Tag Archive | "Dennis Pitta"

Ravens elect not to use franchise tag on left tackle Monroe

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Ravens elect not to use franchise tag on left tackle Monroe

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Needing to decide by 4 p.m. Monday whether they would designate left tackle Eugene Monroe as their franchise player, the Ravens elected not to use the tag on their starting left tackle.

The Ravens would have been required to offer an $11.654 million tender if they’d named Monroe their franchise player. Prior to signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract on Friday, the Ravens had roughly $26 million in cap space, which does not include tenders for exclusive-rights free agents and restricted free agents. However, with other pressing needs on the offensive line as well as at wide receiver and free safety, the tag price was considered a steep investment with no guarantee of a long-term deal in the future.

Several outlets reported Monday morning that the sides remained far apart in long-term contract negotiations as other teams such as the Miami Dolphins have already leaked interest in the 26-year-old should he hit the market when free agency begins on March 11. The 2009 first-round pick has routinely been ranked in the top 10 of available NFL free agents by various outlets.

Other teams may begin negotiating with Monroe on March 8, but no contracts may be signed before next Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the start of the new league year. However, with no tag in place, it appears unlikely that the offensive lineman wouldn’t want to at least explore other offers on the open market.

According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe earned the fourth-best grade of any tackle in the league over the final 11 weeks of the 2013 season, the period of time in which he played with the Ravens. The University of Virginia product has never been named to the Pro Bowl but has started 73 of 76 games in his five-year career, showing durability and consistent play despite spending most of that time with the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars.

Monroe has continued to work out at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills and has acknowledged he would like to remain in Baltimore after the Ravens forked over fourth- and fifth-round picks to acquire him from Jacksonville last October, but he does not intend to give them a hometown discount.

“I want to be here, but I know there could be opportunities everywhere,” Monroe said in an interview with AM 1570 WNST last month. “I just have to be patient and wait for things to unfold. Everyone in the business should understand that you have to get the absolute best, and that you can’t give any discounts because you have to have you and your family’s best interest at heart.”

The Ravens have routinely used the franchise tag as a mechanism to extend the negotiating window in order to eventually reach a multi-year contract, but a simple look at the last three times general manager Ozzie Newsome used the tag indicates the tender amount ultimately provides a framework for the average cost per year of a long-term deal, which may have made Baltimore leery over a figure approaching $12 million.

In 2009, linebacker Terrell Suggs was tagged with a $10.2 million tender before signing a deal worth $10.5 million per season over six years, Two years later, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata received a $12.4 million franchise tender before signing a contract worth $12.2 million per year over five seasons. And two years ago, running back Ray Rice was set to play for a $7.7 million franchise amount before inking a five-year contract paying an average of $7 million per season.

In other words, Monday’s decision could simply be viewed as the Ravens not valuing Monroe as an $11.65 million-per-year player.

In their 19-year history, the Ravens have used the franchise tag on five players — designating cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Terrell Suggs twice each — and only failed to reach a long-term agreement with one as offensive lineman Wally Williams departed after the 1998 season to sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints.

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Ravens agree to five-year deal with tight end Pitta

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Ravens agree to five-year deal with tight end Pitta

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Luke Jones

With February coming to an end and next month bringing the start of free agency, the Ravens took care of a very important piece of their offseason Friday by agreeing to a long-term contract with tight end Dennis Pitta.

The sides agreed to a five-year deal, which will avoid the possibility of the Ravens using the franchise tag on the fifth-year tight end. Baltimore was expected to place the tag on Pitta by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline had an agreement not been reached.

The deal is worth a total of $32 million, according to multiple outlets, which would be a reasonable average cost of $6.4 million per year while a number of NFL tight ends average upwards of $7 million per season. Pitta will reportedly receive $16 million in guaranteed money as the contract is worth $21 million over the first three years, according to The Sun.

Pitta is scheduled to travel to Baltimore over the weekend and sign his new contract prior to a press conference on Monday.

“I could not be more excited to remain a Baltimore Raven,” Pitta said in a team statement. “There is no better organization or fan base in sports. To be given the opportunity to continue my career here is incredible. This organization drafted me and has always stood by me – especially during my difficult recovery last season – and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

Pitta was considered one of the two biggest priorities of the offseason as general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office will now turn more attention toward left tackle Eugene Monroe. Though limited to four games last season after suffering a devastating hip injury during training camp, Pitta is considered an instrumental piece of an offense trying to rebound from a season in which it finished 29th in total yards.

His role is only expected to expand under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who frequently emphasized the use of tight ends in his offenses in both Houston and Denver. This comes after Pitta was expected to assume a much larger role last year in the wake of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin being traded to San Francisco, but the hip dislocation suffered in late July changed that outlook.

“Dennis creates a number of mismatch problems for defenses,” Newsome said. “He makes it tough on them, and because of that, he really helps out our wide receivers. Opponents have to always pay attention to where he lines up and where his routes take him. Dennis is also a big target with very good hands, and his presence in the red zone is very important to us.”

Had the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Pitta, the league would have needed to determine at what position he’d be tendered as Pitta lined up in the slot on nearly 80 percent of his snaps last season. He was expected to file a grievance through the union contesting that he should be recognized as a wide receiver ($12.312 million), which would have been more than $5 million more than the franchise tender amount paid to tight ends ($7.035 million).

Unlike many times when a player suffers a significant injury in a contract year, Pitta may have actually improved his value this past season as the Ravens struggled to an 8-8 season and dealt with a plethora of issues that included the standout tight end’s absence. His ability to return for the final month of the season to prove he was once again healthy and productive quelled any concerns that he wouldn’t be the same player in Newsome’s eyes.

A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, the 28-year-old caught 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in four contests last season and has reined in 122 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns in his four-year career. His best season came in 2012 when he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns before adding 14 receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens’ postseason run to the Super Bowl XLVII title.

“It was obvious when Dennis was out last year that we really missed him,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We all admire how he fought back from the hip injury and helped us down the stretch. Having Dennis as a part of the Ravens now and in the future is exciting news for us. Dennis has a large catch radius and can snatch the ball in traffic. Not only is he a reliable player, but he is an outstanding person as well. Having a weapon like Dennis makes everyone on our offense better.”

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Ravens wouldn’t designate Pitta’s position if franchise tag comes into play

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Ravens wouldn’t designate Pitta’s position if franchise tag comes into play

Posted on 26 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are less than a week away from needing to decide whether to use the franchise tag on tight end Dennis Pitta, but it appears that the potential conflict over the position at which he’ll be tagged won’t be up to them.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport, when a team sends a letter to the league announcing its intention to name a franchise player, it does not designate that player at a specific position. In Pitta’s case, the league — not the Ravens — would then determine whether he is to be tagged as a tight end or wide receiver.

Much like New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Pitta is expected to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association arguing that he should be tagged as a wide receiver after he lined up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his snaps in 2013. The collective bargaining agreement states that a franchise player is to be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior league year.”

The 2014 salary cap hasn’t been officially set — with new reports surfacing that the cap may climb higher than $130 million — but the current estimated franchise tenders for the tight end and wide receiver positions are $6.89 million and $11.86 million, respectively.

Teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to elect to name a franchise player.

This clarification serves to benefit the Ravens in two important ways while they continue negotiations to lock up the 28-year-old tight end to a long-term agreement.

First, it would seem to eliminate any argument that a player could be deemed an unrestricted free agent if an arbitrator were to find a team had incorrectly tagged a player and, thus, missed the March 3 deadline to designate him properly. There had been some speculation about Graham — and possibly Pitta — using this argument as a way to still be able to cash in on a monster free-agent contract in 2014, but with teams not being the ones to designate a franchise player’s position, it’s assumed that the franchise tender amount would simply be altered from one figure to another with the tag remaining in place.

Secondly, this process would appear to diminish animosity over a franchise-tag fight with the Ravens having no say over Pitta being tagged as a tight end or a wide receiver. Of course, contract negotiations can create plenty of tension already without the added element of a position squabble that could mean a difference of nearly $5 million in salary.

The Ravens are expected to use the franchise tag on Pitta if they can’t sign him prior to March 3, but coach John Harbaugh wasn’t ready to rule out the possibility of the organization allowing the fifth-year tight end to test the open market. Free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. on March 11.

“I think every scenario is possible here,” Harbaugh told reporters in Indianapolis last week. “The franchise tag is very vague right now, so anything could happen.”

Pitta’s age is something to consider as he’s older than most players entering their fifth season after he took a two-year mission trip during his college days at Brigham Young. And that, coupled with the confusion over the franchise tag, has made these negotiations more complicated than many anticipated.

Of course, the Ravens would prefer to get a deal ironed out sooner rather than later, but no agreement was considered imminent at the conclusion of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis earlier this week.

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Ravens wrap busy week in Indianapolis with thoughts toward May

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Ravens wrap busy week in Indianapolis with thoughts toward May

Posted on 25 February 2014 by Luke Jones

Facing a critical offseason after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Ravens have wrapped a productive week of evaluating the 2014 rookie class at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Much work remains with pro days still to come and the draft not taking place until May 8, but the combine provides a strong framework of information as well as the first opportunity for teams to meet with underclassmen who declared for the NFL.

In addition to evaluating draft prospects’ physical tools, administering physicals, and interviewing players to gauge their intelligence and character, the Ravens were busy trying to address their pending free agents as general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged continuing negotiations with the representatives of tight end Dennis Pitta, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, and linebacker Daryl Smith. However, no deals were considered imminent at the conclusion of the combine on Tuesday.

Of course, Newsome and coach John Harbaugh were also asked about the status of troubled running back Ray Rice, echoing the sentiment that the facts of the case will determine the consequences. As of now, the Ravens have offered no indication that Rice’s future could be in jeopardy after he and his fiancée were charged with simple assault-domestic violence in Atlantic City earlier this month.

Below is a list — though not intended to be a complete collection — of draft prospects the Ravens interviewed in Indianapolis, according to a number of publications including ESPN, the Carroll County Times, and The Sun. It’s important not to read too much into these meetings as it’s common for players to meet with a plethora of teams, but it can indicate special interest in a given prospect.

In addition to a tidbit on each prospect, a estimated projection of when the player might be drafted is included.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mike Evans, Texas A&M — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 prospect ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap in addition to showing consistent hands, factors likely leading to him being gone before the Ravens pick 17th.

Marqise Lee, USC — first/second round
Skinny: A 4.52-second 40 time wasn’t overwhelming by any means, but he performed solidly in field drills and pundits think he plays faster than his time indicated in Indianapolis.

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State — first round
Tidbit: At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin has freakish size but isn’t as polished as Evans, carrying more of a bust risk while remaining an intriguing prospect.

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State — first/second round
Tidbit: Considered one of the big winners in Indianapolis, the 5-foot-10 Cooks may have solidified his standing as a first-round pick after running a blazing 40 (4.33 seconds) and displaying excellent hands in drills.

Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt — first/second round
Tidbit: The 6-foot-3 receiver’s 40 time was much better than many thought, which bodes well for his draft prospects after a monster career playing in the SEC.

Jarvis Landry, LSU — second/third round
Tidbit: A slow 40 time was the result of a hamstring injury, but questions remain about the underneath receiver’s explosiveness as teammate Odell Beckham Jr. outperformed him at the combine.

Mike Davis, Texas — third round
Tidbit: A minor foot injury kept Davis was taking part in field drills, but he remains a viable Day 2 option.

Robert Herron, Wyoming — fourth round
Tidbit: The 5-foot-9 receiver has quick feet with a 4.45 40-yard dash time and compiled more than 2,000 receiving yards in college, making him a name to watch on Day 3.

TIGHT ENDS

Eric Ebron, North Carolina — first round
Skinny: Previously considered a good fit for the Ravens at 17th overall, the 6-foot-4 pass-catching threat had a monster workout in Indianapolis and very well could have vaunted himself into the top 10.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech — first/second round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 target posted an underwhelming 4.74-second 40 time and clearly fell far behind Ebron in the battle for top tight end prospect, but he remains a top 50 player despite small hands and some drops during drills.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa — third
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 product is known for being a tremendous blocker and fits the mold of a more traditional tight end even if he lacks the upside of the other top prospects at the position.

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame — second
Skinny: Praised by Harbaugh earlier this week, Niklas has a monster 6-foot-6 frame and could be a steal in the second or third round.

RUNNING BACKS

Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona — second/third round
Skinny: A slow 4.70 40 time didn’t do him any favors in trying to improve his draft stock, but his instincts, soft hands, and blocking ability keep him in position to be one of the first running backs selected despite a forgettable combine.

Carlos Hyde, Ohio State — second/third round
Skinny: The Buckeyes back hurt his hamstring running the 40 but remains a candidate to be the first running back to come off the draft board.

Terrance West, Towson — third round
Skinny: All eyes were on the local product to see how well he would test and the record-setting back ran a 4.54-second 40, only helping his stock to be a potential second-day pick as he continues to rise on experts’ boards.

Andre Williams, Boston College — third/fourth round
Skinny: The 230-pound bruiser tested very well in running the 40 (4.54), which follows a 2,000-yard season with the Eagles and bodes very well for his draft status.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Taylor Lewan, Michigan — first round
Skinny: The massive 6-foot-7 lineman ran a remarkable 4.87 in the 40-yard dash and shined in blocking drills to solidify his standing as a top 15 pick and future left tackle at the next level.

Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama — first/second round
Skinny: The combine couldn’t have been much worse for the projected first-round choice as concerns arose about an arthritic knee, and a 5.59 40-yard dash time and underwhelming bench press now threaten to drop him considerably.

Zack Martin, Notre Dame — first round
Skinny: Quickly becoming a favorite of teams with multiple needs along the offensive line like the Ravens, Martin continues to be a likely choice in the second half of the first round and is projected to be able to play multiple positions on the line.

Morgan Moses, Virginia — first/second round
Skinny: Not considered a good athlete despite his strong play on the field, Moses finished near the bottom of speed and agility categories among offensive linemen and remains a fringe first-round talent.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-6, 318-pound lineman stood out at the Senior Bowl and worked out well in Indianapolis, but his uneven performance in games still leaves questions for teams to investigate.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS/EDGE RUSHERS

Dee Ford, Austin — first/second round
Skinny: After excelling at last month’s Senior Bowl, Ford didn’t work out at the combine due to a medical flag of a 2011 back surgery after proclaiming himself to be better than Jadeveon Clowney a day earlier.

Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech — third/fourth round
Skinny: The pass rusher didn’t work out in Indianapolis due to hamstring and hand injuries, but he’s an intriguing mid-round prospect after collecting 12 1/2 sacks last season.

Michael Sam, Missouri — third/fourth round
Skinny: Impressing mightily in the way he handled his media session, Sam ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and still can’t shake concerns of being too small to play defensive end and not being athletic enough to play outside linebacker.

Adrian Hubbard, Alabama — fourth round
Skinny: His 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame is complemented well by a 4.69 40-yard dash, but uneven production on the field with the Crimson Tide hurts his draft stock.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Lamin Barrow, LSU — third/fourth round
Skinny: His 4.64-second 40 was the third-fastest time among linebackers, and he appears to have the skills necessary to cover running backs and tight ends at only 229 pounds.

Chris Borland, Wisconsin — third round
Skinny: His measurables weren’t overly impressive at the combine — including short arms and a subpar 4.83 40 time — but his football instincts are highly regarded as he figures to be a solid mid-round prospect at inside linebacker.

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How far must the Ravens go to keep Pitta?

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How far must the Ravens go to keep Pitta?

Posted on 18 February 2014 by Luke Jones

With linebacker Terrell Suggs’ long-term future secure and the Ravens gaining an additional $4.6 million in cap space in the process, they now turn their attention to the next biggest items on the offseason agenda.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta are the top priorities, and the ability to work out agreements for both unrestricted free agents is aided by the Ravens holding just under $16 million in salary cap room after Suggs’ contract extension. However, with the start of free agency on March 11 only three weeks away, it becomes more and more difficult to persuade a pending free agent to agree on your terms as he sees the benefit of a wide-open market in full focus.

As contract talks remain far apart with both players, the Ravens have until March 3 to decide whether they want to place the franchise tag on an unrestricted free agent, but such an option appears too expensive for Monroe as the tag for an offensive lineman is projected to be a hefty $11.1 million for the 2014 season and he simply isn’t regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. That leaves Baltimore with the decision of whether to use the designation on Pitta with the 2014 franchise tag projected to be $6.7 million for a tight end.

Such an option would appear to make sense if the sides couldn’t agree and the Ravens were unsure of Pitta’s worth or the fifth-year tight end simply wanted to reestablish his value after a serious hip injury limited him to just four games last season.

If only it were that simple.

Few have paid closer attention to the showdown between New Orleans and All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham than the Ravens as New Orleans is prepared to use the franchise tag on Drew Brees’ top pass-catching target who collected more than 1,215 yards and 16 touchdown catches last season. As a threat who lines up in the slot and out wide more often than as a traditional tight end, Graham is expected to contest that he should be tagged as a wide receiver, which carries a tender that’s $4.8 million more than the anticipated tight end figure in 2014.

While Pitta isn’t at Graham’s level in terms of production, he can easily file a similar grievance after he lined up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his routes last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And while many have argued that the tight end position is simply evolving — with the 6-foot-7 Graham as transcendent as anybody — the collective bargaining agreement makes it clear that a franchise player is to be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior league year.”

In the same way that they prefer not to tag Monroe because he isn’t a top-five tackle in the league, the Ravens can’t risk the possibility of needing to tie an $11.5 million commitment to Pitta. Of course, Baltimore found itself in a similar position with Suggs years ago when he argued that he should be viewed as a defensive end before the sides eventually split the difference in the franchise tag costs for a defensive end compared to a linebacker.

But even a compromised figure of just over $9 million would eat up much of the Ravens’ available cap space in an offseason in which they have a plethora of needs on both sides of the football after the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

And Pitta’s agent, Justin Schulman, is aware of that reality as talks continue.

There’s no disputing Pitta’s importance to the offense as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite weapons over the last couple years, but quantifying that on a relatively small sample size is problematic for a player who will turn 29 in June. His best year came in 2012 as his 61 catches ranked ninth among tight ends and his 669 receiving yards were 11th. Pitta has 61 additional catches for 575 yards in his three other seasons combined in Baltimore.

Prior to his devastating hip injury last July, Pitta was expected to fill an expanded role out of the slot to ease the pain of Anquan Boldin’s departure, but the Ravens were never able to see that come to fruition with him missing more than four months of action. At the very least, Pitta was able to prove he was healthy enough to continue his career at a high level after playing in the final four games of the season and recording 20 catches.

With the uncertainty surrounding the price of the franchise tag and Pitta’s absence being an obvious detriment to the offense last season, are the Ravens being backed into a corner from a negotiating standpoint?

Even if Pitta’s representation would have a difficult time making the argument that he deserves to be paid in the same stratosphere as talents such as Graham or New England’s Rob Gronkowski, hefty contracts handed out to non-elite tight ends such as Jared Cook ($16 million guaranteed), Zach Miller ($13 million guaranteed), and Marcedes Lewis ($12.85 million guaranteed) in recent years certainly won’t help general manager Ozzie Newsome. The top tight ends in the league generally have an average salary of $7 million per season over the course of their contract, but it always comes down to how much guaranteed money a team is willing to hand over.

After Cook secured $16 million in guaranteed money last offseason — which included a $5 million signing bonus and three years of guaranteed salary — it isn’t farfetched that Pitta could be looking for guaranteed money approaching the $20 million range.

His production and talents indicate that he should be paid as a top-10 tight end, but his leverage with the franchise tag and what’s still viewed by some as untapped potential may drive the cost much higher than the Ravens would prefer to go.

The clock is ticking on not only the decision to use the tag but the possibility of Pitta hitting the open market with the organization already declaring the need to add an impact wide receiver to an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year.

The Ravens can’t afford to lose their starting tight end.

But whether they can afford him without making sacrifices elsewhere remains to be seen.

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Examining the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

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Examining the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

Posted on 02 January 2014 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is more than two months away, but the Ravens face a number of critical decisions in their efforts to bounce back from missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.

As it is most seasons, salary cap space will be a concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with 37 players under contract for an estimated cap commitment of roughly $112 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2014 salary cap has not been officially set, but most are projecting a limit of $126.3 million for the new season.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts when considering that a staggering $70.9 million in cap space is devoted to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs, cornerback Lardarius Webb, running back Ray Rice, and right guard Marshal Yanda. Of those six, Suggs would appear to be the only player in serious danger of being released — he is owed a $7.8 million base salary in the final year of his contract — as the termination of any of the other five contracts would bring large quantities of dead money on the cap and little to no net savings.

Other veterans such as fullback Vonta Leach, linebacker Jameel McClain, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings in 2014.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they are free to sign with any other team beginning on March 11 at 4:00 p.m. Each player’s 2013 base salary is noted in parentheses and a brief thought is included:

TE Dallas Clark ($940,000) – The 34-year-old didn’t see one snap after Dennis Pitta’s return and is more likely to retire than to have any chance to return to the Ravens in 2014.

DT Terrence Cody ($630,000) – It’s clear the 2010 second-round pick never panned out as a starter and is unlikely to return next year.

TE Ed Dickson ($1.323 million) – Pitta’s hip injury was a big opportunity for Dickson to prove his worth as a starting-caliber NFL tight end and he was unable to do it, making it likely both sides will move on.

CB Corey Graham ($2.05 million) – Coach John Harbaugh expressed a strong desire to keep Graham earlier this week, but you wonder if other teams will come calling with an opportunity to start and more money.

DT Arthur Jones ($2.023 million) – Jones blossomed into arguably the Ravens’ most complete defensive lineman in 2013, but his strong play will likely make his price tag too high for the Ravens.

WR Jacoby Jones ($3 million plus $1 million roster bonus) – Jones showed improved ability as an intermediate receiver late in the season, but he may prove too costly with so many other needs on both sides of the ball.

S James Ihedigbo ($715,000) – With 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam better suited for strong safety, the Ravens need to allocate resources for a free safety with better coverage skills and Ihedigbo doesn’t really fit that mold.

S Jeromy Miles ($1.323 million) – Miles is a strong special-teams player and the Ravens would likely be interested in bringing him back at a cheaper rate.

OT Eugene Monroe ($3.8 million) – One of the Ravens’ top priorities this offseason, Monroe proved himself worthy of a long-term contract after being acquired from Jacksonville in early October, but how much money will he command?

OT Michael Oher ($3.785 million) – Coming off a disappointing season at right tackle, Oher is unlikely to be back with the Ravens, who will concentrate their efforts toward retaining Monroe and look for another option for the right side.

TE Dennis Pitta ($2.023 million) – It’s unlikely that Pitta is going anywhere as the Ravens will try to work out a long-term deal and could use the franchise tag ($6.8 million for tight ends in 2014) as a last resort.

RB Bernard Scott ($715,000) – With Rice’s future as a feature back in question and Bernard Pierce’s durability an issue, the Ravens are more likely to draft a running back in the middle-to-late rounds than to keep Scott.

LB Daryl Smith ($840,000 and $285,000 signing bonus) – The 31-year-old was a great value signing, but the status of McClain as well as the development of 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown are important factors to consider here.

WR Brandon Stokley ($940,000) – The 37-year-old has already announced his plans to retire after a 15-year NFL career that began with the Ravens in 1999.

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 $3.02 million) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.12 million) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.389 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 figure.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

WR Tandon Doss (fourth) - Doss would either receive no more than the low tender or be re-signed at a lower rate and displayed some added value as a punt returner earlier in the season after Jacoby Jones injured his knee in Week 1.

LB Albert McClellan (undrafted) - McClellan fell out of the mix defensively in 2013 but continues to be a strong special-teams player, making his return at the low tender rate or at a lower salary a reasonable possibility.

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. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing more than an invitation to training camp provided to each.

LB Josh Bynes
LB Adrian Hamilton
LB D.J. Bryant
S Anthony Levine
S Omar Brown
S Brynden Trawick

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This would be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule…except this time there is no next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta in endzone incomplete (1st quarter)

After Dalton’s second interception…an opportunity to go up 10-0. 

4. Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones in endzone incomplete (1st quarter)

After Dalton’s first interception…an opportunity to go up 7-0.

3. Matt Elam drops would-be Andy Dalton interception on pass intended for Dane Sanzenbacher (4th quarter)

After the Bengals went up 24-17, the last hope to keep it a one possession game.

2. AJ Green 53 yard touchdown catch from Andy Dalton (1st quarter)

Everything turned here.

1. Chris Crocker intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith after Michael Johnson tip (4th quarter)

Essentially ended things. 

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Veterans, free agents ponder future with Ravens in 2014

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Veterans, free agents ponder future with Ravens in 2014

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If Sunday’s season-ending loss left the Ravens shocked over missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, cleaning out their lockers brought a sense of finality to the 2013 season less than 24 hours later.

Players gathered at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills Monday for a meeting before collecting their belongings from the locker room in a scene that felt like the last day of school. However, the mood was more sobering for the Ravens after finishing 8-8 and failing to reach the postseason despite winning Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans less than 11 months ago.

For aging veterans with larger cap numbers and impending free agents, Monday also marked the potential end of their run with the organization. The Ravens have 14 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents — though veteran Brandon Stokley has already announced his retirement — and a number of others who may not be retained for salary-cap purposes.

One of those veterans is fullback Vonta Leach, who can see the writing being on the wall in terms of his future with the organization. With a season remaining on the two-year, $3.75 million he signed with Baltimore in August after being cut earlier in the summer, Leach is unlikely to return after being phased out of the three-wide, single-back offense the Ravens used more prevalently in 2013.

“I’m going to sit down with them in the next couple days,” said Leach, who played a total of 12 offensive snaps in the final three games of the season. “Obviously, I wasn’t in the offense a whole lot this year. If they had a role for me, ideally, I’d want to come back here. I understand that this is a business.”

For free agents such as defensive tackle Arthur Jones, inside linebacker Daryl Smith, and left tackle Eugene Monroe, the Ravens will be interested in retaining their services but will only have so many resources with $70.9 million in cap space already tied to just six players — Haloti Ngata, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Marshal Yanda — for the 2014 season. Of the Ravens’ 14 unrestricted free agents, tight end Dennis Pitta, Monroe, and Smith figure to be at the top of the wish list to re-sign while Jones has likely priced himself out of the Ravens’ plans after a strong 2013 campaign.

In his first season in Baltimore, Smith led the Ravens in tackles and provided a strong veteran presence at the inside linebacker spot vacated by the retired Ray Lewis.

“I think they want me back, but we’ll see,” said Smith, who signed a one-year, $1.125 million deal last June after nine years in Jacksonville. “Only time will tell. I know they’ve got a lot of stuff to do this year, and a lot of guys up [with expiring contracts]. We’ll see.”

Others such as wide receiver Jacoby Jones, strong safety James Ihedigbo, and cornerback Corey Graham figure to be too pricey for general manager Ozzie Newsome, who will look for younger and cheaper options — or upgrades — to fill their roles. The door isn’t completely closed to their returns, of course, but the potential of needing to move elsewhere crosses any free agent’s mind at this time of the year.

Known primarily as a special-teams player before signing with the Ravens in 2012, Graham was a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl XLVII championship team and remained a dependable nickelback for Dean Pees’ defense this season, meaning he could draw some interest as a starter with other teams this offseason.

“I would like to be here,” said Graham, who led the Ravens with four interceptions this year. “When you win a Super Bowl somewhere, you get the opportunity to play somewhere, and things start to go well for you, you want to be in the place where they gave you opportunities. It’s a good organization; they gave me a chance to play. When I first came here, all I said was that I wanted an opportunity — they did that. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve gotten here.”

Free agency will begin on March 11, the same date on which teams must be under the 2014 salary cap.

Here’s a list of the Ravens’ 14 unrestricted free agents:

TE Dallas Clark
DT Terrence Cody
TE Ed Dickson
CB Corey Graham
DT Arthur Jones
WR Jacoby Jones
S James Ihedigbo
S Jeromy Miles
OT Eugene Monroe
OT Michael Oher
TE Dennis Pitta
RB Bernard Scott
LB Daryl Smith
WR Brandon Stokley (intends to retire)

Osemele progressing well after back surgery

Left guard Kelechi Osemele told reporters his recovery from November back surgery is going well and he expects to be fully cleared to begin offseason workouts in roughly a month.

The second-year lineman had been dealing with a herniated disc since his rookie year and missed the final nine games of the 2013 season. However, Osemele said his back hasn’t felt this good since his college days at Iowa State and he’s looking forward to being back on the field in 2014.

Where Osemele might line up for the Ravens next year remains to be seen as both of their starting tackles are unrestricted free agents. The 2012 second-round pick played right tackle in his rookie year before he was shifted inside to left guard for the 2012 postseason and played at an exceptional level in helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl.

“To be honest with you, it really doesn’t matter,” said Osemele when asked if he preferred playing guard or tackle. “I’m going to play wherever they put me. Whether I play guard or play tackle really doesn’t matter, especially off an injury. I just want to get back on the field.”

Most believe Osemele is better suited for guard, but his versatility does provide Newsome and the front office more flexibility in trying to revamp an offensive line that played poorly this season.

Ravens sign eight to reserve-future deals

In a procedural move following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, the Ravens signed eight members of their practice squad to reserve-future deals on Monday.

Headlining the list was former Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg, who is currently recovering from sports hernia surgery and spent the entire year on the Ravens’ developmental squad. With all three tight ends on the 53-man roster scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and only Pitta being a strong bet to be retained, Furstenburg figures to have a good chance of making the active roster in 2014.

The Ravens also signed wide receivers Gerrard Sheppard and Kamar Aiken, defensive tackle Cody Larsen, offensive tackle David Mims, tight end Nathan Overbay, quarterback Nick Stephens, and center Reggie Stephens to offseason deals.

Baltimore did not announce a reserve-future deal for running back Jonas Gray on Monday, the only member of the practice squad to finish the season who hadn’t been signed as of Monday afternoon.

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Ravens now look to future after not being good enough in 2013

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Ravens now look to future after not being good enough in 2013

Posted on 29 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Head coach John Harbaugh said it all in the aftermath of a 34-17 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday that resulted in the Ravens missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Despite reaching the pinnacle of the NFL last February in winning their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Ravens simply weren’t good enough a year later.

“We’re not ever going to be content with not making the playoffs,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just not something that’s going to be OK with any of us.”

Harbaugh is right, and it’s the Ravens’ vast success over the last five years that’s cultivated such an appropriate mindset. It’s easy and fair to be disappointed, but the Ravens gave this city a terrific run that included five straight playoff appearances, three AFC Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl title. History has proven over and over that you can’t be great every year and no run of success will last forever.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco, and others have built a great deal of equity for fans to remain confident that the Ravens will be back in 2014 and beyond, but this winter brings a critical offseason with many issues to address. A proven track record is invaluable, but the NFL is a results-driven endeavor and Baltimore didn’t meet its own high standards laid out in recent years.

Season-long issues once again reared their head Sunday as a poor offense doomed the Ravens in Cincinnati. An overwhelmed offensive line was unable to handle the Bengals’ pressure, the running game was a non-factor, wide receivers were unable to gain separation, and a hobbled Flacco made poor decisions and couldn’t connect on deep balls throughout the day.

Defensively, the Ravens were able to force four turnovers but also allowed nearly 400 yards of offense and 27 points — the Bengals’ final touchdown came on an interception returned for a touchdown. The Baltimore defense was an above-average unit this season but gave up big plays and long drives at critical junctures, failing to be the game-changing unit Newsome envisioned when he allocated most of his available cap space to upgrading that side of the ball this past offseason.

So, what do the Ravens need to change, improve, and address this winter?

The heavy lifting will be done by Newsome, who didn’t have a good offseason this past winter in trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin and failing to improve the offense around Flacco. The injury to tight end Dennis Pitta couldn’t be predicted, but the failure to address the receiver position in the wake of Boldin’s departure was a mistake. Philosophically, the Ravens turned away from what won them a Super Bowl last February in sacrificing offense for defense and the former suffered dramatically because of it.

Newsome will also be dealing with a tight salary cap that includes a projected $70.9 million in space devoted to just six players: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($16 million), Flacco ($14.8 million), linebacker Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), running back Ray Rice ($8.75 million), and right guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million). Barring any restructuring of the other contracts, only the release of Suggs would provide substantial cap relief as he’s scheduled to receive a $7.8 million base salary in the final year of his current deal.

That could spell the end of Suggs’ 11-year run in Baltimore unless Newsome and the Ravens try to work out a short-term extension that gives the veteran some upfront money and a lower cap figure for 2014. Suggs finished the year with 10 sacks but collected only one in his final eight games and made very little impact down the stretch.

The Ravens must address an offensive line that includes two free-agent tackles (Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher) and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, who struggled immensely in his first year as a starter. It’s unlikely that Oher will return, but Baltimore would surely like to retain Monroe after giving up two 2014 draft picks to acquire him from Jacksonville earlier in the season. They could then look to the draft to address the right tackle position or consider moving Kelechi Osemele back to the position where he played during most of his rookie year and look at guard prospects.

Improving the offensive line would go a long way in fixing a running game that was the worst in franchise history, though questions will remain about Rice’s future as a feature back.

Tight end Dennis Pitta will be an unrestricted free agent and gauging his value in the open market will be difficult after he missed most of the season with a serious hip injury, making the franchise tag a possibility to keep him in Baltimore for another season. Jacoby Jones will also hit the open market, and the Ravens must decide whether the value of his big-play ability as a returner is worth a new contract despite his shortcomings as a wideout.

The Ravens need more offensive play-makers as Torrey Smith wasn’t as productive in the second half of the season and Rice battled through injuries and ineffectiveness in the worst campaign of his career. Flacco’s underwhelming 2013 performance suggests he isn’t the rare quarterback who can dramatically elevate the play of lesser talent around him.

On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, linebacker Daryl Smith, strong safety James Ihedigbo, and cornerback Corey Graham are all scheduled to become free agents. Each is a capable player that makes a defense better, but younger and cheaper alternatives will be preferred in most cases with much work to do on the other side of the ball and little available cap space.

The Ravens will need to take a look at a pass rush that was ineffective down the stretch as well as the safety position where defensive coordinator Dean Pees was essentially forced to play two strong safeties — Ihedigbo and rookie Matt Elam — in the starting secondary. However, Newsome and the Ravens can’t make the same mistake they did this past year in focusing too much on the defense while allowing the offense to suffer.

As for coaching, Harbaugh has his flaws when it comes to time management and in-game decisions that must be assessed internally, but his track record speaks for itself after missing the playoffs for the first time in his six-year run with the Ravens. The addition of run-game coordinator Juan Castillo did not work with the Ravens finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry, so it will be interesting to see if the former Eagles offensive line coach quietly parts ways with the organization this winter.

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell deserves plenty of credit for his role in jump-starting the Ravens offense when he took over for Cam Cameron last December, but his calls this season too often lacked imagination in trying to overcome personnel deficiencies and the red-zone offense was another major deficiency. It’s worth noting that Caldwell had never been an offensive coordinator prior to his late-season promotion in 2012, so you wonder if the Ravens will — and should — at least take a look at the possibility of adding another strong offensive mind to the equation if not making a change at coordinator altogether.

It won’t be an easy offseason as Harbaugh, Flacco, and a number of others face the reality of not being good enough to play in January for the first time. It’s uncharted territory for the head coach and quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how the pair responds in overcoming that failure.

Sunday marked the official end of the Ravens’ reign as Super Bowl champions as well as a five-year run of success that may never be seen again in Baltimore. They battled all season, but the Ravens just weren’t good enough to overcome their many weaknesses and ran out of gas in their final two games against better opponents.

Nothing lasts forever, but a strong nucleus is in place to rebound in 2014 and beyond.

And Ravens fans can take satisfaction in that simple truth while coping with the unfamiliar disappointment of a quiet January and an uncertain offseason to follow.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 24 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta incomplete on 4th & 10 (4th quarter)

The “ender”.

4. Jimmy Smith called for 34 yard pass interference after Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman incomplete (1st quarter)

Got everything started. 

3. Logan Ryan breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones on 4th & 3 (3rd quarter)

Questionable decision, more questionable execution.

2. Logan Ryan intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones after Dont’a Hightower tip (1st quarter)

Didn’t take long to make it 14-0. 

1. Ray Rice runs for no gain on 4th & 1 (3rd quarter)

There was no (realistic) coming back from this. 

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