Posted on 30 January 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones
With NFL owners congregating in Florida for their annual meetings this week, the league awarded 32 compensatory picks for April’s draft on Monday afternoon.
Based on last offseason’s free-agent movement, the Ravens were awarded fourth- and fifth-round compensatory picks, which will be the 130th and 169th overall selections respectively.
While the notable releases of wide receiver Derrick Mason, tight end Todd Heap, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, and running back Willis McGahee were not taken into account, the free-agent losses of safety Dawan Landry (Jacksonville), guard Chris Chester (Washington), and cornerback Josh Wilson (Washington) factored into the Ravens receiving compensation in April’s draft after each received high-priced, long-term contracts and started 16 games with new teams.
After general manager Ozzie Newsome traded the Ravens’ fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft to Buffalo for veteran Lee Evans last August, receiving a fourth-round compensatory pick helps to ease the sting of that ill-fated move.
Under the rules of compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive picks. The number of picks a team receives is equal to the net loss of free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and postseason distinctions. Not every free agent lost or acquired by a club factors into the formula.
This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.
The Ravens have been awarded 33 compensatory picks over their 17-year history, most in the NFL during that time period. With their two fifth-round compensatory picks in 2011, they selected defensive end Pernell McPhee and cornerback Chykie Brown.
Here are the Ravens’ selections for next month’s draft:
Round 1: No. 29
Round 2: No. 60
Round 3: No. 91
Round 4: No. 130 (compensatory)
Round 5: No. 155
Round 5: No. 169 (compensatory)
Round 6: No. 186
Round 7: No. 218
Posted on 04 October 2011 by Luke Jones
When the Ravens signed five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode a week before the regular-season opener, many expected the former Cowboy to be the insurance policy — or potential replacement — for veteran center Matt Birk.
But Gurode has instead been forced to play left guard in place of the team’s best offensive lineman Ben Grubbs, who has missed the Ravens’ last three games with a right toe injury. After veteran Mark LeVoir was ineffective in a Week 2 loss to the Titans, Gurode has filled in admirably at left guard over the last two weeks despite having never played the position — he played right guard early in his career in Dallas. He’s been especially potent as a run blocker, getting a good push off the line of scrimmage to help open running lanes for Ray Rice and Ricky Williams.
“It has been difficult, but, at the same time, you need to do your best,” Gurode said. “Going from center to guard, you know you’re used to making calls, snapping the ball with your right hand, and then you find yourself getting comfortable..at the start of the play.”
Gurode’s play is a major reason why the Ravens find themselves 3-1 at the quarter pole while dealing with a plethora of injuries. With Grubbs expected to return after the bye when Baltimore hosts the Houston Texans on Oct. 16, where does that leave the talented Gurode on the offensive line?
Is he again relegated to the bench, or would coach John Harbaugh consider working Gurode in at the center position despite the 35-year-old Birk playing solidly through the first four games?
“I think he’s another starter for us,” Harbaugh said. “And you have to have more than five starters; that’s been proven this year. You look all around the league, even [Sunday night] for the Jets. I think he’s a guy that can play as an extra lineman, he’s a guy that can play center, he’s a guy that should be able to play left guard or right guard for us. And that’s invaluable.”
Judging by Harbaugh’s comments, it appears Gurode will assume the duties formerly held by Chris Chester as the team’s interior swing lineman, capable of playing center and both guard positions. As the Ravens coach points out, it’s an important asset to have, but it’s also difficult to deem such a talented player a backup on a team priming to make a Super Bowl run.
In fairness, Birk has two-plus seasons working with Flacco and has played through chronic pain that forced him to have arthroscopic surgery to clean up the bursa sac in his left knee in early August. The rapport between a center and quarterback should not be taken for granted, and Birk is one of the most respected members of the Ravens locker room.
But many speculated Gurode would eventually replace Birk as the starter after signing a one-year, $3 million contract on Sept. 4. The 33-year-old has said all the right things since coming to Baltimore, but getting cut by the Cowboys in a cap-related moved before becoming a backup with the Ravens has to be a tough pill to swallow for a player coming off five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.
“I’m a team guy,” Gurode said after signing with the Ravens in early September. “It’s whatever I can do for the team. Matt [Birk] is a guy who has taught me a lot over the years. He was actually at my first Pro Bowl, and we have been talking back and forth over the practice schedule and things of that nature. He has helped me fit into the offense, and I am here to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Assuming Grubbs is ready to return to his left guard position against Houston, the smart money says Gurode remains the primary backup on the interior, at least for the time being. It’s hard to imagine the Ravens messing with the overall chemistry of an offensive line that’s gelled so quickly after the late addition of Bryant McKinnie and the shift of Michael Oher to the right side. Birk’s leadership is a major reason for that success, even if his individual play doesn’t match his body of work as a Pro Bowl center in Minnesota.
There’s no guarantee that Birk’s knee holds up over 16 games with the veteran regularly reporting to the facility early in the morning for treatment prior to meetings and practices. The chances are good that the Ravens will need to call upon Gurode to fill in at center at some point this season even if Birk remains the starter.
The potential drawbacks of moving Gurode to center and the difficult conversation you’d need to have with Birk might not be worth the trouble, but it’s an interesting discussion for Harbaugh, offensive line coach Andy Moeller, and the rest of the staff to have during the bye week — even if only briefly.
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Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark
OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.
As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53″ to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.
As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.
Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith
Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.
11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson
Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.
21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith
There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.
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Posted on 12 August 2011 by Tom Clayton
I am not one for jumping to concrete opinions after the first pre-season game of the season but I did make some observations that I feel pretty strong about. Before I get into my observations about the Ravens let me say that I agree 100% with other fans that the new kickoff rule is awful and has all but removed one of the most exciting plays from the game. On the other hand the Ravens are really going to benefit from this rule from having perhaps the kicker with the strongest leg in the NFL and not possessing a game breaking returner.
First of all, offensive coordinators are going to target Chris Carr every single week. I’ve had this thought since the Ravens decided not to resign Josh Wilson and my fears were heightened when Dominique Foxworth was scratched just before kickoff. Carr is clearly the weakest corner on the team and the Ravens are going to need to get Jimmy Smith up and running very quickly if they don’t want to be torched on a weekly basis. On the topic of Jimmy Smith I was impressed with how big he looks in pads; if his talents are as touted and he stays out of trouble Smith looks like the big, shutdown corner the Ravens have been missing since Chris McAllister went AWOL in Miami.
Speaking of impressive physical specimens on the Ravens defense, Sergio Kindle looks like he could have the speed and power to become a great pass rushing counterpart to T-Sizzle. Kindle got into the backfield numerous times against the Eagles first and second team offense and did a good job of collapsing the pocket on the edge.
Overall I was impressed with Chuck Pagano’s defensive philosophy as he brought “heat” from all angles and the Ravens were consistently in the Eagles backfield all night. Unfortunately once in the backfield the Ravens seemed to miss every tackle. In fact it seemed like the Ravens missed at least one tackle on every single play, but I will chalk that up to it being the first pre-season game and an abbreviated training camp.
On offense Oniel Cousins looks horrible; he was getting beat by the Eagles third and fourth string defensive ends in the second half and looked more like a rookie than a fourth year player.
As for the offensive line as a whole, they look to have zero depth behind the starters and the loss of Chris Chester may be more damaging than first thought. Once the second string offense came in Tyrod Taylor did not have a clean pocket once all night and he was running for his life EVERY time he dropped back to pass.
As for Tyrod Taylor he seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed and he showed flashes of a skill set that could make him a valuable dual-threat quarterback down the road. I liked his toughness as he was getting knocked around all night and he seemed to have good command of his teammates for a rookie quarterback.
And fellow offensive rookie LaQuan Williams showed why he has been the talk of training camp catching three passes for 46 yards including a slant and a screen where he ran hard and made big plays after the catch. Williams looks like he could be a viable option at receiver and a player that will run hard and pick up the tough yards after first contact.
After watching this team play I think it is pretty obvious that they still need to bring in a veteran backup quarterback and they will need to address the right tackle position before the games count. But I trust Ozzie and his front office and I believe the correct moves will be made before the Ravens and Steelers open this thing up on September 11th.
Overall the Ravens didn’t show much and they didn’t do anything that is going to make fans start making travel plans for Indianapolis on February 5th 2012 but this is going to be a different season as the Ravens try and get younger at a lot of key positions. I think the Ravens will be a better team in December and January then they will be on September 11th but fans are going to need to be more patient with this team than they have been the last three seasons. But no matter what you took away from this game one thing is certain, Football is back and we all the better for it!
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Posted on 11 August 2011 by Glenn Clark
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Just keep saying it.
It’s only August.
It’s only August.
The Baltimore Ravens are still a ways away from their regular season opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
It’s probably for the best, as they looked to be just about as far away from compete football in their 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
It’s only August.
It’s fair to assume the team would be behind where they might in others had they not lost OTA’s and the start of Training Camp due to the NFL lockout.
“Everybody is (behind where they would be in other years). Obviously we’ve got tons of work to do” said head coach John Harbaugh following the loss. “We’ve just gotta get better faster than the people that we’re going to play. That’s our job.”
It’s only August.
While starters played little time in Philly, the Ravens showed little cohesion throughout the exhibition contest.
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Posted on 02 August 2011 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With concerns over 35-year-old center Matt Birk’s health and a lack of depth on the interior offensive line, the Ravens have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with offensive lineman Casey Rabach.
Drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft, Rabach spent four seasons in Baltimore before being signed by the Washington Redskins in 2005. Rabach served his first three seasons with the Ravens as a reserve guard and center before starting all 16 games in 2004 as starting center Mike Flynn dealt with injuries.
With the departure of reserve Chris Chester via free agency and Birk entering his 14th season in the league, the 33-year-old Rabach provides a nice insurance policy for the interior line. The veteran center has missed only one game over his last seven seasons in Washington and Baltimore.
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Posted on 02 August 2011 by Ryan Chell
The Baltimore Ravens last week cut four veterans in an effort to clear some cap room-three of them veterans on the offensive side of the ball in WR Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and RB Willis McGahee.
This also does’t include the likes of free agents T Jared Gaither, G Chris Chester and FB Le’Ron McClain who are all likely to take their services elsewhere, and in Chester’s case, he already has.
With wide receiver Anquan Boldin the only veteran returning to the lineup and with a coaching staff wanting to commit themselves to getting back to running the football with Ray Rice, the Ravens knew they needed to bolster that part of the offense.
So why not get the guy that blocked for the NFL’s leading rusher in Houston’s Arian Foster in 2010?
And that’s just what the Ravens did Sunday afternoon, as Baltimore signed FB Vonta Leach-widely believed to be the top free agent at the position.
Leach-the AFC’s Pro Bowl FB last year-signed a three year, 11 million dollar contract with the Ravens, which will reportedly make him the highest paid fullback in the league.
And he told Drew Forrester Monday morning that he’s worth every penny of that money.
He’s going to prove it, and he already told Ravens RB Ray Rice so.
“Me and Ray have talked on the phone,” Leach told Forrester. “I told him that I feel like if I block, whoever behind me will be alright.”
And for the most part, Leach is right.
Arian Foster last year for Houston-in only his second year in the league-finished atop the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards with Leach leading the way.
Leach also helped a former Maryland target in WVU RB Steve Slaton reach the 1,000 yard plateau in 2008-Slaton’s rookie year.
And he finally got the respect he deserved this year by earning a trip to Honolulu.
However, Leach told Forrester that he’s not playing in the NFL to make Pro Bowls.
He’s here to win Super Bowls, and he felt like the Ravens give him a good chance to make it there.
“I spent five great years in Houston,” Leach told Forrester. “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl every year.”
It was having his seasons as a Texan end in the last week of December that got him thinking about his free agent destination despite Houston’s desire to overpay to get him back.
“I haven’t been playing in January in awhile, and I’m ready to get back into it,” he said.
And finally, he feels like if he does his job and the Ravens commit to using his and Ray Rice’s skills to their potential, he’ll be able to fulfill his desire very easily.
“I know what’s expected of me,” Leach said. “I’m a blocking fullback. That’s what I do. My main job is to do what I can to help this team win.”
WNST thanks Vonta Leach for joining Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction”! We sure to welcome to Baltimore on Twitter (@Vleach44) and check out the conversation at the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!
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Posted on 25 July 2011 by Glenn Clark
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to start writing a football column.
With the NFL offseason officially slated to open…well…any moment now, the Baltimore Ravens can finally go to work where they left off following the NFL Draft.
The Ravens (as well as all 31 other NFL teams) will have a frantic 10-14 days ahead of them. They’ll need to make decisions on their own free agents, as well as consider players they may want to let go of in order to create salary cap space (this year’s cap will reportedly be $120 million). They’ll have to take a look at Unrestricted Free Agents elsewhere around the league, as well as potential trades. They’ll also have to sign undrafted free agents to fill a 90 man roster and then work on contracts with their own draft picks.
As far as the Ravens are concerned, they’ll have to do all of this while also opening Training Camp (scheduled to begin Wednesday per NFL Network) and preparing for a preseason opener Thursday, August 11th at the Philadelphia Eagles.
As General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company go to work, I’ve identified seven major issues the team faces in this crazy offseason period.
In some particular order…
1-Someway, somehow, the pass rush MUST be upgraded
New Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano inherits a unit that tallied just 27 sacks in 2010. Only three teams had a lower total (the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with 26 sacks each, the Denver Broncos finished with 23) last season. The Ravens posted the disappointing total number despite 11 sacks alone from LB Terrell Suggs.
The easiest way the Ravens can upgrade this area is by adding a Rush End. Amongst defensive linemen a season ago, only DT Haloti Ngata (5.5) and Cory Redding (three) posted multiple sacks.
The Ravens have in-house options to anchor their defensive line, although none are ideal. Redding could again be asked to take on rush responsibilities, but only once in his career (2006 with the Detroit Lions) has he tallied more than three sacks in a season (eight).
Third year DE Paul Kruger finally got into the sack column last year, but through two seasons that one sack remains the only he has posted.
Another option is DE Pernell McPhee, the team’s 5th round pick out of Mississippi State. McPhee’s chances are less likely due to the shortened offseason, as coaches will be less likely to trust a player immediately after getting little to no time with him in the offseason.
The Ravens can look to free agency to get rush end help. Green Bay’s Cullen Jenkins, Carolina’s Charles Johnson, Minnesota’s Ray Edwards and Tennessee’s Jason Babin headline a group of available rushers off the edge. All will be pricey for a team that still needs to get Ngata signed to a long term deal.
Battling injuries throughout the season, LB Jarret Johnson finished with just 1.5 sacks in 2010. The Ravens are hoping 2010 second round pick Sergio Kindle can spell him at the SAM position, presenting some heat opposite Suggs. It’s hard to count on production from Kindle considering he’s still working his way back from a fractured skull that forced him to miss what would have been his rookie season, but Kindle has maintained this offseason that he has been cleared to return to football.
On the inside, the Ravens can potentially produce a more consistent rush from within. Releasing DT Kelly Gregg could provide the team roughly $3 million in cap savings, and could pave the way for one of the team’s younger interior linemen to get time on the field. DT’s Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou could all be options and could all provide a little more ability to reach the backfield.
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Posted on 08 June 2011 by Glenn Clark
Here is my first offseason/preseason ranking of the players who are currently property of the Baltimore Ravens or who were property of the team at the end of the 2010 season.
This list INCLUDES players who are not under contract-whether they are tendered restricted free agents, draft picks, exclusive rights free agents or even players who are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this offseason.
Unlike in the past, I will do this list by position as I attempt to further explain how the team’s roster currently shapes up.
I apologize for my delay in putting this compilation together. Blame Gary Williams…and the Triple Crown…and the team’s practices at Towson University…and my own laziness.
Obviously there is much to be done before any of this matters, but this is simply “as the roster stands now” analysis.
Marc Bulger (UFA)
The quarterback position is still in much less than full clarity at this point.
Joe Flacco has been a NFL quarterback for 55 games, including the playoffs. Joe Flacco has played every snap in 55 of those 55 games.
A season ago, the Ravens took a slight risk by parting ways with two backups-trading John Beck to the Washington Redskins during Training Camp and releasing Troy Smith after the preseason finale in St. Louis. They decided to carry only two active quarterbacks, paying a hefty price for veteran backup Marc Bulger.
Bulger appears to be out in Charm City, with most in the league believing he is destined to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens knew they’d need to address quarterback depth during the draft and did so by selecting the explosive former Virginia Tech Hokies star (Taylor-pictured above) in the 6th round.
While Taylor (who hails from the quarterback hotbed of Hampton, Virginia) certainly has a number of supporters who believe him capable of being a legitimate starter in the league-he will not play that role in Baltimore unless there is turmoil this season one way or another (injury or failure).
Flacco is the starter. Taylor will have a great chance of making the roster. The real question facing the team is how else to address the position. It is believed that the Ravens will pursue another veteran QB of sorts when (if?) free agency finally begins. Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington has been a much rumored name the team could consider pursuing.
Should the Ravens not acquire a veteran free agent to backup Flacco, Cantwell could remain in the mix. He spent the entire 2010 season on the team’s practice squad-but has in the past been an active part of the Carolina Panthers’ roster.
With Taylor unlikely to be let go (or placed at risk of being taken away by trying to move him to the practice squad) but also unlikely to be the primary backup early in his career, it is fairly safe to assume the team will keep three quarterbacks this season.
Running Backs/Fullbacks (8):
Rice is obviously the team’s “featured” back. The issue for Cam Cameron’s offense this offseason is figuring out how to complement the fourth year back moving forward.
The worst kept secret in football is that the Ravens intend to part ways with McGahee because he is unwilling to take a cut from the $6 million he is owed. Should McGahee find the market slim there would always be a chance he could look towards Baltimore again, but it certainly appears unlikely.
With McGahee apparently gone, the Ravens will have to build their backfield without him. One option is McClain, who had his best season yet as a true fullback in 2010 (despite the fact that he was actually passed over for Pro Bowl recognition by Houston Texans FB Vonta Leach) but who has made clear his desire to carry the football more often.
McClain was initially thought to be on the cusp of reaching free agency this offseason (and departing), but without a new CBA McClain (and other fourth and fifth year players) would likely remain under contract. McClain’s size and potential goal line/short distance ability make him potentially a solid complement for Rice.
Should the Ravens move McClain into that role, they would likely need to consider keeping McKie or otherwise improving the fullback position. McKie was a non-factor during his brief stay at the end of the 2010 season-but could be a viable option in a thin market.
Parmele (pictured above) is the wild card in the backfield. The coaching staff has remained high on him throughout his time in Baltimore (and he has connections with Cameron dating back to the Dolphins). Parmele has remained a value special teams player (and is a viable return option), but he has run the ball only seven times in his career.
Lawrence, Allen and Steele are all question marks (and possibly longshots) to make the roster. Lawrence is a talented special teams player but missed the 2010 season with a torn ACL. Allen (the team’s 7th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft) is hoping his 6’1″, 228 pound frame is enough to get him on the roster. Steele spent the 2010 season on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis. The team liked his quick hitting ability, but he will have an uphill climb-especially if there is no Training Camp.
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