Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Right tackle Wagner set to leave Ravens to join Detroit

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

In what’s been considered more of a formality in recent days, starting right tackle Rick Wagner is reportedly leaving the Ravens for a lucrative contract elsewhere.

According to multiple outlets, Wagner has agreed to terms on a long-term deal with the Detroit Lions. The 27-year-old is expected to make north of $9 million per season, according to NFL Network. Such a deal would set a new bar for right tackles, who have generally topped out at around $6 million annually in recent years.

A three-year starter who ranked 18th among all qualified offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system for 2016, Wagner will be tough to replace with the Ravens having already stated a clear offseason goal of improving their offensive line and running game. James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley, and Stephane Nembot are the current internal options at right tackle, but Hurst has struggled when pressed into starting duty over the last three years and the other two lack any meaningful experience.

The Ravens prefer to keep second-year lineman Alex Lewis at left guard and as the primary backup to starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

Of course, it’s worth noting there was much angst with Baltimore’s decision to hand the right tackle job to Wagner in 2014 after former first-round pick Michael Oher departed via free agency, but the Wisconsin product would start 45 games over three seasons. For what it’s worth, the coaching staff believes both Wesley and Nembot have potential to develop, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t pursue another right tackle via free agency or the draft.

Wagner is just the first of a few unrestricted free agents who could be leaving the Ravens in the coming days. Reports have already indicated multiple teams being interested in Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk while nose tackle Brandon Williams is expected to receive a massive payday on the open market.

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Ravens tender West, four other restricted free agents

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have taken a big step toward keeping running back Terrance West for the 2017 season.

West, offensive linemen James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Michael Campanaro, and safety Marqueston Huff were all given original-round tenders on Tuesday, according to The Sun. All five of these restricted free agents are now scheduled to earn $1.797 million in 2017 if no other team attempts to sign them to an offer sheet. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will tender cornerback Jumal Rolle, their remaining restricted free agent.

Originally a 2014 third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, West rushed for 774 yards and five touchdowns in his first full season with Baltimore. Another team signing West to an offer sheet would be forced to surrender its third-round pick to the Ravens if they elected not to match the offer, making it very likely that the former Towson University star will be staying put for 2017.

Signing Campanaro would require a seventh-round pick since that was the round in which he was drafted by the Ravens in 2014. Huff was originally a fourth-round pick of Tennessee and mostly saw action on special teams this past season, but Baltimore’s lack of depth at the safety position likely contributed to him receiving a tender.

Despite his well-documented struggles when pressed into starting duty over his first three seasons, Hurst does provide some depth at right tackle with starter Rick Wagner appearing likely to depart via free agency. Hurst was originally an undrafted free agent, meaning the Ravens only own a right of first refusal and would not receive compensation if they elected not to match an outside offer sheet.

Jensen was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft and started three games in 2016 before falling down the depth chart in the second half of the season.

It’s worth noting that restricted tenders are not guaranteed contracts as the Ravens could cut any of these players without consequence to the 2017 salary cap. Last March, Baltimore surprisingly gave the low tender to tight end Chase Ford — who never played a down with the Ravens — before cutting him only a month later. Such a scenario could play out with a player like Hurst or Huff if the Ravens added depth at their positions in the coming weeks.

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2017 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

March 1 – Manny Machado
March 2 – Kevin Gausman
March 3 – Adam Jones
March 4 – Darren O’Day
March 5 – Seth Smith
March 6 – Mike Wright

C Caleb Joseph

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Under club control through the 2020 season

2016 stats: .174/.216/.197, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB, 141 PA

Why to be impressed: His extreme struggles at the plate aside, Joseph remained an above-average defensive catcher as he was worth two defensive runs saved and threw out 31 percent of runners attempting to steal. He also remained an asset as a pitch framer and was valued at 2.7 runs above average in that department, according to Stat Corner.

Why to be concerned: Joseph set a major league record for most plate appearances without an RBI in a season, an alarming development hastened by a testicular injury that required surgery and sidelined him for more than a month. His career 7.3 percent extra-base hit rate entering 2016 plummeted to 2.1 percent in 2016 and his contact rate dropped by more than two percent from his first two seasons.

2017 outlook: It’s easy to bury Joseph after a historically-inept season, but his .660 on-base plus slugging percentage over his first 630 major league plate appearances is a reasonable sample suggesting that he can be a solid backup. With a healthy spring and improved luck from his .221 batting average on balls in play in 2016, Joseph should return to being an acceptable reserve with above-average defensive skills.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2017: .222/.280/.360, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 19 R, 0 SB, 191 PA

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Ravens begin making cuts to create salary-cap space

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Luke Jones

After weeks of speculation, the Ravens finally began making moves to clear salary-cap space just two days ahead of the start of the free agency signing period.

Baltimore terminated the contracts of cornerback Shareece Wright and safety Kendrick Lewis on Tuesday afternoon, anticipated cuts that create just under $5 million in cap space. However, their “rule of 51” replacements on the current roster make it closer to $4 million in net savings.

The moves also leave $3.1 million in dead money on the 2017 cap.

Neither termination comes as a surprise as Wright, 29, struggled in his first full season with the Ravens and eventually lost his starting job. He ranked 76th among qualified NFL cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grading system and finished with 52 tackles and six pass breakups in 12 games. Wright’s release comes exactly a year to the day that general manager Ozzie Newsome signed him to a three-year, $13 million contract last offseason.

Wright’s fate appeared to be sealed in January at the season-ending press conference in which owner Steve Bisciotti criticized his 2016 performance after his strong 2015 finish that earned him a contract extension.

“We had Shareece Wright, who actually graded out better than Jimmy [Smith] in the last six weeks of the [2015] season,” Bisciotti said. “We made that one of our priorities that we thought we could lock that down, and Shareece gets away from the fundamentals and loses technique and starts playing poorly. That really set us back, to be honest with you.”

Lewis saw his role diminish dramatically in his second year in Baltimore as the Ravens replaced him and fellow 2015 starter Will Hill with veteran newcomer Eric Weddle and converted cornerback Lardarius Webb at the starting safety spots. The 28-year-old Lewis collected just six tackles and a forced fumble in six games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury in late October.

The Ravens entered the week with $13.8 million in cap space, but much of that space will be needed to tender restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players before any attempts to re-sign their own unrestricted free agents or outside free agents. More cap-related moves are likely in the coming days as Baltimore tries to revamp its roster in hope of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

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Timing key if Ravens want to reunite with Torrey Smith

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith’s pending release from San Francisco sparked a predictable response from many in the city in which he remains highly respected and beloved.

Second on the franchise’s all-time list for touchdown receptions and third in all-time receiving yards, Smith is only 28 and remains an active contributor in the Baltimore community. The former University of Maryland standout also shared good chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco, whom the Ravens obviously want more from after a disappointing 2016 campaign.

But does a reunion make sense?

After a disastrous run with the 49ers, Smith’s value is clearly lower than it was two winters ago, but most would acknowledge San Francisco’s quarterback situation as the biggest reason for his statistical decline. That understanding could lead to his free-agent market not being as bad as one would think, making a potential return to Baltimore more unlikely.

The Ravens re-signing Smith only makes sense if they’re going to move on from Mike Wallace, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season since 2011. The two have similar skill sets and Baltimore already has young speedsters Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore on the roster, meaning there are already enough vertical threats at Flacco’s disposal.

An even trade-off from a financial standpoint would make little sense as few would argue that Smith is as good as Wallace, but signing the former Raven to a three-year deal at a reasonable rate would make the older Wallace expendable if you can save some real dollars in salary cap space for 2017. Those savings could then go toward finding that veteran possession receiver the Ravens desperately need.

Wallace will be 31 in August, and the Ravens must exercise his 2017 option this week, which includes a $4.75 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus. In other words, general manager Ozzie Newsome must act quickly if he wants to bring back Smith, who may have thoughts of thoroughly testing the open market anyway. Needless to say, it would be unwise for the Ravens to part with Wallace before having an agreement in place with Smith since they’re already looking to add one receiver as it is.

Even if the Ravens aren’t interested in re-signing Smith, his availability could work in Newsome’s favor to sign Wallace to an extension, which would presumably lower his $8 million cap figure for the upcoming season.

With the front office already having so many other balls in the air in a critical offseason, you have to seriously question whether a Wallace-for-Smith swap is worth the time and effort.

Elam update

For those who’ve inquired about former Ravens safety Matt Elam’s status for this week’s Ed Block Courage Awards after his arrest in Miami last month, he will not be participating.

Elam was voted as the 2016 recipient by his Baltimore teammates, but former Ravens cornerback and 2007 Ed Block Courage Award recipient Samari Rolle will instead represent the organization this year.

Below is the statement from the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation:

After Matt Elam’s incident, the Foundation contacted the Baltimore Ravens on how we should proceed. With the Ed Block Courage Award as the only league-wide honor that is voted on strictly by the players, the team decided to move forward  with Matt as their recipient, as it was decided by his teammates. The organization had no influence over the nomination.  

They did agree that the Foundation should do what was in our best interest. As the main focus of our event is the community outreaches at the Rita R. Church Rec Center and the Baltimore Ravens Courage House (St. Vincent’s Villa), we decided to not include him in those events.

Tampering time

Beginning at noon on Tuesday, teams may begin negotiating with the certified agents of free agents from other teams, but deals cannot be officially completed until 4 p.m. on Thursday.

What does that really mean?

This legal “tampering” period will produce reported agreements over the next two days despite the NFL’s annual warnings not to do so. The truth is that tampering goes on throughout the NFL — the scouting combine in Indianapolis has long been a haven for such discussions — and likely starts even earlier now with this two-day negotiating window that was introduced with the current collective bargaining agreement.

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2017 Orioles preview: Mike Wright

Posted on 06 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

March 1 – Manny Machado
March 2 – Kevin Gausman
March 3 – Adam Jones
March 4 – Darren O’Day
March 5 – Seth Smith

SP/RP Mike Wright

Opening Day age: 27

Contract status: Under club control through the 2021 season

2016 stats: 3-4, 5.79 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 12 HR, 74 2/3 innings

Why to be impressed: Despite splitting the season between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk, Wright improved his ERA, strikeout rate, walk rate, and homer rate from 2015, which is what you hope to see from a young pitcher trying to stick in the majors. His 5.30 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark still doesn’t scream starter, but it was substantial improvement from his 6.13 FIP as a rookie.

Why to be concerned: Wright’s average fastball velocity of 93.5 miles per hour shows he has a lively arm, but his lack of effective secondary pitches continues to hold him back at the major league level. Lefty bats posted a .345 average and .990 on-base plus slugging percentage against Wright last season, another sign that he’s destined for a relief role if he’s going to stick in the majors.

2017 outlook: Wright has found some early spring success with increased use of his two-seam fastball, but he could start the year as a starter for Norfolk. Of course, the 27-year-old is on the short list of long-relief options and could receive some starts if any members of the projected Baltimore rotation falter, making him a good bet to pitch some meaningful innings at some point in 2017.

2017 not-so-scientific projections: 2-4, 5.21 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 7 HR, 52 innings

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Ravens begin week with $13.8 million in salary cap space

Posted on 06 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Counting down to the official start of the new league year on Thursday afternoon, the Ravens will need to make some moves to increase their amount of salary cap space for the beginning of free agency.

According to the NFLPA, Baltimore entered Monday with 54 players under contract — the offseason allows for a 90-man roster — and $13.801 million in cap space when considering only the top 51 cap figures. The “rule of 51” officially goes into effect at 4 p.m. on Thursday and applies until just before the start of the regular season, meaning all teams must be under the league’s $167 million salary cap for 2017 later this week.

Nearly $14 million in cap space may sound like a lot for general manager Ozzie Newsome, but resources will be needed just to tender restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players, which will exhaust a great deal of that space. That means at least a few cap-related releases, extensions, or pay cuts are all but guaranteed to occur to create room to re-sign some of their own unrestricted free agents and to pursue outside free agents.

“We’re bringing everybody back until we’re not,” head coach John Harbaugh said last week. “I think circumstances dictate that, so every one of those guys is in a little bit of a different position and different story.”

To be clear, the Ravens are currently in compliance with the cap and technically won’t need to make any cuts by a certain deadline, but any effort to improve the roster in a meaningful way will require some difficult decisions with veteran players over the next few days. It remains to be seen just how radical those changes might be for a team hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

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All-too-quiet Ravens entering franchise-defining week

Posted on 06 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The silence from the Ravens has been almost eerie in recent weeks.

That’s not to say that general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office haven’t been hard at work behind the scenes, but the Ravens are playing their hand even closer to the vest than normal, which is saying something for a franchise that makes it a point to rarely pull back the curtain. Even the most logical of salary cap-related cuts have yet to be executed a few days before the start of the new league year, leaving outsiders to continue to speculate and wonder about the future of a franchise at a crossroads.

The Ravens haven’t missed the playoffs in three straight years in this millennium, which is both a testament to their success for the better part of two decades and a reflection of how their recent fortunes have veered south. Owner Steve Bisciotti has shown patience over the last couple years, but that can only go so far, quite possibly making this a franchise-defining week in one way or another for the Ravens.

Head coach John Harbaugh said in Indianapolis last week that there was no doubt in his mind that the Ravens will contend for a championship in 2017, but those words ring more hollow based on the amount of work that needs to be done to the roster this offseason.

The argument can be made for more substantial changes, but selling a youth movement to Harbaugh and the rest of a coaching staff that may be fighting for their jobs this coming season isn’t easy. Is Newsome willing to be bold with an aging roster that hasn’t been good enough or will we see moves more reflective of tweaking than major revamping? Has Bisciotti declared 2017 to be a playoff-or-bust campaign internally or has he assured and instructed the brass and coaching staff to do what’s best for the long-term viability of the franchise?

Improving from last year’s 8-8 campaign won’t be easy with limited cap space — they have just $13.801 million in space before tendering any of their restricted free agents or exclusive-rights players — and above-average contributors such as Brandon Williams, Rick Wagner, and Kyle Juszczyk poised to officially hit the free-agent market this week. Going all out to re-sign these players makes it more difficult to improve other roster weaknesses that need to be addressed, but losing them creates even more holes to fill.

We know Baltimore needs to have a home run of a draft in April, but several busts in the first few rounds in recent years have contributed to this current purgatory and have created a decreased level of confidence in a front office and scouting department that used to make their money through the draft. It’s true that the Ravens have only one losing season to their name since winning Super Bowl XLVII, but they also have just one winning campaign over that time, leaving them stuck in the middle.

Escaping the vice grip of mediocrity is the obvious goal, but the margin for error is small when you have one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL who hasn’t performed up to previous levels — no matter who’s at fault — in the last two years. Putting all the blame on Joe Flacco is unfair, but your franchise quarterback has to be much more of a solution than a concern, regardless of other variables at work. His renaissance would go a long way toward quelling concerns and minimizing other roster weaknesses.

Even without knowing how this offseason will play out, one can easily envision this week being a turning point for the franchise.

Some savvy additions and a strong draft could not only have the Ravens back in the playoffs in 2017, but such a haul could put them back on the road to being a Super Bowl contender sooner than later. A mediocre offseason, however, could all but seal the fate of figures who’ve been a key part of past glories.

The time for speculation is almost over after the extended silence in Owings Mills.

Now it’s time to see what the Ravens have up their sleeve to try to get back on track.

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2017 Orioles preview: Seth Smith

Posted on 05 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

March 1 – Manny Machado
March 2 – Kevin Gausman
March 3 – Adam Jones
March 4 – Darren O’Day

RF Seth Smith

Opening Day age: 34

Contract status: Under contract through the 2017 season

2016 stats: .249/.342/.415, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 62 R, 0 SB, 438 PA

Why to be impressed: The left-hand hitter’s on-base percentage would have ranked behind only Hyun Soo Kim and Manny Machado on the 2016 Orioles, making his plate discipline a welcome addition to a one-dimensional offense. Smith also had his highest home-run rate since 2010, which bodes well for his opportunity to take aim at the short right-field porch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Why to be concerned: Smith’s on-base plus slugging percentage dipped for the second straight year in 2016, which isn’t exactly shocking for a hitter in his mid-30s. It’s not a secret that he owns a career .594 OPS against left-handed pitching, but those struggles will force the Orioles to use a straight platoon in right field, which could create matchup concerns against opposing bullpens late in games.

2017 outlook: The Orioles were wise to unload the disappointing Yovani Gallardo in exchange for a useful piece, but Smith is an average defender at best and needs to be protected against lefties, limiting his overall value. He figures to be a solid candidate to hit at or near the top of the order, and his on-base ability should be an asset for a lineup with too many free-swinging approaches.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2017: .256/.339/.418, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 65 R, 1 SB, 454 PA

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2017 Orioles preview: Darren O’Day

Posted on 04 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

March 1 – Manny Machado
March 2 – Kevin Gausman
March 3 – Adam Jones

RP Darren O’Day

Opening Day age: 34

Contract status: Under contract through the 2019 season

2016 stats: 3-1, 3 saves, 3.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 6 HR, 31 innings

Why to be impressed: O’Day’s strikeout rate held firm after his career-best 11.3 per nine innings in 2015 that warranted an invitation to the All-Star Game. It was also encouraging to see him return from a late-season shoulder injury to allow only one run in his final five appearances, which included 1 2/3 scoreless frames in the American League wild-card game in Toronto.

Why to be concerned: Very consistent and durable over his first four seasons in Baltimore, 2016 was a lost campaign for O’Day as he missed roughly half the season with hamstring and shoulder injuries. His home-run rate of 1.7 per nine innings explained his higher ERA while he also recorded the worst walk rate of his career, a red flag for a 34-year-old entering the second season of a four-year, $31 million deal.

2017 outlook: The Orioles hope that O’Day’s shoulder issue is behind him and that he returns to being their most reliable setup man, but his age and 2016 season should signal to manager Buck Showalter that he can’t push the submariner quite as hard as he used to. You’d like to take comfort in O’Day’s track record and reputation for taking care of himself, but past durability doesn’t guarantee future durability.

2017 not-so-scientific projections: 5-3, 3 saves, 2.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 6 HR, 54 innings

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