Posted on 08 December 2015 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 04 March 2015 by Luke Jones
With veteran Lardarius Webb carrying the sixth-highest salary cap figure among NFL cornerbacks, it’s hardly surprising that the Ravens are asking him to take a pay cut.
Whether he accepts is the question as the NFL Network reported Tuesday that Baltimore has officially asked the 29-year-old defensive back to take less than his $8 million base salary for the 2015 season. Webb carries a $12 million cap figure, which is just behind the likes of Dallas’ Brandon Carr ($12.717 million) and Seattle’s Richard Sherman ($12.2 million) for this coming season. Few would say that Webb belongs in that category of players as injuries have stunted a player who once played at a Pro Bowl level before suffering the second anterior cruciate ligament tear of his NFL career during the 2012 season.
A back injury cost Webb all of last year’s training camp and three of the first four games of the regular season before he struggled to regain his pre-injury form the rest of the way, finishing 52nd among cornerbacks who took at least half of his team’s snaps in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. The 2009 third-round pick will be 30 in October and signed a six-year, $50 million contract prior to the 2012 season.
It remains unclear how much less the Ravens are asking Webb to take, but the question for him is whether he thinks another team would give him more than the revised salary general manager Ozzie Newsome is offering. It was roughly six months ago that the Ravens restructured Webb’s contract for the 2014 season, flipping $4 million of his $7.5 million base salary into a bonus and reducing his cap figure. Of course, that adjustment came with the consequence of adding $1 million to his cap figure in each of the next three seasons.
The request of a pay cut is almost always accompanied by the consequence that a player will be released if he doesn’t accept it — no player would ever accept one if that weren’t the case — but the Ravens would save only $2 million in cap space unless they declare Webb a post-June 1 release. Such a maneuver would clear $8 million in cap space, but that relief wouldn’t come until after June 1 when the bulk of free-agent activity has already concluded.
If Newsome believes he can find another comparable veteran — Cary Williams was released on Tuesday — at the same salary or for less than what they’re currently offering Webb, the decision to release him becomes much easier. But they also know cornerback is a major priority and they will already be looking to select one in the early rounds of this year’s draft.
The Ravens can certainly use the cap savings, but they would come with more uncertainty in the secondary if Webb were to be sent packing after six years in Baltimore.
Posted on 03 March 2015 by Luke Jones
Two years after signing a three-year, $17 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, former Ravens cornerback Cary Williams was released on Tuesday, leading to immediate speculation of a potential reunion in Baltimore.
The Ravens’ issues at cornerback last season were no secret and Williams left the organization with no ill feelings two offseasons ago, making it plausible that the sides could reconcile at the right price. Williams, 30, is coming off a season in which he struggled for the Eagles’ 31st-ranked passing game, but the Ravens could view him as a nice veteran insurance policy while still aiming to add a cornerback for the future in the first few rounds of this year’s draft.
Williams has started all 16 games in each of his last four seasons and transformed himself from a former practice-squad member and special-teams player to a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl XLVII champions. The Ravens offered Williams a three-year, $15 million contract prior to his final year in Baltimore, but the Washburn College product elected to play out the 2012 season before accepting a better offer from the Eagles a little over a month after the Super Bowl.
Though the Ravens would ideally view Williams as a No. 3 cornerback, the status of veteran Lardarius Webb could change that as Baltimore tries to restructure his contract currently slated to carry a $12 million cap figure during the 2015 season. If general manager Ozzie Newsome were to part ways with Webb to clear cap space, a veteran like Williams could become even more attractive as the Ravens would want to avoid entering the draft needing a cornerback to start immediately.
Opinionated and sometimes brash on the field, Williams butted heads with Chip Kelly over how much the Eagles head coach was making players work during practices last fall, but the Ravens’ familiarity with the veteran defensive back might give them an advantage over other potential suitors who might be scared off by his attitude.
Ultimately, such a reunion would come down to money more than anything else as the Eagles cut Williams before he was scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this coming season. He would need to take substantially less in any potential return to the place where he established himself as an NFL-caliber cornerback.
Given the Ravens’ need at the position, turning to a durable and known commodity who’s already familiar with Dean Pees’ system would appear to be a solid short-term option while they could look to the draft to find a cornerback of the future.
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Posted on 24 March 2014 by WNST Staff
Last year’s off-season after the Super Bowl was painful for Ravens fans, but now the team is being rewarded for its troubles and patience in free agency.
At the NFL Owner Meetings today in Orlando, the Baltimore Ravens learned more about their off-season approach in May as they received the league maximum number of compensatory picks possible for free agent losses.
The team received a third (99th overall), two fourth-round (134th, 138 overall), and a fifth-round pick (175th overall).
The picks were rewarded for the losses of DE Paul Kruger (Cleveland), MLB Dannell Ellerbe (Miami), CB Cary Williams (Philadelphia), and FS Ed Reed (Houston) in free agency.
Because the Ravens did not sign any unrestricted free agents in the 2013 off-season, the team was not docked any picks from their total.
DE Elvis Dumervil, DL Chris Canty, DL Marcus Spears, S Michael Huff, and MLB Daryl Smith were all signed after teams cut them or late into training camp.
All-in-all, the Ravens will have eight picks as their disposal in May.
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Posted on 25 March 2013 by Glenn Clark
Two of my absolute favorite people on the face of the planet are WNST.net’s own Luke Jones and Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole.
I really mean that. They’re not just two of my favorites in the business, they’re two of my favorites in the world. I love to talk shop with those guys, I love to chat about the world in general with them and I love getting the chance to spend time with them socially.
(This type of statement always leads to a “BUT….”, right? Not exactly this time.)
Both Jason and Luke joined me on “The Reality Check” during the first week of NFL free agency and separately brought up the same word, a specific word that has been repeated to me by a number of callers and e-mailers over the course of the last couple of weeks.
The word is “regression.” If you were playing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the moderator would tell you the word was of latin origin and could be defined as “a trend or shift toward a lower or less perfect state.” Perhaps the word could be used in a sentence along the lines of “After losing the players the Baltimore Ravens have lost thus far, we can expect regression from the team in 2013.”
That was essentially how both guys (and others) used the word over the last few weeks.
(You’re now CERTAIN there’s going to be a “BUT…” coming, aren’t you?)
I had to start every discussion about the term that I’ve had both on-air and off since the offseason began by accepting that Luke, Jason and everyone else who has suggested the Ravens are going to “regress” in 2013 are…well…probably right. I’m sorry. It had to be said.
They’re right because the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012 and it will be very difficult for them to win the Super Bowl again in 2013. Any scenario that doesn’t involve the Ravens hoisting a third Vince Lombardi Trophy would technically mean they had “regressed” from where they were last season.
(Okay, now it’s time.)
BUT…I was never REALLY willing to accept the notion of “regression” for the Ravens at any point. Sunday’s signing of former Denver Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil re-inforces that belief, but it absolutely did not establish it. I just hope the addition of Dumervil will force others to similarly push aside the notion of “regression” in 2013.
(Continued on Page 2…)
Posted on 14 March 2013 by Luke Jones
An exit that appeared all but inevitable became official Thursday afternoon as cornerback Cary Williams became the latest defensive player to part ways with the Ravens.
Williams agreed to a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles and multiple reports are saying the deal is worth $17 million with $10.5 million guaranteed. This trumps the three-year, $15 million deal the Ravens offered him last season, which is an impressive feat given the deep market for cornerbacks this offseason.
Originally a seventh-round pick out of Washburn College by the Tennessee Titans in 2008, the 28-year-old worked his way up the ranks, beginning as a practice-squad player and special-teams player with the Titans before eventually winding up in Baltimore as a two-year starter at cornerback. Williams started all 16 games in each of the last two years and collected four interceptions and 75 tackles in 2012.
“It was a great opportunity coming from humble beginnings,” Williams told AM 1570 shortly after the announcement was made. “I’m thankful for the opportunity and given a chance. I’m just looking to continue getting better…I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”
At 6-foot-1, Williams possesses optimum size for a cornerback but was often criticized for playing with too much cushion in coverage against receivers. Still, Williams stepped up his play considerably following the season-ending ACL injury to Lardarius Webb in October. The cornerback also ended any slim chance of a New England comeback in the AFC Championship with an interception of Tom Brady in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
The offer made by general manager Ozzie Newsome last offseason was no longer on the table as the Ravens and Williams were expected to part ways. Baltimore will lean on a returning Lardarius Webb as well as Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, and Chykie Brown to top the depth chart.
The Eagles are trying to rebuild their secondary after a disastrous 4-12 season that resulted in the departure of longtime head coach Andy Reid as well as starting cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Williams holds no bitterness toward the Ravens despite expressing strong wishes to remain with the organization following their win in Super Boxl XLVII.
“I don’t take it personally,” Williams said. “I understand what they’re trying to do, and I don’t think Baltimore is hurting at the cornerback position.”
Williams becomes the fifth defensive starter to depart the Ravens’ championship unit, joining the retiring Ray Lewis as well as Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe. Baltimore could still see two more defenders depart as Reed and Ma’ake Kemoeatu are unrestricted free agents.
The cornerback hopes to bring his winning pedigree to Philadelphia but won’t forget his four seasons in Baltimore and everything the Ravens accomplished.
“It’s a ‘Band of Brothers,'” Williams said. “It was a hell of a run to make a Super Bowl chase. We did that, and we accomplished what we wanted to do.”
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Posted on 07 March 2013 by Luke Jones
With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, six restricted free agents, and 10 exclusive-rights free agents.
The 2013 salary cap was officially set to $123 million last week and the Ravens have roughly $11 million in cap space after signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract. Most media attention focuses on unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens’ list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players will eat up a sizable portion of that remaining cap space.
Of course, the Ravens still have the option of cutting players under contract or potentially re-signing or restructuring the contracts of players already committed to the organization to create more cap space.
A new wrinkle to consider this year is the NFL allowing teams to enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the three days leading up to the start of the new league year (March 12 at 4 p.m.), meaning the rumors and speculation will pick up this weekend before the start of the signing period.
To see how I fared last year, check out my 2012 free-agent forecast HERE.
Unrestricted free agents
LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens’ top priority among their unrestricted free agents, Ellerbe easily figures to trump the three-year, $10.5 million contract Baltimore awarded Jameel McClain in a deep inside linebacker market last offseason and will be looking for a deal worth at least $20 million.
S Ed Reed: LEAVES
Skinny: If the future Hall of Fame safety is willing to take a modest two-year deal, he could have his chance to finish his career in Baltimore, but I’m guessing Reed will bolt for a more generous offer from another team looking for his services.
LB Paul Kruger: LEAVES
Skinny: With rumors of the situational pass rusher potentially fetching more than $8 million per season, the Ravens will turn to Courtney Upshaw for an increased role and move on from Kruger, who is not strong against the run and played in only 22 of 62 defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLVII.
CB Cary Williams: LEAVES
Skinny: With Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, and Chykie Brown all under contract, the Ravens will remember their depth at cornerback and allow Williams to seek a well-deserved payday somewhere else.
OT Bryant McKinnie: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will explore other options on the open market, but McKinnie should be an affordable stopgap as they’ll look to draft a left tackle of the future on the first or second day of April’s draft.
NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu: LEAVES
Skinny: The 34-year-old’s comeback was a nice story last year, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has made it a priority to upgrade the depth at defensive tackle, making Kemoeatu’s return unlikely at this point.
S James Ihedigbo: STAYS
Skinny: With Reed’s status in doubt, Ihedigbo is a nice depth player the Ravens would like to re-sign at the right price and he was a strong special-teams player last year as well.
DL Ryan McBean: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens had high hopes for the former Denver Bronco last year before a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason opener, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to retain McBean’s services at a cheap rate.
S Sean Considine: LEAVES
Skinny: Though he was a solid special-teams contributor, the Ravens are likely to fill Considine’s spot with a younger, cheaper option.
TE Billy Bajema: LEAVES
Skinny: With Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason, the Ravens should look to a younger option with some upside to fill their third tight end spot.
CB Chris Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: The slew of injuries at the cornerback position midway through the season prompted the Ravens to sign the speedy veteran, but his services will no longer be needed.
LB Ricky Brown: LEAVES
Skinny: A preseason concussion landed the veteran on injured reserve, but Brown was little more than a camp body last summer.
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 sheet 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. If the player originally went undrafted, it simply provides the team the right to match an offer sheet but awards no compensation for losing the player.)
TE Dennis Pitta: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens may explore a multi-year extension for their talented tight end, but the second-round tender should be enough to keep Pitta in Baltimore for the 2013 season.
DL Arthur Jones: STAYS
Skinny: Jones started six games and really emerged in the second half of the season as an impact player along the defensive line, making him a likely candidate to receive a second-round tender.
TE Ed Dickson: STAYS
Skinny: Though his blocking skills are underrated, Dickson’s dwindling role as a receiver makes it likely that he’ll receive the low tender, meaning another team would have to fork over a third-round pick — the round in which he was drafted in 2010 — to sign him.
LS Morgan Cox: STAYS
Skinny: Happy with Cox’s services, the Ravens will either offer him the low tender or re-sign him to a lower salary than the $1.32 million attached to the tender.
OL Ramon Harewood: STAYS
Skinny: The 2010 sixth-round pick clearly fell out of favor after starting the first five games of the season at left guard, but the Ravens could look to sign Harewood at a lower rate after non-tendering him.
WR David Reed: LEAVES
Skinny: It’s possible the Ravens would re-sign Reed at a smaller salary, but they have several young wide receivers and Deonte Thompson can back up returner Jacoby Jones, which could prompt the 2010 fifth-round pick to seek an opportunity for more playing time elsewhere.
Exclusive-rights free agents
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Posted on 02 March 2013 by Luke Jones
General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office had to wake up smiling the morning after reaching an agreement in principle with Joe Flacco on a six-year, $120.6 million contract that’s expected to be finalized Monday.
The move not only locks up the franchise quarterback for the long haul, but it’s also expected to provide short-term relief to a tight salary cap that would have had a difficult time absorbing a minimum of $14.9 million with the non-exclusive franchise tag. All the terms of the record-setting contract have yet to be released, but the 2013 cap number is just $7 million, according to CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora.
Estimated to have roughly $18 million in cap space before accounting for their quarterback or any of their unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive-rights free agents, the Ravens will now have some space to maneuver but not enough to change the entire landscape of their offseason. Moderation will be the key as Newsome will look to sign a couple of his own unrestricted free agents, make wise decisions on his seven restricted free agents, and then turn toward the open market to explore some shrewd signings.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect as the Ravens address their remaining free agents:
No tag this year
The first order of business will be the potential use of the franchise tag as teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to designate a player if they so desire. Many have begun asking if Newsome and the Ravens will now use the tag on outside linebacker Paul Kruger or inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, but we received a preliminary answer to that query just a few days after the Super Bowl.
“If we get a deal done with Joe, we will not franchise another player,” said Newsome as he appealed to owner Steve Bisciotti with a humorous tone. “We will not do that. You are OK with that, right?”
The 2013 tag numbers released by the NFL on Friday suggest that stance isn’t changing as the Ravens would be looking at a $9.6 million cost at the linebacker position. As it relates to Kruger, the pass rusher could contest that he should be considered a defensive end, which commands an $11.175 million tag number for the 2013 season.
Those price tags are far too expensive for Kruger or Ellerbe as the Ravens would be looking at massive cuts to accommodate the franchise tag, regardless of what Flacco’s 2013 cap number ultimately is.
Cuts still coming
We’ve spent plenty of time discussing which veterans might be on the chopping block due to cap constraints and the Ravens will still pull the trigger on a few. It just won’t be the mass exodus that was feared if Flacco had received either of the franchise tag options.
Offensive lineman Bobbie Williams is the easiest decision as the Ravens will clear $1.2 million from their cap by releasing the 36-year-old lineman. Linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo ($806,000 in savings) and Jameel McClain ($1.8 million saved) are also likely to go, with McClain becoming far more expendable if the Ravens can sign Dannell Ellerbe to a long-term deal before he hits the open market.
It would be an unpopular decision, but fullback Vonta Leach remains an intriguing option to release as it would save $3 million in cap space. Leach is tremendous at what he does as the best pure fullback in the NFL, but the Ravens are clearly moving toward a pass-heavy attack after committing the richest contract in league history to their quarterback.
The 31-year-old Leach took part in just 39.7 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in the postseason, so can you justify devoting that big of a cap number to the fullback with other pressing needs at left tackle and all over the defense? Should they part ways with Leach, tight end Ed Dickson could serve in more of an H-back capacity and the Ravens could look to a younger, cheaper option coming out of college.
The Flacco contract means wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones are very likely to be safe, but the Ravens could explore reasonable contract extensions for both as they enter the final years of their respective contracts, thus lowering their cap numbers for 2013. This is especially true for Boldin, who carries a $7.5 million number for the upcoming season and proved himself worthy of a couple more years in Baltimore after an outstanding postseason.
Prioritizing unrestricted free agents
Posted on 07 February 2013 by Luke Jones
With the Ravens’ brass meeting with the media for the end-of-the-year press conference on Thursday morning, here’s an early look at their list of free agents this offseason. Much will be determined by the contract status of quarterback Joe Flacco and whether the organization will need to use the franchise tag or be able to sign him to a long-term contract.
A Flacco long-term agreement is a must to avoid a large number of salary-cap casualties that could include key veterans such as wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones, fullback Vonta Leach, and linebacker Jameel McClain.
As we move closer to March, I’ll provide a closer look on how the Ravens might proceed this winter and spring.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the 13 following unrestricted free agents before they are free to sign with any other team on March 12 at 4:00 p.m.:
QB Joe Flacco
S Ed Reed
LB Paul Kruger
LB Dannell Ellerbe
OT Bryant McKinnie
CB Cary Williams
DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu
S James Ihedigbo
S Sean Considine
TE Billy Bajema
DT Ryan McBean
LB Ricky Brown
CB Chris Johnson
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens must tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.
There are three different tenders that can be made: a first-round tender (estimated $2.88 million) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.02 million) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.32 million) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match a competing offer.
The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:
TE Dennis Pitta (4th)
DT Arthur Jones (5th)
TE Ed Dickson (3rd)
LS Morgan Cox (undrafted)
WR David Reed (5th)
OL Ramon Harewood (6th)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
These players have less than three years of accrued service and must be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams.
LB Josh Bynes
LB Albert McClellan
RB Anthony Allen
RB Damien Berry
RB Bobby Rainey
LB Adrian Hamilton
DT Bryan Hall
S Anthony Levine
S Omar Brown
S Emanuel Cook
Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff
CORNERBACK CARY WILLIAMS
(on being in the city of New Orleans) “I’m not here for a city tour. I’m here to win a football game.”
(on the journey from Washburn University to the Super Bowl) “It’s a great opportunity coming from a small Division 2 school. It’s unbelievable. It’s just a testament to hard work, dedication and love for the game.”
(on why he transferred from Fordham University to Washburn University) “It was me saying some crazy things to coaches after I felt like I should have been playing. They weren’t playing me. It was a learning experience. It was a humbling experience at Fordham when I had to control that beast and understand that there is a political aspect to the game as well. There are some things I had to control as a person as well. I had a great experience at Fordham. They were some of the best years of my life with some of the greatest guys. New York was fun, but I ended up transferring and graduating from Washburn and now I’m here.”
(on why he chose Washburn University to continue his college football career) “Man, no one else was interested in me. I actually had a scholarship on the table at Hofstra University and they just said they couldn’t do it because they heard some things about me at Fordham. That’s what it was. I ended up at Washburn and it was one of the great times of my life there. It taught me to continue to work hard, to continue to put my head down and to continue to believe in my faith so that everything would work out for the greater good.
(on his demeanor both on and off the field) “When it comes to football I get intense man. You see that on Sunday each and every week. I love football. I love the game and it brings some type of animal out in you.
(on how his confidence has grown throughout the season) “Last year at the end of the season, I had hip surgery. I had to work back into the game. I didn’t have much of an offseason. I think I may have had a month off of rehab where I was actually able to go run full speed. For me, all those things just really worked out for the greater good. I still believe in my abilities and I still believe in me. My coaches and teammates believe in me and that’s all the motivation I need.”
(on playing against A.J. Green and top receivers in the league) “Ask A.J. Green what I did to him. It doesn’t matter. He knows me, I know him. As far I’m concerned, the truth doesn’t lie. It’s in the pudding. I don’t care who I face or who I’m with. I have confidence in me. I don’t even know who the toughest wide receiver is that I went up against. I faced a lot of great receivers and I got respect for everybody. It’s just a matter of me going out there and doing what I need to do for my team.
(on his timely interception at New England in the AFC Championship) “It was just another opportunity. We knew if they scored right there and converted a two-point conversion then there could possibly be an onside kick. Once I saw the ball in the air, I knew I had an opportunity to catch that and make a play for my teammates. The most emotional part was me and Ray Lewis talking in the end zone. He was talking about how happy he was for me. He said, ‘We’re going to the ship now,’ so I said, ‘I’m ready. Let’s go.’”
(on the opportunity to get an interception in the Super Bowl) “Pandemonium, man. It’s a blessed opportunity. It would be absolutely amazing.”
(on how he relies on faith when it comes to football) “The lord has been good to me. He’s blessed me with so many friends and so many people in my corner even when I’ve done the wrong things. With his help, I’ve gotten to this point. It’s just amazing. It’s a tear-jerking experience to come where I came from. I always believed in my faith whether it was Liberty City, Fordham or Washburn. I cherish these moments and give the lord all of the honor and the glory. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.
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