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Final chapter of Newsome’s Ravens draft legacy yet to be defined

Posted on 29 April 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Emotions ran high as the Ravens concluded the final draft of Ozzie Newsome’s impeccable run as general manager.

Successor Eric DeCosta choked up as he spoke about his mentor, describing how owner Steve Bisciotti switched their chairs in the draft room to signify the changing of the guard.

John Harbaugh shared his belief that this was the franchise’s best draft in his 11 seasons as head coach. Others have wasted no time heaping praise upon Baltimore’s work.

Of course, Newsome himself brought the appropriate context in judging his 23rd and final draft.

“We did address a lot of areas, but ask me two years from now,” Newsome said. “Because now we have to get them in, we have to work with them, we have to develop them. Then, two years from now, we’ll be able to determine what job we did this weekend.”

The Ravens surely checked boxes by drafting tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews as well as offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., the most heartwarming pick of the weekend. On the final day, they attempted to address other needs by taking inside linebacker Kenny Young as well as wide receivers Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley to develop for the future.

But make no mistake, the fate of the 2018 draft will ultimately be defined by Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. That’s just reality when you take a quarterback in the first round, regardless of what Newsome might have given up in the trade or how the Ravens were able to secure a fifth-year option with shrewd maneuvering.

Just ask Super Bowl XXXV champion coach Brian Billick about the 2003 draft. The first round may have featured potential Hall of Fame linebacker Terrell Suggs, but quarterback bust Kyle Boller ultimately cost Billick his job four years later.

The Jackson pick isn’t a flier or a low risk as those attempting to soft-pedal the likely ousting of Joe Flacco have suggested. If he doesn’t become the franchise quarterback, the ramifications are substantial, ranging from a missed opportunity to really strengthen the roster to high-profile jobs potentially being lost.

Squandering a first-round pick is significant even when it isn’t a quarterback. Consider the many resources the Ravens have exhausted at the safety position since drafting Matt Elam five years ago. Baltimore is still dealing with the fallout of Breshad Perriman failing to develop into a functional wide receiver three years after being drafted.

Jackson’s selection following his electrifying career at Louisville has reinvigorated much of a disgruntled fan base over the last few days, but recent history suggests the odds are against him panning out. Of the 17 quarterbacks drafted 15th through 45th overall from 2007-16 — a range chosen to satisfy varying opinions of his value — only seven spent more than one full season as a starter and one of those was Geno Smith. Just three — Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, Oakland’s Derek Carr, and Flacco — are present-day starting quarterbacks with the others either surviving as backups or out of the league entirely.

Those odds are why those now being labeled by some as Flacco apologists balked at using such valuable draft capital on his replacement rather than at another position with a higher success rate to try to help the 33-year-old who led the franchise to a championship five years ago.

Where will the Ravens be in two years?

If the talented Jackson is on his way to becoming a franchise quarterback and helping his team to the playoffs, even detractors of Thursday’s pick will need to give Newsome his due. If he isn’t, there’s no telling what the fallout could be for a team with just one playoff appearance since Super Bowl XLVII.

Of course, this is where the rest of the draft class also comes into play as any quarterback is impacted dramatically by his environment.

Is at least one of the combination of Hurst and Andrews serving as the impact tight end the Ravens have lacked since the early days of Dennis Pitta and Todd Heap before that?

Will Scott or Lasley break the mold of so many failed Day 3 wide receivers to help improve the position’s long-term outlook? That will be a critical need for the young quarterback.

Does an eventual starter and a solid backup or two emerge from the group of Brown, Young, cornerback Anthony Averett, and a quartet of sixth- and seventh-rounders?

Only the answers to these questions will determine whether the current praise for Newsome’s swansong draft is warranted.

It’s understandable for so many to want to pay tribute to the general manager after all he’s accomplished. No one can take away a body of work that includes two Super Bowl championships, 10 playoff appearances in a 15-year period, two homegrown Hall of Famers (with at least one or two more to come), and 18 homegrown Pro Bowl players. Newsome is more than deserving of being a Hall of Fame executive after being a Hall of Fame tight end.

But let’s follow his own advice and pump the brakes on declaring this draft to be his final masterpiece.

That will be determined by whether the master plan to replace Flacco with Jackson succeeds.

Remember many Ravens fans were once miffed that Jonathan Ogden was chosen over Lawrence Phillips while others initially celebrated the likes of Boller, Elam, and Perriman in past first rounds.

We’ll know the truth in two years.

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First-round quarterback would cap disappointing finish to Newsome era

Posted on 25 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will get the benefit of the doubt until they turn in their card late Thursday night.

Whether staying at 16th overall or moving elsewhere in the first round, Ozzie Newsome has a variety of directions he can go in the final draft of his Hall of Fame-caliber run as general manager that includes two Super Bowl titles and 10 playoff appearances in 22 years.

Despite signing three veteran wide receivers this offseason, Baltimore needs a pass-catching tight end and could still use another receiver with upside for both the present and future. After losing two starters from last year’s offensive line, a tackle such as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or even center Frank Ragnow from Arkansas would make sense despite neither being a sexy pick for an anxious fan base.

You could try to sell me on not being able to resist a special defensive talent such as Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith somehow sliding down the board, even if that would continue the post-Super Bowl XLVII theme of neglecting the offensive side of the ball. These are the defense-obsessed Ravens, after all, so that wouldn’t be all that stunning.

But a quarterback in the first round?

Nope.

Absolutely not.

Sorry, that’s a hard pass.

As owner Steve Bisciotti famously said in February, the Ravens have “bigger fish to fry.”

Yet the smoke persists with NFL Network’s Mike Mayock becoming the latest draft maven to mock Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to the Ravens at No. 16. It’s one thing when a run-of-the-mill reporter or draft enthusiast makes the connection in the hundreds of mock drafts currently circulating the internet, but the likes of Mayock and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer are connected throughout the league. At the very least, the Ravens are making it appear that they’re seriously considering drafting Joe Flacco’s heir apparent in the first round as Jackson reportedly even took a pre-draft visit to Baltimore.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-Jackson stance. The former Heisman Trophy winner is an intriguing talent who has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback if he lands in the right environment, the same caveat that applies to other high-profile signal-callers in this year’s draft class.

Putting aside the warm-and-fuzzy narrative of Newsome taking the Ravens’ quarterback of the future in his final draft, let’s look at reality.

With Bisciotti admitting he considered replacing John Harbaugh at the end of last season, do you think the 11th-year head coach and his staff are going to be receptive to a first-round pick unlikely to make any meaningful impact this year when they’re in win-now mode and very likely fighting for their jobs after missing the playoffs three straight times? That puts them in an unfair position.

No matter how they spin it, taking a first-round quarterback would be a clear message that the Ravens are done with Flacco. You can point to the final year of the Alex Smith-Kansas City marriage that resulted in a trip to the playoffs as much as you’d like, but we still have no idea if Patrick Mahomes will work out for Andy Reid and the Chiefs, making that a flimsy example to use as justification.

In today’s NFL, the benefit of hitting on a quarterback in the draft is the flexibility it provides with the salary cap, but the Ravens will have essentially wasted the first year of that rookie contract and would still be dealing with $16 million in dead money on the 2019 cap by cutting Flacco next offseason. Sure, you could give his release a post-June 1 designation to push $8 million of that dead money to 2020, but that does you no good during free agency, meaning you’ve now minimized the benefits of the second season of that four-year rookie contract. That’s not a good start, and that’s assuming Jackson or whichever first-round quarterback you’d like to envision actually pans out.

Beyond those realities, does the current regime really deserve to reboot at the quarterback position yet? Why should the Ravens be trusted to build around another quarterback when they’ve done such a dismal job putting talent around the one who led them to their second NFL championship five years ago?

And please spare me the talk about Flacco’s contract.

The Ravens rank last in the NFL in non-quarterback money invested in the offensive side of the ball, according to OverTheCap.com. They’ve used just four of their 17 total picks in the first, second, and third rounds of the last five drafts on offensive players while attempting to recreate the 2000 defense with underwhelming results.

Since investing nine figures in the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player, the Ravens have consistently asked Flacco to do more with less than virtually any quarterback in the NFL.

To be clear, Flacco has underperformed and needs to own his share of the team’s shortcomings like anyone else, including the front office and coaching staff. There are legitimate reasons to doubt his future, ranging from his steadily-declining yards per attempt to concerns about his durability as he enters his mid-30s.

The end could very well be near for Flacco.

But the Ravens owe it to themselves and to their longtime quarterback to put their best foot forward for 2018 in Newsome’s final draft. They’ve hired a new quarterbacks coach in James Urban, who has a good reputation around the league and will hopefully address Flacco’s mechanics that have regressed since Gary Kubiak’s departure three years ago. Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead are each coming off down seasons, but they bring diverse skills to the passing game and have all tasted NFL success to varying degrees in the past. Investing meaningful draft picks on the offensive side of the ball would put the finishing touches on an offseason in which the Ravens brass can at least say they made more of an attempt to help Flacco than the usual dollar-store signings and Day 3 draft picks of recent years.

If he shows no meaningful improvement in 2018 from what we’ve seen the last few years, I’ll be the first to say it’s time to move on. New general manager Eric DeCosta can then begin his own quest for a new quarterback as the organization would likely be in transition in more ways than one.

This isn’t a special case like the New York Giants having the second overall pick and wondering if they’ll have another golden opportunity to replace their aging quarterback. The Ravens are picking in the middle of the first round and would be taking the fourth- or fifth-ranked quarterback in the class at best. Starting over by drafting a quarterback is never a high-percentage play and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially when you’d be moving on from someone who once got you to the pinnacle when he had enough talent around him.

Newsome taking a quarterback Thursday would essentially be letting Flacco take the fall for his own shortcomings in recent years.

I’m still not buying it being the Ravens’ true play, but such an outcome would cap a lackluster finish to his long and successful run as general manager.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following pre-draft press conference

Posted on 04 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens conducting their pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I have no strong opinion on Robert Griffin III, but the notion that an oft-injured quarterback who was out of the league last year pushing Joe Flacco is silly. Perhaps he sticks as the backup, but the signing shouldn’t impact any plans to draft a quarterback in the middle rounds.

2. Ozzie Newsome has been criticized for rarely talking to media, but he said he’s taking “all the blame” for missing the playoffs three straight times and was complimentary of John Harbaugh. He remains measured, but you can tell he really wants to right the ship in his final season.

3. Asked about last year’s draft, Newsome quipped that he hopes the Ravens won’t be taking four defensive players with their first four picks, but he reiterated — as he always does — they’ll stay true to their draft board. I can only imagine the fan reaction if that were to happen again.

4. Newsome remains open to signing another wide receiver before the draft, but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics, ranging from whether he’s had discussions with the New York Giants about Odell Beckham Jr. to potential contract talks with restricted free agents Cameron Meredith and Willie Snead.

5. Eric DeCosta offered interesting thoughts HERE (4:25 mark) about whether the Ravens have undervalued wide receivers in the draft compared to other teams, but he admitted “you’ve got to swing” and that the organization hasn’t done much of that at receiver. We’ll see if that finally changes.

6. Director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said he thinks there are tight ends throughout the draft who could help the Ravens, but he acknowledged the challenge of even most standout tight ends not coming on strong as rookies, citing Dennis Pitta as an example. That position remains a major concern.

7. DeCosta estimated as many as eight or nine quarterbacks in this class have a real chance to start and be productive during their rookie contract. I’d still be surprised to see the Ravens take one in the first round, but you sense they’d really like to nab one with upside.

8. Hortiz described Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore as “holding his water” in the pre-draft process and was complimentary of his college production and talents without sounding overly enthusiastic. Interpret that as you wish.

9. Newsome’s role with the organization beyond 2018 is yet to be determined, but DeCosta welcomes as much involvement as his mentor prefers. Let’s not forget Newsome went into a scouting role immediately after his Hall of Fame playing career concluded in 1990. He may want more of a breather.

10. It wasn’t surprising to hear DeCosta stick up for younger Ravens scouts after owner Steve Bisciotti noted in February how many experienced ones the organization has lost in recent years. However, the real proof will come after the draft when you typically see changes to scouting departments among teams.

11. You could sense DeCosta’s deep respect for Newsome as he labeled him “probably the best GM in the history of football.” They both downplayed this draft feeling any different than past ones, but you know it has to be with the changing of the guard looming next year.

12. Listening to Newsome speak (3:20 mark) about the draft still giving him the same butterflies he felt running out of the tunnel before a game as a player offers a glimpse into what’s made him so successful in both roles. What a competitor with a remarkable a body of work.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first week of free agency

Posted on 21 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the first week of NFL free agency now in the books, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I like the Michael Crabtree signing, but looking at past notable receivers’ first season with Baltimore is concerning. Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Lee Evans, and Jeremy Maclin all saw their catch and yardage totals fall from the previous year. Steve Smith and Mike Wallace were the exceptions.

2. Benjamin Watson signing with Kansas City would put the Ravens in line to receive a 2019 third-round compensatory pick for Ryan Jensen. These comp choices shouldn’t drive the entire offseason, but that’s a pick too valuable to pass up to sign any unrestricted free agents remaining on the market.

3. Watson’s potential exit reiterates how big a need tight end remains. I’m not enthusiastic about anyone remaining on the market, but history suggests counting heavily on a rookie is a big mistake. This position may simply remain a question, but an early draft pick would bring enticing upside.

4. The reported visits of restricted free agents Willie Snead and Cameron Meredith reflect the desire to further address wide receiver, but structuring an offer sheet is tricky. You don’t want to exhaust too much effort when you may just be negotiating a deal for the original team in the end.

5. Declining the option on Austin Howard cleared $3 million in cap space, but was it wise to part ways with a reliable starting right tackle for only moderate savings? James Hurst hasn’t fared well at that spot in the past and Alex Lewis is a complete unknown there.

6. Jensen becoming the NFL’s highest-paid center is a reminder that incumbents can get markedly better over time and late bloomers do exist. There’s still at least a glimmer of hope for the likes of Breshad Perriman, Kamalei Correa, and Bronson Kaufusi, even if the Ravens aren’t banking on it.

7. It appears Brandon Williams’ eye disorder is under control, but that’s still not something you want to hear about for anyone, let alone one of your best players who just received a lucrative contract 12 months ago.

8. I’m interested to watch Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo this summer, but I still see some fans putting too much stock into small glimpses of promise. We’ve seen this movie before, and the Ravens shouldn’t expect any of their young incumbent receivers beyond Chris Moore to make the 2018 roster.

9. Wink Martindale attending Derwin James’ pro day garnered attention, but a team needs to be sure any prospect — not just James — praised for athleticism and being able to line up at multiple positions will truly excel at at least one spot before using such a high pick.

10. Ryan Grant wasn’t going to get the same deal elsewhere after failing Baltimore’s physical, but a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis is such a drop-off that you wonder if others had concerns about his ankle. I feel for him, and this still wasn’t a great look for the Ravens.

11. Eric DeCosta hasn’t been made available to local reporters since Steve Bisciotti announced the longtime assistant general manager would be taking over for Ozzie Newsome next year, but he shared his thoughts on the pending change with the team’s website HERE.

12. I’m amused by anyone believing the proposed language changes will fix the catch rule, but at least the league is trying to fix it. I can’t wait for those heated debates over what “the ability to perform a football move” really means.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts from 2018 NFL combine

Posted on 04 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the 2018 NFL scouting combine winding down, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ozzie Newsome didn’t drop any bombshells speaking at his final combine as general manager, but he was accountable and expressed much urgency to get back to the playoffs and finally get it right at wide receiver. The latter would be a fine demon to exorcise to complete his brilliant run.

2. Newsome’s job title and responsibilities after 2018 remain unclear, but Steve Bisciotti telling him he wants his golf game to improve should ease concerns about his “significant” position potentially clashing with the transfer of power to Eric DeCosta. It needs to be the latter’s show to run.

3. Jeremy Maclin remains on the roster for now, but Newsome only saying that no decision has been made on his future should be pretty telling. The general manager’s desire to “change that room” wouldn’t seem to bode well for free agent Mike Wallace’s chances of returning either.

4. On the other hand, Newsome’s praise for the play and leadership of Brandon Carr leads you to believe he’ll remain on the roster. Jimmy Smith is apparently progressing well with his Achilles tendon rehabilitation, but there’s no way to know yet if he’ll be ready for Week 1.

5. Some balked at Newsome saying Breshad Perriman would be part of spring workouts, but this shouldn’t be a surprise with the lack of bodies at receiver and the organization’s desire to salvage any bit of value from a first-round pick. This hardly guarantees he’ll be part of the 2018 team.

6. Only preliminary talks have been held with the agent of C.J. Mosley about a contract extension beyond 2018, but that’s not a major surprise as it wasn’t until late April of 2015 that Jimmy Smith signed his deal, the last time Baltimore extended a first-round pick.

7. Newsome predictably praised the emergence of Alex Collins, but adding a running back to be a dangerous factor as a receiver out of the backfield should still be a goal this offseason. I don’t believe Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen, or Kenneth Dixon is that guy.

8. Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore made a statement to be in the conversation as a first-round pick with his strong showing in Indianapolis. His workout numbers mesh very well with his production for the Terps despite never benefiting from consistent quarterback play.

9. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki is another prospect the Ravens should covet. He isn’t a blocker, but he checks the boxes you want in a pass-catching tight end and was very impressive at the combine. Gesicki also caught 14 touchdowns and had almost 1,500 receiving yards over the last two seasons.

10. Re-signing Brent Urban to a cheap contract with incentives is fine, but injuries have plagued him throughout his football career. It would be unwise to give him any real money or envision him as a “Plan A” guy.

11. Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, the son of the late former Ravens lineman, was impressive during his press conference, but his disastrous workout numbers will be difficult to overcome. Talk of him being a first-round pick became a distant memory in a matter of hours.

12. Newsome has never basked in the spotlight — Friday was the first time he’d answered questions at a press conference since last April — but he deserves the farewell recognition he’ll receive from peers, fans, and media over the next calendar year. Where would the Ravens have been without him?

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on array of offseason topics

Posted on 12 February 2018 by Luke Jones

With free agency a month away and the Ravens offseason still taking shape, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I’m intrigued to learn just how “significant” Ozzie Newsome’s post-2018 position will be as Eric DeCosta succeeds him as general manager. The two have a great relationship, of course, but it’s not difficult envisioning such an arrangement being problematic if DeCosta is truly supposed to be in charge.

2. The Jimmy Garoppolo deal is the latest reminder of how expensive a franchise quarterback is if you’re not willing to roll the dice in trying to draft one. That won’t stop Joe Flacco’s detractors from complaining about his contract, but it’s the cost of doing business.

3. The Ravens eyeing a bargain at inside linebacker or 5-technique end is fine, but the catalysts for defensive improvement need to come from within and from Wink Martindale’s fresh perspective. Citing the offense’s late statistical improvement as an excuse to use meaningful resources on defense would be a major mistake.

4. Speaking of coaching impact, Sports Illustrated NFL analyst Andy Benoit is a big fan of new quarterbacks coach James Urban. He offered a look into Urban’s football mind last year, and offered more insight on the new Ravens assistant from Radio Row in Minneapolis.

5. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are already recruiting free-agent-to-be Jarvis Landry. He caught a career-high 112 passes at a career-low 8.8 yards per catch in Miami’s mess of a passing attack in 2017. His price tag as a slot receiver will be interesting, but certainly not cheap.

6. I’ve debated what should be done with Brandon Carr, who’s owed a bonus next month and brings $4 million in savings if he’s cut. Baltimore sure could use him if Jimmy Smith isn’t ready for Week 1, but Carr is a backup with a $7 million number if he is.

7. With the Ravens lacking any semblance of a consistent red-zone threat for years, Jimmy Graham is intriguing at the right price despite his lowest yardage total since his rookie season. Of course, other teams with more cap space are likely to find his 10 touchdowns just as enticing.

8. He may never hit the market, but a healthy Allen Robinson is an excellent fit for what Flacco needs in a receiver. Some have suggested his signing coming at a discount after last September’s ACL injury, but I’m not convinced that happens with the 6-foot-3 target only being 24.

9. Philadelphia winning the Super Bowl despite losing its franchise quarterback, Pro Bowl left tackle, starting middle linebacker, and a productive third-down running back sure doesn’t help the perception of the Ravens not being able to overcome injuries to sneak into the playoffs with one of the league’s easiest schedules.

10. With many anticipating the Ravens being selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game for the first time, head coach John Harbaugh will surely like having additional training camp practices. It’s also an extra week and an extra meaningless game putting players at risk for injury.

11. Brian Dawkins being voted into the Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility gives me greater confidence that Ed Reed will be inducted next year. Voters haven’t been kind to pure safeties over the years, but Reed not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer would be a joke.

12. I was glad to see both Marlon Humphrey and a fan have a sense of humor about his recent arrest. It was certainly a mistake from which the young cornerback hopefully learns, but another 2017 first-round pick is in far deeper trouble.

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Newsome to still hold “significant position” with Ravens after 2018 season

Posted on 03 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The morning after the announcement that Eric DeCosta would take over as general manager in 2019, Ozzie Newsome reiterated that he won’t be leaving the Ravens anytime soon.

The longtime general manager will remain with the organization in a title yet to be determined.

“I will remain as the Ravens’ general manager through the 2018 season and continue my role directing free agency and the draft,” Newsome said in a statement released by the Ravens on Saturday. “After that, Eric will take over as our general manager and assume all the duties that come with that, including heading our personnel department and directing free agency and the draft.

“I plan to remain with the Ravens in a significant position in personnel and help us win more Super Bowls. We have planned this succession over the last five years.”

Owner Steve Bisciotti said Friday that Newsome received a five-year contract extension after the 2013 season that included the transfer of the general manager title to DeCosta after 2018. The owner quipped that his two-time Super Bowl-winning general manager would then become “the highest-paid scout in America” while helping with the transition to his lieutenant.

DeCosta has received countless inquiries from other teams over the years with the Green Bay Packers most recently expressing interest in him becoming their general manager last month. The 46-year-old began working for the Ravens in their inaugural season in Baltimore in 1996 and was named assistant general manager in 2012.

“I think he’s learned from Ozzie,” Bisciotti said. “I think he’s a great leader of the scouts. It’s Ozzie’s department, but most of the interaction with all the scouts is with Eric. I have seen the way he goes about the business. I have seen the way he has embraced technology and analytics, and I like working with him.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Steve Bisciotti’s press conference

Posted on 03 February 2018 by Luke Jones

With Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti holding his season-review press conference on Friday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The news of the day was Bisciotti revealing Ozzie Newsome would step down as general manager after 2018 with Eric DeCosta then taking over. Newsome doesn’t like the limelight and did release a statement confirming he’d retain a “significant” role, but he should have been the one to announce this.

2. Meanwhile, Bisciotti admitted firing John Harbaugh was a “consideration” after the season, but the owner refused to give a “playoffs or bust” edict for 2018. I respect that, but you’d think it would take some extreme circumstances to preserve Harbaugh’s job if Baltimore misses the postseason again.

3. It’s telling that Bisciotti remains steadfast to the long-term plan of DeCosta taking over as general manager while Harbaugh’s seat appears so warm, especially when looking at the lack of playmakers and underwhelming drafts in recent years that haven’t exactly helped the 53-man roster.

4. Beyond the Newsome news, Bisciotti acknowledging the loss of heralded scouts like Joe Douglas having a harmful effect was arguably the most significant nugget. The Ravens have developed many great scouts over the years, but infusing some experienced eyes from outside the organization wouldn’t hurt.

5. I haven’t put much stock into the narrative of the coaching staff having too much influence on recent drafts, but Bisciotti’s theory that the Ravens have “over-analyzed” their top 60 prospects in recent drafts with too many opinions is interesting. Is he talking about the scouts, the coaches, or both?

6. Bisciotti saying he has “bigger fish to fry” than finding Joe Flacco’s successor should squash notions of the Ravens drafting a quarterback early. It’s the only logical way to proceed now, but the clock is ticking before it becomes possible to cut him starting next year and especially after 2019.

7. I buy Flacco’s injured back being a major detriment to his play early in the season, but color me skeptical hearing Bisciotti say the offseason focus will be on acquiring weapons for the quarterback. Perhaps it’s fitting this presser took place on Groundhog Day since we’ve heard that one before.

8. Bisciotti comparing the losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati the last two seasons to Jacoby Jones’ touchdown against Denver falls flat when considering these defeats occurred in the regular season — not the divisional round. The “we’re close” narrative conveniently overlooks all the mediocrity leading up to those defining moments.

9. As the owner noted, the Ravens aren’t going 4-12 every season and remain competitive, but I couldn’t help but recall the days when Bisciotti would dwell on his team not securing enough home playoff games. In that context, it’s difficult not to feel the standard has diminished recently.

10. Baltimore is again tight against the salary cap, but the mention of restructuring Brandon Williams’ contract isn’t ideal when the 29-year-old already has scheduled cap figures north of $12 million from 2019-21. This practice typically results in diminished value from otherwise-still-productive veterans having cap numbers that are too expensive.

11. Bisciotti bristled at questions about the Ravens being stagnant and at a crossroads, but missing the playoffs four out of five years, a pending general manager change, a coach on the hot seat, an under-producing quarterback with recent health concerns, and declining attendance pretty much speak for themselves, don’t they?

12. Bisciotti deserves credit for answering questions and reaffirmed his passion for owning the Ravens. There’s work to do on and off the field, but fans should be encouraged to hear he’ll be around for the “foreseeable future” as owner. Old Colts fans can remind you the grass isn’t always greener.

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Chapter 7: How to find a franchise quarterback

Posted on 18 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“You can always look at how the guys play. You just look at the tape. But at the combine you find out what kind of people they are. What’s important to them? How important is football to them? How important is their family to them? If we get those two things right, we’ll be right most of the time.”

 – John Harbaugh (March 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

AN NFL SCOUT’S LIFE EXISTS with the perpetual hope that every time he shows up on a campus to watch a kid run, or gets on a plane to fly to a college town to see a game in the fall, or fires up his iPad to watch film, he wants to believe he’s about to find the next player who will help his team win the Super Bowl.

It’s the eternal quest for any NFL scout – find the next Pro Bowl player who can become a Hall of Famer. Or, at the very least, find a player who can help you win every year for the next decade.

By the time Baltimore Ravens area scouts Andy Weidl and Joe Douglas got in their cars and made the one hour drive north up Interstate 95 from Owings Mills to Newark, Delaware on November 10, 2007, Joe Flacco wasn’t a secret to the college scouting world. And he certainly was no stranger to Douglas, who joined the team in 2000 and is known to all in the Ravens organization as “Big Joe D,” whose job it was to scout the Northeast for the team from 2003 through 2008. Douglas was made famous during the Ravens’ summer of 2001 filming of “Hard Knocks” on HBO as “The Turk,” the lowly scout who has the duty of summoning players from the locker room to the office of the head coach where “Coach wants to see you, bring your playbook” means you’ll be leaving the campus and chasing your NFL dream elsewhere.

Incidentally, UrbanDictionary.com defines “turk” as “someone who is extremely brave.” Joe Douglas spent six months talking Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz into drafting a Division 1-AA quarterback from Delaware in the first round of the NFL draft.

Douglas, by any measurement, is as brave as Joe Flacco is fearless.

By 2007, Douglas had moved up the ranks of the scouting system and was making that fateful Saturday a “quarterback doubleheader” – a rare chance to see two teams in one day, both with targets who could be the next quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens. The afternoon game in Newark featured the Delaware Blue Hens hosting the Richmond Spiders in a Division I-AA matchup. The nightcap on the docket was Boston College visiting the Maryland Terps in College Park and Douglas would be joined by longtime Ravens scouts Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz, whom he’d meet at the I-95 Park and Ride near Catonsville so they could travel together to Byrd Stadium. Their target that evening was visiting Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, who many thought would be the first quarterback – if not the first player – taken in the April 2008 draft.

Incidentally, Douglas was rooting hard for Richmond that afternoon and not out of disdain for Flacco or Delaware. Douglas was the starting left tackle for the Spiders from 1995-1998 and had been through many battles with the Blue Hens on the field. He was also quite familiar with many of the coaches and players in this contest. Even when he didn’t attend Richmond games – and it was rare to see his alma mater in person because NFL scouts don’t scout a lot of I-AA football games unless there’s a specific prospect they want to evaluate – his father would give him weekly Spiders reports from stands.

It was Douglas’ dad, Joel Douglas, who first told Big Joe D about Joe Flacco a year earlier after seeing the 2006 matchup in Richmond.

“He went to the game with my uncle and he called me up and said, ‘I don’t know who that Delaware quarterback was, but Richmond couldn’t stop him,’” Douglas said of a day when Flacco, then a junior who was making his seventh start for the Blue Hens, went 31-of-45 for 305 yards and a pair of TD passes in a come-from-behind 28-24 win over the Spiders. “Honestly, I was more mad that Richmond blew the lead than I was concerned about who Delaware’s junior quarterback was that day.”

The NFL scouting calendar begins in May after the draft. DeCosta and Hortiz enlist the entire organization to target potential candidates to scout for the following year. By August, the scouts plan their entire schedule for the fall, trying to chunk as many practices, games, campus visits and interviews as possible into the schedule while also trying to see the Ravens play some games at home and away. As an NFL scout, this is the most important time of

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Possibilities wide open for Ravens in 2017 draft

Posted on 26 April 2017 by Luke Jones

Despite months of mock drafts, workouts, visits, and rumors, anyone invested in the Ravens is still asking the same question with the 2017 NFL draft nearly upon us.

Who will they take with the 16th overall pick?

Frankly, I don’t think the Ravens even have a good idea this year.

There’s always volatility when 15 other players are to be picked before you’re officially on the clock, especially in a year when there are no slam-dunk quarterbacks at the top of the board. Even last year when the Ravens were picking sixth, how many correctly predicted that they would select left tackle Ronnie Stanley? Even fewer thought the then-San Diego Chargers would take edge rusher Joey Bosa with the No. 3 pick, illustrating how little truthful information most teams give away to outsiders.

Adding to that unpredictability is a deep talent pool lacking clear definition beyond the top few projected selections. Ask 15 different draft experts to rank the No. 6 through No. 25 prospects in order and you’ll likely find less common ground than in typical years. That’s not a bad thing with many considering this the deepest collection of talent in a number of years, but predicting who might be there in the middle of the first round feels even more like a guessing game than usual.

It’s no secret that the Ravens have a number of pressing needs, which is both a blessing and a curse. Needing immediate help on the offensive line and at wide receiver, edge rusher, and inside linebacker and still wanting to enhance its depth at cornerback, Baltimore should have no reason to reach for a prospect over the first few rounds. Of course, that lengthy list of needs also reflects an incomplete roster and a lack of success since Super Bowl XLVII, making it even more important that the Ravens build on their encouraging 2016 draft with another strong class.

Their list of reported visits and meetings reflects those aforementioned needs and offers possible clues, but I’m reluctant to put too much stock into those encounters. It was only last year that the Ravens drafted Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa after spending a total of 15 minutes with him at the scouting combine and never contacting him again until he was selected in the second round two months later.

Trading back in the first round would hardly be the sexiest development on Thursday night, but it could be the best one in a year when the Ravens have only seven scheduled picks. The problem could be finding a partner wanting to move up as reports this week have indicated that a number of teams are looking to trade back to take better advantage of a deep talent pool. As is typically the case, movement will likely depend on the fascination with the top three or four quarterbacks.

Because I’ve been asked, my official guess prediction is that the Ravens select Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the 16th overall pick, which probably means 10 other prospects are now more likely to be taken there. His skill set as an intermediate receiver is exactly what Joe Flacco and the passing game need, and his familiarity with Flacco’s brother, Tom, from college also makes for a fun story.

It also didn’t go unnoticed at the pre-draft press conference earlier this month that Eric DeCosta barely made mention of Davis when discussing the top receivers, instead talking more about Mike Williams of Clemson and John Ross of Washington. With Davis then taking an official visit a couple weeks later, was that perceived lack of interest a bit of a smoke screen from the assistant general manager?

If the Ravens do stay put at No. 16, there should be at least a few really good prospects staring them in the face, regardless of how the first 15 picks play out.

If they’re convinced that Davis — or Williams — will be that true impact receiver that the offense needs, they shouldn’t waste time turning in their card, regardless of their rough draft history at the position.

If Derek Barnett or Takkarist McKinley feels like the successor to Terrell Suggs, then go for it.

If they see Temple’s Haason Reddick as a dynamic linebacker, draft him and then carve out a flexible role to best utilize his talents.

And with this draft class not having good offensive line depth, the Ravens shouldn’t dismiss taking Cam Robinson if he can immediately be a stud right tackle or Forrest Lamp if they’re convinced that he’s the next Marshal Yanda. Protecting Flacco and improving the running game are too important to this team’s success to pass up the right offensive line prospect in the right spot.

In other words, there can be more than one right answer for the Ravens at 16th overall.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens just can’t afford to be wrong.

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