shop before it went to auction, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The ring ultimately sold for $50,820 after 15 total bids facilitated by Goldin Auctions. It is made of solid 10K white gold and contains 3.75 carats worth of diamonds.

Though it clearly isn’t a good look for Lewis to publicly sell what was a gift from the Baltimore owner, the 35-year-old’s financial difficulties have been no secret after he filed for bankruptcy in 2012. It might also be a sign that awarding Super Bowl rings to former players with no direct ties to the organization may not be the best idea.

It’s noble to want to recognize members of the Ring of Honor, but Bisciotti likely didn’t anticipate his gift being turned around and sold in such a short period of time. On the flip side, unless it’s someone like Harry Swayne or O.J. Brigance who currently owns another title within the organization, it would be tough for a former player — especially one who already owns a Super Bowl ring from his playing days — to view the ring with any special feelings.

Lewis played with the Ravens from 2000-2006 and remains the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

 

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De Aza last man standing in Orioles’ busy arbitration season

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De Aza last man standing in Orioles’ busy arbitration season

Posted on 08 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles outfielder Alejandro De Aza is the last man standing on a docket that included 11 arbitration-eligible players to address this winter.

Most attention understandably has been placed on the free-agent departures of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, but the Orioles will have given more than $21 million in raises to De Aza, pitchers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, and Brian Matusz, outfielder Steve Pearce, infielder Ryan Flaherty, first baseman Chris Davis, and catcher Matt Wieters this winter. It’s the reason why Baltimore’s payroll is estimated to rise from $107 million in 2014 to a projected $120 million despite minimal additions this offseason.

While the ongoing MASN dispute raises fair questions about owner Peter Angelos’ willingness to expand the payroll any further, the high volume of arbitration cases adds context to the losses of Cruz, Markakis, and Miller. Simply put, the Orioles are now paying the price for the cheap and productive labor they’ve received from the likes of Tillman, Gonzalez, Britton, and Pearce over the last couple seasons.

While the sting of this winter’s losses is apparent, the Orioles will be faced with even more difficult decisions next offseason when De Aza, Pearce, Davis, Wieters, Norris, and left-hander starter Wei-Yin Chen all become free agents.

De Aza is set to become the first Orioles player to go to a hearing since pitcher Brad Bergesen in 2012. The club has an impeccable record in arbitration cases, going 7-0 in cases handled by Russell Smouse, and hasn’t lost a hearing since pitcher Ben McDonald defeated the Orioles 20 years ago.

The left-handed hitter is projected by most to become the Orioles’ new leadoff hitter and asked for $5.65 million while the organization countered at $5 million. De Aza made $4.25 million last year in splitting time between the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore.

After being acquired a day before the waiver trade deadline on August 30, De Aza hit .293 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in over 89 plate appearances with the Orioles to close the regular season. He also hit .333 with three doubles and three RBIs in 21 postseason at-bats.

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NFL releases list of players invited to combine in Indianapolis

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NFL releases list of players invited to combine in Indianapolis

Posted on 06 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With the 2015 NFL scouting combine less than two weeks away, the Ravens brass as well as representatives from the 31 other teams will soon be descending on Indianapolis as draft preparation kicks into high gear.

Baltimore’s greatest positions of need — in early February — include (in no particular order) wide receiver, cornerback, running back, safety, and tight end. Of course, that list will change and evolve as salary-cap cuts are made and free agency opens next month.

The 2015 draft begins in Chicago on April 30 and runs through May 2. The Ravens own the 26th overall pick in the first round and are currently slotted to have six choices, but they are also projected to receive three compensatory picks, bringing the total to nine.

Below is the full list of players invited to the combine:

QUARTERBACKS
Anthony Boone, Duke
Brandon Bridge, South Alabama
Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Nick Marshall, Auburn
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Blake Sims, Alabama
Jameis Winston, Florida State
Bryan Bennett, Southeastern Louisiana (throwing quarterback to assist with drills)
Shane Carden, East Carolina (throwing quarterback to assist with drills)
Jerry Lovelocke, Prairie View A&M (throwing quarterback to assist with drills)

RUNNING BACKS
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Jay Ajayi, Boise State
Javorius Allen, USC
Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
Dominique Brown, Louisville
Malcolm Brown, Texas
Michael Burton (FB), Rutgers
B.J. Catalon, TCU
David Cobb, Minnesota
Tevin Coleman, Indiana
John Crockett, North Dakota State
Mike Davis, South Carolina
Michael Dyer, Louisville
Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
Jalston Fowler (FB), Alabama
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Dee Hart, Colorado State
Braylon Heard, Kentucky
Kenny Hilliard, LSU
Joey Iosefa, Hawaii
David Johnson, Northern Iowa
Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)
Gus Johnson, Stephen F. Austin
Matt Jones, Florida
Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
Terrence Magee, LSU
Marcus Murphy, Missouri
Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan
Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette
Tyler Varga, Yale
Karlos Williams, Florida State
Trey Williams, Texas A&M
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Zach Zenner, South Dakota State

WIDE RECEIVERS
Nelson Agholor, USC
Mario Alford, West Virginia
Dres Anderson, Utah
Kenny Bell, Nebraska
Da’Ron Brown, Northern Illinois
Kaelin Clay, Utah
Sammie Coates, Auburn
Chris Conley, Georgia
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Jamison Crowder, Duke
Davaris Daniels, Notre Dame
Devante Davis, UNLV
Geremy Davis, Connecticut
Titus Davis, Central Michigan
Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Phillip Dorsett, Miami (Fla.)
Devin Funchess, Michigan
Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
Rashad Greene, Florida State
Rannell Hall, Central Florida
Justin Hardy, East Carolina
Josh Harper, Fresno State
Christion Jones, Alabama
Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas
Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Deon Long, Maryland
Donatella Luckett, Harding
Vince Mayle, Washington State
Tre McBride, William & Mary
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Keith Mumphery, Michigan State
J.J. Nelson, Alabama-Birmingham
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Breshad Perriman, Cental Florida
Ezell Ruffin, San Diego State
DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech
Devin Smith, Ohio State
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Darren Waller, Georgia Tech
DeAndrew White, Alabama
Kevin White, West Virginia
Cam Worthy, East Carolina

TIGHT ENDS
Blake Bell, Oklahoma
E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
Nick Boyle, Delaware
Gerald Christian, Louisville
Cameron Clear, Texas A&M
A.J. Derby, Arkansas
Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Jesse James, Penn State
Ben Koyack, Notre Dame
Tyler Kroft, Rutgers
Nick O’Leary, Florida State
MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
Wes Saxton, South Alabama
Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
Randall Telfer, USC
Eric Tomlinson, UTEP
Clive Walford, Miami (Fla.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Al Bond (T), Memphis
Brett Boyko (T), UNLV
Jamon Brown (T), Louisville
Trenton Brown (G), Florida
A.J. Cann (G), South Carolina
T.J. Clemmings (T), Pittsburgh
Takoby Cofield (T), Duke
La’el Collins (T), LSU
Rob Crisp (T), North Carolina State
Reese Dismukes (C), Auburn
Andrew Donnal (T), Iowa
Jamil Douglas (T), Arizona State
Cameron Erving (T), Florida State
Tayo Fabuluje (T), TCU
Jon Feliciano (G), Florida
B.J. Finney (C), Kansas State
Jake Fisher (T), Oregon
Ereck Flowers (T), Miami (Fla.)
Andy Gallik (C), Boston College
Max Garcia (C), Florida
Laurence Gibson (T), Virginia Tech
Mark Glowinski (G), West Virginia
Hroniss Grasu (C), Oregon
Chaz Green (T), Florida
Chad Hamilton (T), Coastal Carolina
Jarvis Harrison (G), Texas A&M
Bobby Hart (T), Florida State
Rob Havenstein (T), Wisconsin
Sean Hickey (T), Syracuse
D.J. Humphries (T), Florida
Tre Jackson (G), Florida State
Arie Kouandjio (G), Alabama
Greg Mancz (C), Toledo
Ali Marpet (T), Hobart
Josue Matias (G), Florida State
Darrian Miller (T), Kentucky
John Miller (G), Louisville
Mitch Morse (T), Missouri
Robert Myers (G), Tennessee State
Cedric Ogbuehi (T), Texas A&M
Andrus Peat (T), Stanford
Terry Poole (T), San Diego State
Jeremiah Poutasi (T), Utah
Corey Robinson (T), South Carolina
Ty Sambrailo (T), Colorado State
Brandon Scherff (T), Iowa
Adam Shead (G), Oklahoma
Austin Shepherd (T), Alabama
Donovan Smith (T), Penn State
Tyrus Thompson (T), Oklahoma
Laken Tomlinson (G), Duke
Daryl Williams (T), Oklahoma

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Henry Anderson (DE), Stanford
Arik Armstead (DE), Oregon
Tavaris Barnes (DE), Clemson
Vic Beasley (DE), Clemson
Michael Bennett (DT), Ohio State
Angelo Blackson (DT), Auburn
Malcom Brown (DT), Texas
Anthony Chickillo (DE), Miami (Fla.)
Frank Clark (DE), Michigan
Xavier Coooper (DT), Washington State
Christian Covington (DT), Rice
Corey Crawford (DE), Clemson
Carl Davis (DT), Iowa
Tyeler Davison (DE), Fresno State
Ryan Delaire (DE), Towson
B.J. Dubose (DE), Louisville
Mario Edwards (DE), Florida State
Kyle Emanuel (DE), North Dakota State
Trey Flowers (DE), Arkansas
Dante Fowler (DE), Florida
Markus Golden (DE), Missouri
Eddie Goldman (DT), Florida State
Randy Gregory (DE), Nebraska
Marcus Hardison (DE), Arizona State
Eli Harold (DE), Virginia
Zach Hodges (DE), Harvard
Danielle Hunter (DE), LSU
Martin Ifedi (DE), Memphis
Grady Jarrett (DT), Clemson
Derrick Lott (DT), Tennessee-Chattanooga
Joey Mbu (DT), Houston
Ellis McCarthy (DT), UCLA
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT), Southern Mississippi
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE), UCLA
Nate Orchard (DE), Utah
Leon Orr (DT), Florida
David Parry (NT), Stanford
Jordan Phillips (DT), Oklahoma
Darius Philon (DT), Arkansas
Shane Ray (DE), Missouri
Cedric Reed (DE), Texas
Bobby Richardson (DT), Indiana
Ryan Russell (DE), Purdue
Danny Shelton (NT), Washington
Deon Simon (NT), Northwestern State
Preston Smith (DE), Mississippi State
Za’Darius Smith (DE), Kentucky
J.T. Surratt (DT), South Carolina
Lynden Trail (DE), Norfolk State
Louis Trinca-Pasat (DT), Iowa
Davis Tull (DE), Tennessee-Chattanooga
Zack Wagenmann (DE), Montana
Leterrius Walton (DT), Central Michigan
Leonard Williams (DT), USC
Gabe Wright (DT), Auburn

LINEBACKERS
Kwon Alexander (OLB), LSU
Stephone Anthony (ILB), Clemson
Neiron Ball (OLB), Florida
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (OLB), Maryland
Aaron Davis (ILB), Colorado State
Paul Dawson (ILB), TCU
Trey DePriest (ILB), Alabama
Xzavier Dickson (OLB), Alabama
Bud Dupree (OLB), Kentucky
Alani Fua (OLB), BYU
Geneo Grissom (OLB), Oklahoma
Obum Gwacham (DE), Oregon State
Bryce Hager (ILB), Baylor
Ben Heeney (ILB), Kansas
Amarlo Herrera (ILB), Georgia
Jordan Hicks (ILB), Texas
Mike Hull (ILB), Penn State
A.J. Johnson (ILB), Tennessee
Taiwan Jones (ILB), Michigan State
Eric Kendricks (ILB), UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha (OLB), Washington
Lorenzo Mauldin (OLB), Louisville
Benardrick McKinney (ILB), Mississippi State
Mark Nzeocha (OLB), Wyoming
Denzel Perryman (ILB), Miami (Fla.)
Hayes Pullard (ILB), USC
Edmond Robinson (OLB), Newberry
Jake Ryan (OLB), Michigan
Martrell Spaight (OLB), Arkansas
J.R. Tavai (OLB), USC
Shaq Thompson (OLB), Washington
Max Valles (OLB), Virginia
Tony Washington (OLB), Oregon
Damien Wilson (ILB), Minnesota
Ramik Wilson (ILB), Georgia

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Adrian Amos (S), Penn State
Detrick Bonner (S), Virginia Tech
Ibraheim Campbell (S), Northwestern
Alex Carter (CB), Stanford
D.C. Celiscar (CB), Western Michigan
Justin Coleman (CB), Tennessee
Jalen Collins (CB), LSU
Landon Collins (S), Alabama
Justin Cox (S), Mississippi State
Ronald Darby (CB), Florida State
Quandre Diggs (CB), Texas
Lorenzo Doss (CB), Tulane
Kurtis Drummond (S), Michigan State
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB), Oregon
Durell Eskridge (S), Syracuse
Charles Gaines (CB), Louisville
Clayton Geathers (S), Central Florida
Jacoby Glenn (CB), Central Florida
Senquez Golson (CB), Ole Miss
Doran Grant (CB), Ohio State
Ladarius Gunter (CB), Miami (Fla.)
Chris Hackett (S), TCU
Anthony Harris (S), Virginia
Troy Hill (CB), Oregon
Gerod Holliman (S), Louisville
Kyshoen Jarrett (S), Virginia Tech
A.J. Jefferson (CB), UCLA
Kevin Johnson (CB), Wake Forest
Byron Jones (CB), Connecticut
Craig Mager (CB), Texas State
Dean Marlowe (S), James Madison
Bobby McCain (CB), Memphis
Tevin McDonald (S), Eastern Washington
Steven Nelson (CB), Oregon State
Garry Peters (CB), Clemson
Marcus Peters (CB), Washington
Cody Prewitt (S), Ole Miss
Damarious Randall (S), Arizona State
Jordan Richards (S) Stanford
Quinten Rollins (CB), Miami (Ohio)
Eric Rowe (CB), Utah
James Sample (S), Louisville
Josh Shaw (CB), USC
Jacorey Shepherd (CB), Kansas
D’Joun Smith (CB), Florida Atlantic
Derron Smith (S), Fresno State
Tye Smith (CB), Towson
Damian Swann (CB), Georgia
Jaquiski Tartt (S), Samford
Trae Waynes (CB), Michigan State
Kevin White (CB), West Virginia
Jermaine Whitehead (S), Auburn
P.J. Williams (CB), Florida State
Julian Wilson (CB), Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS
Will Bauman (P), North Carolina State
Kyle Brindza (K), Notre Dame
Joe Cardona (LS), Navy
Kyle Christy (P), Florida
Sam Ficken (K), Penn State
Will Johnson (P), Texas State
Josh Lambo (K), Texas A&M
Kyle Loomis (P), Portland State
Justin Manton (K), Louisiana-Monroe
Trevor Pardula (P), Kansas
Jared Roberts (K), Colorado State
Spencer Roth (P), Baylor

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Who will be the Orioles’ breakout performer in 2015?

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Who will be the Orioles’ breakout performer in 2015?

Posted on 05 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With Orioles closer Zach Britton agreeing to a $3.2 million contract on Wednesday, it was a reminder of just how far the left-hander has come over the last 12 months.

The sinkerballer entered last year’s spring training out of minor-league options and not even assured of a roster spot, but the 27-year-old instead emerged to become one of the best closers in the American League. Britton wasn’t the only breakout performer for the 2014 AL East champions as journeyman Steve Pearce hit 21 home runs and posted a hefty .930 on-base plus slugging percentage, but the Orioles will be looking for at least one or two players to emerge unexpectedly if they’re to advance to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Who will be a breakout performer for the Orioles in 2015? (choose up to two)

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With that in mind, below are six candidates who could fit that description of “breakout performer” in 2015:

RHP Kevin Gausman
Skinny: The 24-year-old did a fine job establishing himself as a legitimate major league starter last year by going 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is predicting Gausman to take a major leap in 2015, which would have him vying for the top spot in the rotation along with Chris Tillman. The 2012 first-round pick’s high-90s fastball and split-fingered changeup are nasty pitches, but further developing his circle change or slider would make the 6-foot-3 right-hander downright scary. After pitching 166 2/3 innings including the minors and the postseason last year, Gausman could still face a slight issue with an innings limit, but that would mean he’s having great success in the rotation.

2B Jonathan Schoop
Skinny: The Curacao native played Gold Glove-caliber defense as a rookie, which is why he stayed in the lineup despite a .209 average and a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage. Schoop showed promising power with his 16 home runs, but his plate discipline (13 walks in 481 plate appearances) must improve to make him a more dangerous offensive option. Considering he had only 270 at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013, Schoop’s offensive struggles weren’t surprising, but his .191 average in the second half was lower than his .221 mark in the first half. Beyond the natural progression of a young player, the Orioles hope his .749 OPS in August and improved patience in the playoffs (three walks in 24 plate appearances) were signs of better things to come.

OF Travis Snider
Skinny: The Orioles didn’t give up much for the 27-year-old outfielder, but they hope his strong second half for Pittsburgh in 2014 is evidence that things have finally clicked for the 2006 first-round selection after years of disappointment. Considered a solid fielder, Snider hit .288 with nine home runs and posted an .880 OPS in 188 plate appearances in the second half to help the Pirates to a postseason appearance. A left-handed hitter with power potential profiles well playing his home game at Camden Yards, and it appears likely that manager Buck Showalter will give Snider every opportunity to win the starting right field job. If the 2014 version of Snider comes to Baltimore, it would go a long way in easing the pain from the departure of Nick Markakis.

OF David Lough
Skinny: Many wrote off the speedy outfielder after he hit only .159 in the first two months of 2014, but Lough quietly batted .337 over his final 99 plate appearances, which obviously came sparingly over the final four months. The 29-year-old will be right in the mix with the likes of Snider, Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce, and Delmon Young for a corner outfield job this spring, and his speed gives an added dimension that the roster sorely lacks. No one questions his ability in the field as he was regularly a late-inning defensive replacement last year and manager Buck Showalter places a high premium on defense, giving Lough an edge over his competitors if he can prove his strong second half at the plate was a sign of his true ability and not just an aberration.

OF Dariel Alvarez
Skinny: The 26-year-old Cuban native has been discussed a great deal by the Orioles this offseason as the organization raves about his strong throwing arm in the outfield. He walked only 21 times in 564 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, but Alvarez showed good power with his 55 extra-base hits in the process of being named to the 2014 MLB Futures Game. Outsiders aren’t as high on Alvarez as a major league prospect as the organization is — his advanced age is a factor — so it will be interesting to see how quickly he might receive an opportunity in the majors should the projected cast of corner outfielders fail to get the job done.

RHP Mike Wright
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 right-hander is all but certain to begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk, but Wright has been regularly mentioned by Showalter over the last year or two as a pitching prospect to watch. The 2011 third-round pick struggled at Norfolk for much of last season until his final seven starts when he posted a 0.95 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. Wright possesses a low-90s sinker along with a solid slider and a changeup, a repertoire that makes him a fringe starting candidate who is probably better suited to pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. The Orioles wouldn’t appear to have a relief role for him going into the season, but he’s a darkhorse candidate to get the call should the 25-man roster suffer injuries in the rotation or the bullpen in 2015.

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Orioles come to terms with closer Britton

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Orioles come to terms with closer Britton

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles resolved their penultimate arbitration case of the winter by coming to terms with left-handed closer Zach Britton on Wednesday.

According to MASN, the 27-year-old will make $3.2 million in base salary after emerging as the club’s closer a year ago. In 76 1/3 innings, Britton posted a 1.65 ERA and converted 37 of 41 save opportunities for the American League East champions.

With Britton working out of the bullpen for the first time after a few underwhelming seasons as a starter, his sinker reached the mid-to-high 90s working in relief as hitters struggled to square up his pitches. Britton finished the 2014 campaign ranked fourth in the American League in saves and became the 10th different Orioles pitcher to record a 30-save season in club history.

He made only $521,500 last season after he entered spring training with no assurance of even being on the 25-man roster and was out of minor-league options. When the sides exchanged figures earlier this offseason, Britton asked for $4.2 million while Baltimore countered with $2.2 million, meaning they split the difference as is often the case.

Outfielder Alejandro De Aza is the only remaining arbitration case for the Orioles to settle this offseason.

 

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

No Ravens free-agent-to-be has sparked more debate over the last several months than wide receiver Torrey Smith as he’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks.

So much time is spent picking apart his shortcomings in running routes and arguing that he’s not a No. 1 receiver — there aren’t 32 of them in the entire NFL, by the way — that we lose sight of what Smith has brought to the table in his four years with the Ravens. Prior to his selection in the second round of the 2011 draft, the Ravens lacked any kind of a vertical threat for quarterback Joe Flacco and were regularly suffocated by any defense simply playing Cover 2 with aggressive cornerbacks. From the moment he arrived, the speedy receiver brought an ability to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the process of doing so.

The University of Maryland product ranks third on the all-time franchise list in receptions and is second with 30 touchdown catches while never missing a game in four years. After a 2013 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards — both career highs — his numbers dipped to 49 catches for 767 yards under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Smith still caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew an impressive 261 yards on pass interference calls. The six-foot, 205-pound wideout wasn’t a great fit in Kubiak’s system that focused on short-to-intermediate passing, but his skill set is something that would be hard to replace.

By all accounts, Smith is also one of the best men in the Ravens locker room, a factor that shouldn’t be lost in the wake of last offseason when five players were arrested and after the recent reports of Will Hill and Terrence Cody being in trouble with the law. Character can’t be everything when it comes to valuing a player, but it should count for something.

It’s true that Smith profiles best as a good No. 2 receiver, but that still carries substantial value, evident by a CBS Sports report indicating the Ravens offered him a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season. And even if the 26-year-old won’t cash in on his gamble in the same way that Flacco did in his walk year two years ago, offers in that same neighborhood — or slightly better — will still be thrown his way on the open market. Resources such as Spotrac.com have projected Smith to be worth slightly above $7 million per year, and that’s before learning whether top free-agent receivers such as Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb will even hit the market.

If you’re convinced the Ravens shouldn’t pay Smith what they offered him a few months ago or sweeten the deal a bit to potentially get it done, then what?

Even if Bryant, Thomas, and Cobb find their way to the market, the Ravens won’t have the salary cap space to make a competitive offer. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin would be next on the list, but most project him to fetch more than Smith in free agency. A look at contracts signed in recent offseasons likely puts Smith in line with the deals received by Eric Decker and Golden Tate last offseason, but the final price will depend on the supply of quality receivers on the market and the number of teams willing to spend.

Whether re-signing Smith or not, the Ravens will take a long look at the wide receiver position in the draft, but Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White will be long gone by the time they pick 26th overall. And let’s not forget that general manager Ozzie Newsome’s sterling draft reputation doesn’t extend to the wide receiver position where Smith is the Ravens’ biggest success story in two decades. Going into the draft needing to find a starting receiver with a late first-round pick isn’t a recipe for success for a playoff-caliber team.

Drafting a wideout such as DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, or Devin Funchess could pay off in the long run, but few positions are as unpredictable as wide receiver, especially if you’re expecting one to play a significant role immediately.

Should Smith depart, the Ravens would be looking at a 36-year-old Steve Smith as one starter and a competition among the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Jacoby Jones (if he isn’t a cap casualty) for the No. 2 spot. Those receivers are complementary parts — not NFL starters — at this stage, and the Ravens can’t depend too much on Steve Smith, who slowed down at different points last season after a blazing start.

As they have in the past, Baltimore could look for another short-term veteran fix, but there’s only so much upside to be had with receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially if you’re looking for someone to stretch the field.

Of course, Smith will also need to prove just how much he wants to remain in Baltimore as he told WNST.net last week that he won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder and complimented the organization for giving him a chance to win every year. If the Ravens are still offering the fifth-year receiver what they did a few months ago and are willing to offer a little more as a show of faith in him, Smith can’t accuse them of disrespecting him after a season he’s described himself as less than stellar.

Most agree that Smith needs to be “the right player at the right price” for the Ravens to continue their relationship with him, but his departure would spell bad news for a team trying to build on a 10-6 season that ended in the divisional round.

His detractors have had few problems pointing out what Smith isn’t, but replacing him would be more difficult than many are willing to admit.

 

 

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Orioles agree to terms with right-handed pitcher Gonzalez

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Orioles agree to terms with right-handed pitcher Gonzalez

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles took care of another arbitration-eligible player by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday.

According to CBSSports.com, the right-hander will receive a $3.275 million base salary for the 2015 season. Gonzalez, 30, went 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) spanning 159 innings last year.

He made only $529,000 last year before entering his first arbitration-eligible offseason. Earlier this winter, Gonzalez filed for $3.95 million while the Orioles offered $2.5 million when exchanging arbitration figures.

Though he temporarily became the odd man out of the starting rotation when Ubaldo Jimenez returned from the disabled list last August, Gonzalez had the best ERA of any of the Orioles’ six starters in 2014 and has been one of the club’s most consistent starters over the last three seasons. Gonzalez has posted a 30-21 record with a 3.45 ERA in 75 games (69 starts) since making his major league debut in 2012.

The Orioles have two arbitration cases left to resolve: closer Zach Britton and outfielder Alejandro De Aza. If the sides don’t come to agreements, arbitration hearings will be held later this month.

 

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Orioles sign Reimold to minor-league deal, trade Lombardozzi to Pittsburgh

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Orioles sign Reimold to minor-league deal, trade Lombardozzi to Pittsburgh

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles made several roster moves Tuesday headlined by the return of outfielder Nolan Reimold to the organization.

According to MASN Sports, the 31-year-old agreed to a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. Once considered one of the better young players in the organization, a series of injuries including two spinal fusion procedures prevented Reimold from ever reaching his potential in Baltimore.

Upon working his way back to full strength last summer following a second neck surgery, Reimold was placed on waivers by the Orioles and claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays last July. The right-handed hitter batted .212 with two home runs and nine runs batted in in 60 plate appearances before once again being waived in late August. Reimold finished the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting .294 with a homer and four RBIs over 18 plate appearances.

In six major league seasons, Reimold has posted a .251 average with 44 home runs and a .762 on-base plus slugging percentage in 1,134 career plate appearances.

The Orioles also traded infielder Steve Lombardozzi to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. The Atholton High product hit .288 in 73 at-bats at the beginning of last season before spending the rest of the 2014 season at Triple-A Norfolk where he batted .270 with a .618 OPS.

The organization wasn’t enamored with Lombardozzi’s limitations defensively as well as his lack of power.

Baltimore dealt minor-league catcher Michael Ohlman to the St. Louis Cardinals for cash. A strong 2013 season that included 13 home runs for Single-A Frederick put Ohlman on the Orioles’ prospect radar, but he posted a .627 OPS at Double-A Bowie last year and was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Travis Snider.

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Examining the Ravens’ possible 2015 salary cap cuts

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Examining the Ravens’ possible 2015 salary cap cuts

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With Super Bowl XLIX now in the books and the 2014 season officially over, the Ravens are continuing to make plans for 2015 as they evaluate a tight salary cap and try to improve from a 10-6 campaign that resulted in a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The NFL has yet to set the 2015 salary cap, which is projected to increase from $133 million this past season to somewhere between $138 million and $142 million for the upcoming year. That’s good news for the Ravens as they currently own a commitment of over $137 million for players currently under contract, per Spotrac.com.

With a slew of key free agents to address as well as visions of trying to improve other areas of the roster, general manager Ozzie Newsome will face some difficult decisions pertaining to several veterans on the roster. That begins and ends with five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata, who is entering the final season of a five-year, $61 million deal signed in 2011. Easily one of the best players in franchise history, the 31-year-old defensive tackle finds himself in a similar position to the one Terrell Suggs was in last year before he signed a contract extension to lower his 2014 cap figure.

A name not included on the list of potential cap casualties below is tight end Dennis Pitta, whose $4 million base salary for 2015 is guaranteed. It remains unclear whether Pitta will play football again after suffering two serious hip injuries in two years, but cutting him this offseason would increase his cap figure for 2015.

It’s important to remember the rule of 51 as the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count against the salary cap. The savings from any released player are offset in part by an additional player jumping into the top 51 from the bottom of the list. For example, if a released player carrying a $3 million cap number is replaced in the top 51 by another player carrying a $405,000 cap number, the end result is a $2.595 million savings on the salary cap.

Here’s how I’d rank the list of possible candidates to be cut for cap purposes (with the pre-June 1 cap savings noted in parentheses), in order from most likely to least likely:

1. DE Chris Canty ($2.66 million)
Skinny: The 32-year-old may take this decision out of the Ravens’ hands as he acknowledged at the end of the season that he’s contemplating retirement. Injuries limited his production in 2014, and the Ravens will likely push to re-sign the underrated Lawrence Guy while looking toward young defensive linemen Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore to be factors at Canty’s 5-technique defensive end spot. With so many other pressing needs elsewhere and a few younger options at this position, Canty returning would be more of a luxury than a necessity for next season, making it likely that he’s played his final game with Baltimore.

2. WR Jacoby Jones ($750,000)
Skinny: On the surface, the minimal savings gained by cutting the return specialist now wouldn’t appear worth it, but you have to wonder where Jones fits after falling behind the likes of Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken on the depth chart and not appearing as explosive in the return game in 2014. A possible strategy would be to designate Jones as a post-June 1 cut, which would create $2.5 million in savings for the summer and autumn when the Ravens need a “rainy day” fund to account for injuries. The only problem with that strategy is his scheduled 2015 cap number of $3.375 million staying on the books during the first few months of free agency, but it just doesn’t feel like there’s a place for Jones moving forward.

3. LB Albert McClellan ($1 million)
Skinny: A core member of Jerry Rosburgh’s special teams units over the last few years, McClellan has been a reliable player, but other young inside linebackers such as Arthur Brown and Zachary Orr are cheaper and should be ready to handle more responsibility. Of course, we’re not talking about a great deal of savings here, but veteran special-teams players are typically among the first to go when teams are dealing with cap pains.

4. P Sam Koch ($2.5 million)
Skinny: Many assumed Koch would be a cap casualty last year with his high price tag for a punter, but the Ravens value his ability a great deal and regard him as one of the best in the NFL. That said, Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker is a restricted free agent and will be looking for a long-term contract over the next 12 months. If Koch is willing to sign a team-friendly extension to lower his cap number, the Ravens would be more than happy to keep him around, but they probably can’t afford to pay their kicker and punter in the top 10 at their respective positions. Entering the final year of his contract, Koch is more likely to be a casualty this year than he was last offseason.

5. DT Haloti Ngata ($8.5 million)
Skinny: The only certainty is that the longtime Raven won’t be playing for his scheduled $16 million cap figure. Whether that means he signs an extension like Suggs or is cut remains to be seen. Ngata’s 2014 season was his best in a few years, but his four-game suspension for Adderall use allowed the Ravens to take an extended look at 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan, who played very well in the 31-year-old’s absence. The sides talked about an extension last season with little progress, so it will be interesting to see how motivated Ngata is to make amends for his suspension and finish his career in Baltimore. The Ravens must be smart as it’s typically unwise to throw money at defensive linemen on the wrong side of 30.

6. CB Lardarius Webb ($2 million)
Skinny: It was a disappointing year for the 29-year-old after he missed all of training camp and three of the first four games of the season with a back injury. Since suffering the second anterior cruciate ligament tear of his career in 2012, Webb has looked like nothing better than average, which is problematic when he’s carrying a $12 million cap figure for 2015. However, cutting him this winter would only save $2 million and create less depth at a position where the Ravens are already looking to improve. Newsome may ask Webb to take a pay cut, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens depleting their depth at cornerback further — even if he’s no more than average at this pointby cutting him outright for minimal savings.

 

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