Tag Archive | "Brendon Ayanbadejo"

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New Ravens safety Considine excited to be reunited with Harbaugh

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Luke Jones

The last of four signings announced by the Ravens last Friday drew the softest buzz, but veteran safety Sean Considine couldn’t pass on the chance to reunite with John Harbaugh.

Signing a one-year contract to boost the Ravens’ depth at safety, Considine now has the opportunity to join his former special teams coordinator and secondary coach from their days with the Philadelphia Eagles. After being selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, Considine reaped the benefits from the leadership qualities shown by Harbaugh in Philadelphia that led to his hiring as the third head coach in the history of the Ravens in 2008.

Considine once showed more promise at safety in making 17 starts in four seasons with the Eagles, but the 29-year-old has settled into reserve roles while continuing to play special teams with Jacksonville, Carolina, and Arizona over the last three years. With the Ravens having lost reserve safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura in free agency, Considine saw a promising opportunity with Harbaugh in Baltimore.

“He’s a heck of a leader, and I’m looking forward to playing for him again,” Considine said on AM 1570 WNST on Monday. “Relationships in the NFL always come full circle. The people you know, they trust you. I think [the Ravens] are looking for a solid backup safety, a guy with a little veteran presence, a special teams guy like myself. Harbaugh knows who I am and what I am about, so it was easy to unite with him again.”

With Emanuel Cook the only other reserve safety on the roster to back up starters Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, Considine’s 6-foot, 212-pound frame is suited to play both safety positions if needed. The 29-year-old played in four games with Carolina last season before being released and picked up by the Arizona Cardinals following an injury to Kerry Rhodes.

Entering his eighth NFL season, Considine has played in 83 career games while notching 253 career tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, four interceptions, five fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. He has also made 93 special teams tackles over his career.

Much like newly-signed cornerback Corey Graham, Considine has been a regular contributor to all special teams units and embraces the phase of the game young players sometimes view as a demotion when not in the starting offense or defense.

“I play all four phases [of special teams], and I really enjoy it,” Considine said. “It’s an important part of the game and you can put in the same amount work in film study that you do if you are defensive or offensive starter. That’s what I like to do. I take it seriously, and I usually have pretty good success playing special teams.”

With veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo questioning the effort of the team’s young players on special teams last season, the additions of Graham and Considine speak to a concerted effort to improve kick coverage and generate more production in the return game. The Ravens finished 30th in special teams, according to FootballOutsiders.com, while ranking 31st in kickoff coverage and 24th in punt coverage.

Considine hopes his experience and commitment to special teams will help reverse the misfortune that has placed special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg under scrutiny for the 2012 season.

“I know coach Harbaugh, and I know how much pride he takes in the special teams units coming from his background,” Considine said. “They weren’t playing up to their standards in special teams last year, and they are looking to improve just like every other team is looking to improve in all phases. So, hopefully I’ll be a part of that solution.”

To hear Sean Considine’s entire conversation with WNST.net’s Glenn Clark, click HERE.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Lacrosse-Towson @ Maryland (Tuesday 7pm from Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex live on AM1570 WNST.net); Auto Racing: NASCAR Goody’s Fast Relief 500 (Sunday 12:30pm from Martinsville, VA live on FOX), IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of Alabama (Sunday 2pm from Birmingham live on NBC Sports Network); High School Basketball: McDonald’s All American Games (Girls Wednesday 7pm from Chicago live on ESPNU Boys Wednesday 9:30pm from Chicago live on ESPN); Mixed Martial Arts: Bellator Fighting Championships 63 (Friday 8pm from Uncasville, CT live on MTV2); Boxing: Friday Night Fights-Hank Lundy vs. Dannie Williams (Friday 9pm from Mashantucket, CT live on ESPN2); Soccer: Team USA Women @ Japan (Sunday 6:30am from Sendai, Japan live on ESPN2), MLS-FC Dallas @ DC United (Friday 7:30pm from RFK Stadium live on NBC Sports Network); Bill Maher (Saturday 8pm France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at the Hippodrome, Sunday 8pm Strathmore); Donnell Rawlings (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Goon” & “Wrath of the Titans” out in theaters (Friday); Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

10. Van Halen/Kool & The Gang (Wednesday 7:30pm Verizon Center), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (Sunday 7:30pm Verizon Center); Mac Miller (Saturday 8pm Patriot Center); Blue October (Sunday 7pm Rams Head Live); Mr. Greengenes (Thursday 8pm Recher Theatre); The Bad Plus (Sunday 7:30pm Baltimore Soundstage); All Mighty Senators (Saturday 8pm 8×10 Club); Sleigh Bells (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), The Temper Trap (Saturday 6pm 9:30 Club), Andrew WK (Sunday 7pm 9:30 Club); Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Wednesday 8pm Warner Theatre); Patti LaBelle (Friday & Saturday 8pm Strathmore); Leon Redbone (Saturday 7:30pm Birchmere), Three Dog Night (Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Of Monsters And Men (Monday 8pm Black Cat)

The new Van Halen is TERRIBLE (at least the song is-I haven’t listened to the record), but it doesn’t change how freaking awesome this is…

I don’t worship Bruce Springsteen. (Some of you would have to admit you do.) I DO freaking love this song though…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GbWwDIo8XU

I have no idea what Three Dog Night even looks like at this point. I would be more than happy to sing along with this though…

Here’s another fantastic tune by a band called Of Monsters And Men. So now we’ve done that…

9. NBA: Washington Wizards @ Indiana Pacers (Thursday 7pm from Indianapolis live on Comcast SportsNet PLUS), Philadelphia 76ers @ Washington Wizards (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors (Sunday 6pm from Toronto live on Comcast SportsNet), Milwaukee Bucks @ Washington Wizards (Monday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet PLUS)

Since Sonny Weems doesn’t play for the Raptors anymore, he won’t be there when the ‘Zards visit Canada. It’s a shame because if he was he could bring his creepy foot…

I get the feeling there won’t be many folks willing to click on Page 2 or Page 3 after that, but we’re going to keep going here anyway.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ayanbadejo questions young players’ effort on special teams last season

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Ayanbadejo questions young players’ effort on special teams last season

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Luke Jones

The Ravens sent a clear message on Friday of their intentions to improve their special teams from a season ago.

In addition to re-signing three-time Pro Bowl selection Brendon Ayanbadejo, general manager Ozzie Newsome added 2011 Pro Bowl special teams player Corey Graham and veteran Sean Considine to improve depth in the secondary as well as add more experience to the special teams units.

According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Ravens finished 30th in overall special teams last season. And given head coach John Harbaugh’s background as the longtime special teams coordinator for the Philadelpia Eagles, you knew addressing that facet of the game would be a priority this offseason.

“It’s certainly something that we felt, coming out of the season, that we really needed to do,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We weren’t as good there as we needed to be. We needed to be more explosive; we need to cover kicks better.”

While the struggles of kicker Billy Cundiff received much of the attention, the Ravens stumbled elsewhere, finishing 31st in kickoff coverage and 24th in punt coverage while allowing three returns for touchdowns in 2011. Adding a return specialist will also be a priority as Baltimore too often settled for touchbacks on its kickoff returns and would also like to replace top cornerback Lardarius Webb as the punt returner.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has come under fire because of his group’s struggles last season, but Ayanbadejo was quick to deflect the blame from the coaching staff when asked about it during Friday’s conference call.

“I think the biggest failure is that the players failed the coaches,” Ayanbadejo said. “The coaches did the same thing they’ve done every year.”

With special teams units comprised mostly of younger players, Ayanbadejo pointed to the absence of an offseason as a major factor that contributed to the Ravens’ struggles in kick coverage.

However, the 35-year-old linebacker went on to question the motives of last year’s rookies when it came to their commitment to special teams. Without naming names, Ayanbadejo clearly had at least a couple individuals in mind who were more interested in working their way into the starting lineup than contributing in the third facet of the game.

“When these young guys come in, they have to understand that they’re going to cover a kick before they go out there and cover a receiver,” Ayanbadejo said. “They’re going to cover a kick before they go out there and run a route. I don’t think last year’s group got that. They felt like they were going to come in and surpass special teams and go play defense. Their priorities were in the wrong place.”

Ayanbadejo finished with nine tackles on special teams, second to linebacker Albert McClellan’s 12 last season. The veteran went on to explain how experience players also needed to have more accountability in the group’s performance in hopes of improving in 2012.

“It’s not just on the young guys,” Ayanbadejo said. “It’s on guys like myself; I missed some tackles and I did some things wrong as well. As a group, we have to focus and put that time in and dedication and understand that there is an order to how football is played.”

If any player has the authority to speak critically about the team’s performance on special teams, it’s Ayanbadejo, who has been to three Pro Bowls as a special teams player with the Bears and the Ravens over his nine-year career.

I have my suspicions about which players Ayanbadejo might be referencing — particularly with him twice mentioning young players wanting to play defense — but it will be interesting to see if those individuals were paying attention to the veteran’s comments.

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Plenty of work remains, but Friday’s activity a modest step forward for Ravens

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Plenty of work remains, but Friday’s activity a modest step forward for Ravens

Posted on 23 March 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The first 10 days of free agency had been anything but smooth for the Ravens, even if it was expected by anyone paying attention.

With limited salary cap room and 12 unrestricted free agents becoming available, coach John Harbaugh knew there would be difficult decisions to make, including waving goodbye to veterans Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Corey Redding, Haruki Nakamura, and Tom Zbikowski. Even when the Ravens targeted a potential outsider to help fill one of those voids — such as their flirtation with Eagles guard Evan Mathis — they found themselves without sufficient funds to close the deal.

Other than the re-signing of veteran center Matt Birk last week, the lack of activity was causing some restless nights among the fan base. But with the second week of free agency nearing its conclusion, this is typically when general manager Ozzie Newsome begins hunting for the best value.

Newsome and the Ravens apparently found it on Friday, re-signing linebackers Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo and inking former Bears cornerback Corey Graham and veteran safety Sean Considine to contracts.

“[Waiting] probably wasn’t as hard for me as it was for the fans, because I had a little bit more of a front seat into what we were doing and those conversations are happening every day,” Harbaugh said. “We were involved with guys all the time, but we had our limits as to what we were going to be able to pay certain players.”

While none of the four moves should be labeled as significant splashes, the retaining of McClain allows the Ravens to cross off inside linebacker as one of their most pressing needs this offseason. Though not an elite player, McClain acquitted himself nicely in the absence of fellow inside linebacker Ray Lewis for four games last season.

The 26-year-old repeatedly stated his preference to remain with the organization that took a chance on him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2008, but many expected McClain to find a new home somewhere else once he hit the open market on March 13.

“There’s always that possibility, because this game is unpredictable,” McClain said. “We never know what’s going to happen at the end of the day. But in the back of my heart, I always knew that Baltimore was home.”

With a deep group of available inside linebackers and a slow pace to the market, McClain’s only visit came with the Denver Broncos, who eventually re-signed inside linebacker Joe Mays. Those circumstances led to increased optimism that the Ravens would be able to keep McClain in Baltimore, which became reality on Friday afternoon.

“I probably wasn’t real confident early on because we just know what kind of a player he is,” Harbaugh said. “I think you guys have seen him. Our fans know how good of a player he is. For whatever reason, the inside backer market just didn’t really go crazy.”

McClain represents a rock-solid starting option next to Lewis and quells concerns at the position, but the Ravens will still look to address the inside linebacker position in April’s draft with an eventual replacement for Lewis in mind. Pass coverage still remains an issue, but the re-signing of Ayanbadejo does give the Ravens another option in the nickel package.

Friday also represented an encouraging day for the Ravens’ special teams with two Pro Bowl selections secured for a unit that finished 30th in the NFL in 2011, according to FootballOutsiders.com. The returning Ayanbadejo as well as Graham and Considine will try to help the Ravens improve on their 31st-ranked kickoff coverage and 24th-ranked punt coverage last season.

Of the three signings, Graham represents the most intriguing upside. Regarded as one of the best gunners in the league, he will start on all special teams units and be a focal point for which other teams will have to game-plan. Though clearly behind Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and Jimmy Smith, Graham does have secondary experience in addition to his special teams prowess.

“He’s kind of a guy like me who you’re going to have to scheme against him and double-team him and come up with ways to stop him,” Ayanabadejo said about his former Chicago teammate. “And anytime you double-team one guy, that’s going to leave someone else open.”

While Friday can be regarded as a modest sigh of relief for the Ravens and their fans, plenty of holes remain with the draft nearly a month away. Identifying starting replacements for Grubbs at left guard and Johnson at outside linebacker are still the top priorities. After that, the Ravens will look to address the third receiver spot as well as to try to find a viable return specialist.

The four signings eat away most of the near-$5 million in cap room the Ravens held entering the day, meaning they will likely need to sit tight until the draft and reassess the roster and the open market after selections have been made.

Yes, Friday represented a satisfying move in the right direction, but it will likely put the Ravens back in the familiar position of waiting.

With plenty of work still to do between now and the start of the season.

Hear interviews with John Harbaugh, Jameel McClain, and Corey Graham in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.

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Ravens announce four free-agent signings on Friday

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Ravens announce four free-agent signings on Friday

Posted on 23 March 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to terms with following unrestricted free agents, general manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Friday afternoon:

· OLB Brendon Ayanbadejo (re-signed for three years)

· S Sean Considine (signed for one year)

· CB Corey Graham (signed for two years)

· LB Jameel McClain (re-signed for three years)

“It’s a good day for the Ravens,” Newsome stated. “Getting Jameel and Brendon back is very important for us. They both know the standard we have around here, and they have helped set that.

“With Corey and Sean, we have improved our special teams, plus they give us quality and proven depth for the defense. When we ended the season, [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and I talked about the need to get better players for special teams, especially with kick coverage. Corey and Sean will improve that area for us.”

OLB Brendon Ayanbadejo

Entering his 10th NFL season, the three-time Pro Bowl special teamer has played in 126 career games, including 46 contests as a Raven over the past four seasons (2008-11). Owning 173 career special teams tackles, Ayanbadejo has led or shared the team lead in special teams stops in six of his nine seasons.

Ayanbadejo has also produced 97 tackles from scrimmage (63 solo), including a career-high 27 last season. Additionally, he registered a career-high 1.5 sacks and two passes defensed in 2011.

“He’s our leader on special teams, and we needed him back,” Harbaugh said. “He’s valuable to everything we do on [special] teams. And, adding Corey and Sean to those groups will help Brendon, who was double-teamed on most plays last season.

“The other good thing with Brendon is that he’s a real factor on our defense with our sub [substitution] packages. His development in that area exceeded what we originally expected when we first signed him as the top special teams’ player.”

S Sean Considine

Considine has played in 83 career games (28 starts) and enters his eighth NFL season. In 2011, he saw action in four contests with Carolina and then eight games with Arizona. Originally selected by Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, he also spent four seasons with the Eagles (2005-08) and two years in Jacksonville (2009-10).

Considine has notched 253 career tackles (159 solo), 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, five fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles during his career, adding 93 special teams stops.

CB Corey Graham

A 2011 Pro Bowl special teamer with Chicago, Graham enters his sixth NFL season after playing in 77 career games (10 starts) with the Bears. Last season, Chicago ranked second in NFL opponent punt return average (5.4 ypr), and since Graham entered the league in 2007, the Bears have permitted an NFL-best 6.5 yards per opponent punt return. Graham earned his first All-Star nod last season after leading the team with 22 special teams stops, upping his career total to 104.

Graham has also produced 117 tackles (90 solo), four interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery from scrimmage during his career. Totaling a career-high three interceptions last year, he tied for the team’s second most.

LB Jameel McClain

Entering his fifth NFL season, McClain was originally signed by Baltimore as a rookie free agent in 2008. Starting all 16 games for the Ravens in 2011, he recorded 81 tackles, one sack, five passes defensed and two fumble recoveries (including one for a six-yard touchdown return).

“We are pleased this worked out for us,” Harbaugh stated. “It has been our hope to bring [McClain] back, even when he became a free agent. Personally, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Jameel as a player, but also his life story. We are proud of him, and we know our fans are, too.”

McClain has never missed a regular season game for the Ravens, playing in 64-consecutive contests and starting 31 of 32 over the past two seasons. McClain has been a key component of the Ravens’ unit, which has boasted the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense (points allowed) for four-straight seasons, tying an NFL record. The Ravens have also produced a Top 5 rushing defense in each of McClain’s four years.

“Jameel understands what it is to be a Raven, to play like one, and he is an integral part of our team, especially our defense,” Harbaugh added. “With Jameel and Brendon back, our linebackers group is very solid right now.”

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Ravens bolster special teams by re-signing Ayanbadejo to three-year deal

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Ravens bolster special teams by re-signing Ayanbadejo to three-year deal

Posted on 23 March 2012 by Luke Jones

Using the second Friday of the free-agent signing period to strengthen their special teams, the Ravens have re-signed linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo.

The three-time Pro Bowl special teams standout will remain in Baltimore on a three-year contract, according to Pro Football Talk. Ayanbadejo has spent the last four seasons with the Ravens, playing an active role in the special teams units as well as providing depth at the linebacker position.

After spending three years with the Chicago Bears, the 35-year-old has seen an increased role defensively in Baltimore in the defense’s nickel package and was regarded as one of the Ravens’ best pass-coverage linebackers. Ayanbadejo becomes the second unrestricted free agent to stay with the Ravens after veteran center Matt Birk signed a new three-year deal last week.

Ayanbadejo ranked second on the team with nine special teams tackles and also recovered a fumble. Defensively, he finished with 27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and two pass breakups.

Earlier in the day, the Ravens agreed to a two-year deal with former Bears cornerback Corey Graham, who was selected to the 2011 Pro Bowl as a special teams standout for Chicago.

Prior to the signings of Ayanbadejo and Graham, the Ravens were projected to have just under $5 million in salary cap room.

 

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

Posted on 08 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and seven exclusive rights free agents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 2012 salary cap had yet to be set, but most reports indicate it will remain right around the $120 million used for the 2011 season. The Ravens are projected to have somewhere between $11 and $12 million in cap space, depending on what the final cap number will be.

Franchise tag

RB Ray Rice: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with Rice or he will play for the $7.7 million salary mandated by the franchise tag for running backs.

Unrestricted free agents

G Ben Grubbs: LEAVES
Skinny: General manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism at the NFL Combine, but the Ravens won’t engage in a bidding war when Grubbs hits the open market. 

C Matt Birk: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will meet with Birk’s agent Joe Linta next week and could sign the veteran to a cap-friendly, short-term deal to finish his career in Baltimore. 

LB Jarret Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: Despite little depth at outside linebacker, the Ravens appear ready to move on and won’t be able to afford Johnson in a thin market for linebackers. 

LB Jameel McClain: LEAVES
Skinny: Assuming the Ravens do not strike a deal for Grubbs, some of that money could be allocated to retain McClain, but other teams historically throw too much money at Baltimore linebackers in the open market. 

DE Cory Redding: STAYS
Skinny: Though third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones could step into the starting lineup, Redding might have more value to the Ravens than other potential suitors at this stage in his career. 

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: STAYS
Skinny: With the lack of depth at inside linebacker and Ayanbadejo’s ability in pass coverage, the Ravens will hold onto the 35-year-old at a lower rate than the four-year contract he signed with the team in 2008. 

S Tom Zbikowski: LEAVES
Skinny: After four years serving primarily as a backup, the former Notre Dame product is looking for an opportunity to start elsewhere and doesn’t bring enough to the table as a special teams player to warrant overpaying. 

S Haruki Nakamura: STAYS
Skinny: In the same position as Zbikowski, Nakamura’s versatility as a defensive back as well as his special teams prowess will force the Ravens to pony up a little extra to keep him in Baltimore. 

OL Andre Gurode: LEAVES
Skinny: With the Ravens looking to select an interior lineman or two in April’s draft, the five-time Pro Bowl center will continue his career elsewhere. 

DT Brandon McKinney: STAYS
Skinny: A solid member of the defensive line rotation, McKinney won’t figure to draw a ton of interest on the open market, and the Ravens want to maintain their depth up front. 

TE Kris Wilson: LEAVES
Skinny: Adding a veteran tight end was a shrewd move after Todd Heap’s release last season, but Wilson’s spot will be assumed by a younger, cheaper option. 

LB Edgar Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Injuries opened the door for Jones’ return last season, but he wouldn’t figure to fit into the team’s plans for the 2012 season. 

Restricted free agents

(The Ravens can offer a first-round, second-round, or low tender to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted.)

CB Lardarius Webb: STAYS
Skinny: Webb will receive the first-round tender worth roughly $2.75 million as the Ravens will explore a long-term agreement with the fourth-year cornerback. 

CB Cary Williams: STAYS
Skinny: A report indicated the Ravens will offer Williams a first-round tender, but the second-round designation (an estimated $1.9 million) saves money and would still deter teams from trying to pry away the biggest surprise of the 2011 season.

LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens could roll the dice and offer the low tender ($1.25 million) to the inconsistent linebacker, but that would mean they wouldn’t receive a pick (Ellerbe was an undrafted free agent) if they declined to match a potential offer sheet.

RB Matt Lawrence: LEAVES
Skinny: Even with little depth at running back behind Ray Rice, there’s no way to justify even offering the low tender to the oft-injured running back entering his fourth season.

Exclusive rights free agents

(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on March 13 and the draft to follow in late April, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

After evaluating the biggest offensive needs on Monday, I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football by ranking the biggest positions of need entering the offseason.

1. Outside linebacker

For a team as rich as any at the linebacker position over the last 15 years, it’s unusual to see the Ravens with such glaring needs within the unit. Veteran Jarret Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will be 31 by the start of the 2012 season, suggesting he would be a necessary casualty when addressing a list of 13 unrestricted free agents.

However, there isn’t a single option on the roster with which the Ravens would feel comfortable as a starting strongside linebacker. Paul Kruger shows ability as a pass rusher but has not shown the necessary ability in pass coverage or run defense to consider him an option as a three-down player at this point.

After appearing in only two games this past season, former second-round pick Sergio Kindle is probably more likely to be cut than to find himself in the starting lineup next season. The former Texas product has struggled to learn the Baltimore defense and still feels effects of a fractured skull suffered just days before what would have been his first training camp in 2010, but the 24-year-old will benefit from a full offseason at the team’s Owings Mills facility. Along the same lines as Kindle, Michael McAdoo — who spent the 2011 season on injured reserve — is an intriguing name to monitor but shouldn’t be in the discussion for a starting position at this point.

With that in mind, the Ravens might be more inclined to re-sign Johnson than many would think. Much like they did with Ray Lewis in the winter of 2009, the Ravens will allow the veteran linebacker to explore his value in the open market and see if they can come to an agreement that makes sense for both sides. Of course, new Indianapolis head coach and former Ravens defense coordinator Chuck Pagano could try to overpay for Johnson to bring a Baltimore flavor to the Colts defense. One factor working against the Ravens is a relatively-thin market for outside linebackers, which would not only drive up the price for Johnson but also mean they’d still have to pay handsomely for a replacement.

The Ravens would love to find a young outside backer who can play the run as effectively as Johnson while showing more ability in pass coverage. They could look to a draft prospect such as North Carolina’s Zach Brown, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis, or Utah State’s Bobby Wagner in the early rounds, but the Ravens have rarely shown enough confidence in rookies to step into a starting job at the linebacker position.

The dream scenario would be to find an outside linebacker with enough pass-rushing ability to alleviate attention from Terrell Suggs on the opposite side, but Kruger did an adequate job in getting after the quarterback in passing situations.

2. Inside linebacker

The talk has only grown louder regarding the need to find the heir apparent to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the Ravens first need to figure out who will be playing next to him in 2012.

Jameel McClain is an unrestricted free agent and while the Ravens have to be pleased with his development after signing him as a rookie free agent in 2008, the 26-year-old will likely command more money than Baltimore is willing to pay to retain his services. This would leave Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes as potential replacements. Ellerbe is an restricted free agent while the latter two are exclusive rights players, meaning all three are very likely to return.

Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo is also a free agent, meaning the Ravens could be in danger of losing arguably their best linebacker in terms of pass coverage.

Ellerbe has shown impressive potential in limited doses, but his work ethic has come into question on a number of occasions to draw the ire of coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens might be content with plugging Ellerbe into the other inside linebacker spot for now, but he’s far from a safe bet to be an answer beyond the 2012 season.

The Ravens face a difficult proposition in how to handle Lewis, who still plays the run effectively but is a liability in pass coverage. The prudent answer would be to limit the veteran to action on first and second down, but explaining that to one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history is easier said than done. You also need to have a viable replacement before you tell the defensive leader he comes off the field in passing situations.

While there has been plenty of talk over the last year or two to find Lewis’ eventual replacement, this year’s draft appears to be a critical time to find an up-and-coming inside linebacker. The Ravens have been linked to both Dont’a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State in various mock drafts. The problem is Hightower may be off the board by the time the 29th pick rolls around and Burfict’s character has come into question with a reputation for delivering cheap shots and reportedly sucker-punching a teammate in practice last August.

3. Safety*

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

Posted on 26 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In the aftermath of the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship on Sunday, the finality of the season coming to an abrupt end was accompanied by the all-too-familiar feeling knowing that same team will never be together again.

The reality of the NFL’s offseason brings substantial change to all 32 teams — some more than others — and forces players to say goodbye to others for the final time as teammates.

“It’s tough to really think about that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You know it’s going to happen, but you don’t know which guys it’s going to be, so it’s tough to be in our shoes and go through that. You finally just take it for what it is, and before you know it, you hope you had a good relationship with everybody on the team and said as much as you could say to that guy. We hope we can bring as many people back as we can.”

While other moves will be made — cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans are the strongest candidates to be cut despite being under contract for the 2012 season — the Ravens have 13 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and four exclusive-rights free agents entering the offseason. I’ve included the entire list with a brief thought on each player’s potential future in Baltimore.

Two dates to keep in mind as the offseason begins are the March 5 deadline to designate a franchise player and the start of free agency on March 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Unrestricted free agents

RB Ray Rice
2011 stats: 16 starts, 2,068 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns
Skinny: Rice isn’t going anywhere as the Ravens will either use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl back or sign him to a long-term deal, though the latter would certainly create more cap space for 2012.

G Ben Grubbs
2011 stats: 10 starts, first Pro Bowl selection
Skinny: The Ravens clearly would like to bring the left guard back, but with Marshal Yanda receiving a sizable deal a few months ago, can the organization afford to invest so much money in the guard position?

C Matt Birk
2011 stats: 16 starts
Skinny: After 14 seasons in the league, Birk may decide to retire, but the Ravens could elect to go with the slightly-younger Andre Gurode or look to the draft for the center position.

LB Jarret Johnson
2011 stats: 16 starts, 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks
Skinny: With Johnson on the wrong side of 30, it might be time to part ways with the veteran linebacker, but the Ravens lack a logical replacement on the current roster with the disappointing development of 2010 second-round pick Sergio Kindle and the limitations of pass rusher Paul Kruger.

LB Jameel McClain
2011 stats: 16 starts, 81 tackles, one sack, one interception
Skinny: The former undrafted free agent credits Ray Lewis for his growth, so you have to wonder if McClain becomes the next Baltimore linebacker to receive an inflated contract elsewhere.

DE Cory Redding
2011 stats: 15 games (11 starts), 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks
Skinny: Before an ankle injury slowed Redding over the final month of 2011, he was having his best season in years, but the Ravens could elect to go with younger — and cheaper — defensive lineman Arthur Jones at this position.

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
2011 stats: 16 games, 27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, nine special teams tackles
Skinny: The 35-year-old intends to play in 2012 and expects to be back with the Ravens, but the nickel linebacker may not be on the same page as Baltimore in terms of a contract to make his return feasible.

S Tom Zbikowski
2011 stats: 14 games (four starts), 16 tackles, one sack
Skinny: Largely a forgotten man after Bernard Pollard wrestled away the strong safety job early in the season, it appears Zbikowski will likely try to find a new home where he can start.

S Haruki Nakamura
2011 stats: 15 games, three tackles, nine special-teams tackles
Skinny: In a similar position to Zbikowski, the Ravens will likely make a harder push to keep Nakamura due to his exceptional ability as as special teams player.

OL Andre Gurode
2011 stats: 13 games (five starts)
Skinny: Signed as an insurance policy behind Matt Birk, the 10-year veteran wound up being needed at left guard for an injured Grubbs and could be the short-term replacement at center next season.

DT Brandon McKinney
2011 stats: 12 games, 14 tackles
Skinny: A regular part of the rotation along the defensive line, it’s hard to envision teams beating down McKinney’s door, but the Ravens may try to go younger and cheaper than the six-year veteran.

TE Kris Wilson
2011 stats: 15 games, four special teams tackles
Skinny: His touchdown catch in the divisional round was his claim to fame, but the veteran’s competent special teams ability may not be enough to keep him in Baltimore next season.

LB Edgar Jones
2011 stats: nine games, three special teams tackles
Skinny: Though he was active all nine games after being signed in early November, there’s a reason why Jones was unemployed when the Ravens were looking for special-teams depth.

Restricted free agents
(The Ravens can offer a tender attached to a draft pick and then have the right to match any offer from an opposing team and would receive that team’s draft pick if they choose not to match it.)

CB Lardarius Webb
2011 stats: 16 games (15 starts), 68 tackles, five interceptions, sack
Skinny: With another season like he had in 2011, Webb will be looking for a large payday and deservedly so.

CB Cary Williams
2011 stats: 16 starts, 77 tackles, two forced fumbles
Skinny: Easily the most pleasant surprise on the Baltimore defense, Williams will battle 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith for a starting corner job in training camp.

LB Dannell Ellerbe
2011 stats: nine games (three starts), 17 tackles
Skinny: The third-year linebacker always leaves you wanting more but could find himself in position to compete for a starting role depending on how the Ravens address the inside linebacker position this offseason.

RB Matt Lawrence
2011 stats: Did not play (injured reserve)
Skinny: Though a competent special-teams player when he’s been healthy in his three-year career, you have to think the Ravens are ready to cut ties with the injury-plagued back.

Exclusive-rights free agents
(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

LS Morgan Cox
2011 stats: 16 games
Skinny: There’s no reason to think the Ravens are displeased with Cox’s performance as the long snapper.

CB Danny Gorrer
2011 stats: 11 games, three tackles, four pass breakups
Skinny: Considering he was pushing Chris Carr for the No. 4 corner spot by season’s end and was strong on special teams, Gorrer should have no reason to think the Ravens won’t bring him back.

LB Sergio Kindle
2011 stats: two games
Skinny: The Ravens will bring Kindle back, but he’ll need to make major strides in the offseason and training camp to make the 53-man roster again.

LB Albert McClellan
2011 stats: 16 games (one start), seven tackles, 12 special teams tackles
Skinny: He drew a start for the injured Ray Lewis on Thanksgiving night and is one of the best special teams players on the team, making his return a certainty.

 

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In what’s easily been the most frustrating week in the history of the franchise, the Ravens will now need to look for a new defensive coordinator as Chuck Pagano has been hired as the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Leading the Ravens to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking in his first season as coordinator, Pagano interviewed with Indianapolis on Tuesday before being offered the job on Wednesday. The 51-year-old spent three seasons as the Baltimore secondary coach before being promoted to replace former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison last offseason.

“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said to the Ravens’ official website. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”

Pagano was extremely popular with his defensive players and brought a more aggressive play-calling style than Mattison, helping the Ravens improve from a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010 to an AFC-best 48 this season.

“He just had an inkling for [making the right calls],” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo told AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday afternoon. “More than anything, he wasn’t going to rely on just going vanilla and saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat everybody just going vanilla.’ That’s what coach Mattison liked to do.”

The Ravens sent four defensive starters to the Pro Bowl this year, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and free safety Ed Reed.

Pagano will be introduced to the Indianapolis media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. The Colts fired general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a disastrous 2-14 season without quarterback Peyton Manning.

“We are so happy for Chuck, [his wife] Tina and their daughters,” coach John Harbaugh said in an official statement. “We are proud of him. Like me, Chuck grew up in the game and loves it. We will miss him and thank him for all he did for the Ravens.”

The 51-year-old will likely usher in a new era with Indianapolis primed to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Ayanbadejo said the Colts will immediately take to Pagano’s infectious personality.

“He was one of those guys [where] it was like he was out on the field of battle with you and you’d never want to let him down, because he’s such a good guy,” Ayanbadejo said. “He’s also a family guy and a great person. You really felt like you knew him, and more than anything, you just didn’t want to let him down.”

Pagano had previous stints as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders and also coached at several colleges, including most recently at the University of North Carolina before being hired by Harbaugh in 2008.

The Ravens will also wonder what impact Pagano’s departure might have on their list of defensive players with expiring contracts. Linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Ayanbadejo, defensive end Cory Redding, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney are all set to become unrestricted free agents and could now view Indianapolis as a viable alternative to the Ravens, who will not have a great deal of salary cap space.

After former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard joined him in the Big Apple as free-agent signings.

Baltimore will now have its fourth defensive coordinator in five years after Rex Ryan, Mattison, and Pagano all held the job under Harbaugh. The most logical in-house candidate to fill the role would be linebackers coach Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009 before moving on to Baltimore.

“I don’t think you’ll see any letdown if Dean Pees takes over,” said Ayanbadejo, who described Pees’ relationship with players as one based more on respect than the emotional Pagano. “You might even see a better defense if Dean Pees takes over because he likes things done a certain way, and he’s really particular about the way he does things.”

Pagano becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the history of the franchise to depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Ryan.

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