Tag Archive | "Eric Decosta"

Not paying injured Suggs would be costly move for Ravens’ future

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Not paying injured Suggs would be costly move for Ravens’ future

Posted on 17 May 2012 by Luke Jones

Whether you believe Terrell Suggs’ claim that he partially tore his Achilles tendon while training in Arizona or just can’t shake the lingering whispers that he suffered the injury playing basketball, one thing is certain.

The Ravens are under no obligation to pay the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year his scheduled $4.9 million base salary in 2012 because the injury took place away from the team’s Owings Mills facility.

In a vacuum, the logical move would be to place Suggs on the non-football injury list, which would remove him from the 53-man roster for the first six weeks of the regular season while he tries to recover in time for the second half of the season. However, unlike the physically unable to perform list, this designation would allow the organization to withhold the portion of his salary covered by the games missed or the entire $4.9 million should Suggs be unable to return during the season.

It would clear salary cap room to create more flexibility in tweaking the roster or potentially acquiring another pass-rush specialist such as the Giants’ Osi Umenyiora in the unlikely scenario that a deal could be struck.

But the short-term cap relief would have far-reaching consequences for general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens in the real world of the NFL. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the wise action to take.

Though not held in the same light as future Hall of Fame defensive players Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Suggs has etched his name into the legacy of the defense in nearly a decade of exceptional play. The 29-year-old has been a highly-regarded member of the organization who never squawked after twice being designated the team’s franchise player before signing a six-year, $62.5 million contract in July 2009.

An attempt to withhold his base salary might do irreparable damage to the two sides’ relationship with two years remaining on Suggs’ contract following the 2012 season. While it remains to be seen whether Suggs is able to regain his previous form as one of the most feared defensive players in the league, such an act could be viewed as a slap in the face to a player whose motivation occasionally came into question early in his career. And it probably wouldn’t create the proper mindset for a man attempting to come back from a severe injury at an accelerated rate.

The reach of this decision stretches beyond the injured Suggs, impacting the current locker room and even future Ravens not yet with the franchise. One of the reasons why the Ravens have been so successful over the years is their player-friendly reputation, attracting talented players who want to buy into the organization and continue its winning ways. To go after Suggs’ wallet would be a clear message to players that the organization will do the same thing to them should they land in a similar position one day.

The Ravens have a certain way of doing things and stripping Suggs of his base salary — even if it’s within their rights — doesn’t conform with the philosophies implemented by owner Steve Bisciotti, Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and head coach John Harbaugh. As displeased as they might be with the circumstances that led to Suggs’ injury, it’s simply not a battle worth fighting with a valued member of their family they hope will continue to contribute in years to come.

Which leads to the dirty little secret regarding Suggs and the circumstances that led to the Achilles injury.

The new collective bargaining agreement prohibits teams from opening their training facilities until the middle of April, a stipulation the union wanted in order to provide more time off for its players. However, teams clearly expect players to begin training for the new season long before that time and any player not doing so is asking to eventually lose his job to someone else.

But doing so puts them at risk of losing money should they sustain an injury from any activity — such as lifting weights or running — occurring away from the team’s facility. Taking money from a player — even if the circumstances are questionable but not egregious — sets a dangerous precedent that might cause others to question their commitment and how hard they work away from Owings Mills if it’s going to put them at financial risk.

And that would jeopardize the top priority of the organization.

Winning.

The organization prides itself on the winning environment it’s created over the last 17 years. Suggs buys into that atmosphere as much as anyone — even if you think he may have used questionable judgment prior to the injury.

The Ravens may still elect to handle the matter privately with Suggs as WNST.net’s Drew Forrester reported at the time of the injury that the linebacker has a clause in his contract that subjects him to a $250,000 fine for participating in any unapproved physical activities. And that’s perfectly within their rights if that’s the route they choose to take.

But publicly taking a hardline stance with one of the best players in franchise history sends the wrong message to not only Suggs but to every other player in the organization. It draws a line in the sand saying our family atmosphere and winning culture aren’t as authentic as we made them out to be.

Such an action would damage their reputation as one of the most player-friendly organizations in the NFL.

And that’s worth far more to them than the $4.9 million — or some portion of it — potentially saved in 2012.

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Ravens officially name DeCosta Assistant GM

Posted on 17 May 2012 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Ravens announced several promotions within their personnel department on Thursday: Eric DeCosta has been named Assistant General Manager, Joe Douglas has been elevated to National Scout, and David Blackburn has been tabbed an Area Scout.

DeCosta, 41, who has served as the Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel the past three years, joined the franchise in an entry-level position in 1996. He moved his way up through the personnel ranks, first as an Area Scout, then as Director of College Scouting, and was subsequently promoted to Director of Player Personnel in 2009.

DeCosta works closely with Executive Vice President/General Manager Ozzie Newsome to oversee both the college and pro scouting departments. During his tenure as the scouting director, the Ravens drafted Pro Bowlers OLB Terrell Suggs (’03), DT Haloti Ngata (’06), G Ben Grubbs (’07), G Marshal Yanda (’07), FB Le’Ron McClain (’07) and RB Ray Rice (’08).

“When we extended Eric’s contract earlier this year, we changed his title to Assistant GM,” Newsome said. “As Eric continues to grow in the personnel department, he is becoming a vital part of the decision-making process.”

Entering his 13th season with the Ravens, Douglas, 35, has served as the team’s Area Scout Southeast since 2009. From 2003-07, he evaluated players in the Northeast, and in 2008, scouted the entire East Coast. Douglas played a key role in scouting and evaluating first-round pick QB Joe Flacco – the Ravens’ all-time leading passer – and Rice, the two-time Pro Bowler.

Additionally, Douglas has organized and coordinated the team’s post-draft rookie free agent signing process, which over the past several seasons has produced standout players such as LB Jameel McClain, LB Dannell Ellerbe and WR LaQuan Williams.

“Joe is so deserving of his promotion to national scout,” DeCosta stated. “He’s a top evaluator and communicator, and he’s been loyal to the Ravens over the years. In his expanded role, he’ll be scouting players across the country, which only makes us better. We are very excited for Joe.”

Blackburn, 29, joined the Ravens as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2007 after serving one year as a graduate assistant at Butler University coaching cornerbacks. He has spent the past five seasons working with Baltimore’s scouting staff in a number of roles, including preparing advance scouting reports of upcoming opponents, analyzing free agent prospects for pro personnel, scouting draftable collegiate players at multiple schools and helping coordinate in-season free agent workouts/visits.

In his new position as an Area Scout, the 2004 graduate of DePauw University will scout prospects at schools in the Northwest, Southwest and Midwest regions.

“We are looking forward to working with David in his new role as an Area Scout,” Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He has done a great job the past five years working in both our pro and college departments, and he has received a well-earned promotion. David has a strong understanding of the type of player and person we look for in a ‘Raven.’ We’re confident he’ll give us another good set of eyes and ears to continue identifying the prospects we value.”

The Ravens also announced that Mark Azevedo has assumed the title of Area Scout Southeast, formerly held by Douglas. Azevedo, 30, was named an Area Scout in 2010, focusing the majority of his attention on schools in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest regions. He originally joined the Ravens as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2005 and will now shift his primary responsibilities to the Southeast.

Additionally, Kenny Sanders, who spent the past two seasons interning in the team’s scouting department, has been hired as a Player Personnel Assistant. A 2004 graduate of Gettysburg College, he was a three-year letterman while playing defensive back. A Baltimore native, Sanders, 30, prepped at the McDonogh School.

Ravens “20/20 Club” Graduates: Current Personnel Staff
DeCosta, Hortiz, Douglas, Azevedo and Blackburn are all current graduates of the Ravens’ “20/20 Club,” which includes members of the team’s personnel staff who started with the organization as young personnel assistants and grew into evaluators with more input. The term “20/20” refers to hiring 20-year-olds for $20,000. According to Newsome, however, “The guys actually started when they were a little older than 20 and for more than $20,000, but that’s what we call them.”

Name                        Joined Ravens       Current Title
George Kokinis (Cle.)      1991                 Senior Personnel Assistant
Eric DeCosta                    1996                 Assistant General Manager
Joe Hortiz                        1998                 Director of College Scouting
Chad Alexander              1999                 Assistant Director of Pro Personnel
Joe Douglas                     2000                 National Scout
Mark Azevedo                2005                 Area Scout Southeast
David Blackburn             2007                 Area Scout

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Lacking sizzle, Ravens get creative to address pressing needs in draft

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Lacking sizzle, Ravens get creative to address pressing needs in draft

Posted on 28 April 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Trying to assess the Ravens’ 2012 NFL Draft the weekend it takes place is like a movie critic writing a review based on a trailer.

It’s no better than an educated guess, with no one really knowing what the future holds for the eight college players selected by Baltimore in the final weekend of April. But one thing appeared certain based on the expressions and comments of general manager  Ozzie Newsome and director of player personnel Eric DeCosta at the post-draft press conference.

The Ravens’ brass was frustrated at times and really had to work to land their players this weekend. There weren’t many high-profile names, but the front office did what they needed to do to try to address their most pressing concerns entering the 2012 season.

“I think we probably had to manufacture some runs this year,” DeCosta said. “We had some players that we liked and they got picked, and we had to get creative quickly on the fly. I thought the trade opportunity in the first round was fantastic. We were prepared.”

The stretch to which DeCosta was referring likely began after offensive tackle Riley Reiff was selected by Detroit with the 23rd pick. Stanford guard David DeCastro, Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, Illinois pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, and Wisconsin center Kevin Zeitler came off the board in that order following Reiff, and all were players the Ravens would have strongly considered with the 29th pick.

It’s hard to argue with the end result of the Ravens trading back to the 35th pick and selecting Alabama linebacker-defensive end Courtney Upshaw, who provides a legitimate pass-rush threat to complement All-Pro linebacker on the opposite edge. His underwhelming workout numbers caused Upshaw to slip into the second round, but his pedigree playing for an SEC defensive powerhouse makes him a good bet to become another force in the Baltimore defense — even if not overnight.

“He is a really explosive player and heavy-handed,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He plays hard and he is versatile. He has played with his hand down and up, so he can stand up on two feet and play and then get down and play in the sub packages as a rusher.”

The Ravens’ other two Day Two selections, Iowa State offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and Temple running back Bernard Pierce, look like solid additions. More will be initially expected of Osemele, who will be asked to provide serious competition against second-year lineman Jah Reid for the Ravens’ vacant left guard spot. Pierce’s addition not only fills the void left behind by the retiring backup Ricky Williams but provides an insurance policy should Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice hold out during training camp with contract talks moving at a snail’s pace.

But after the Ravens’ first three selections, the projections become far trickier as Newsome and the front office used their next three selections on FCS players with plenty of upside but many question marks as well.

The organization envisions Gino Gradkowski of Delaware as its center of the future, but there’s always the doubt over how players from the FCS level will adjust to the size and speed of the NFL, a dramatic jump for even the top players competing in BCS conferences.

Safety Christian Thompson of South Carolina State and Cal Poly cornerback Asa Jackson will add depth to the secondary but mostly be counted upon to fill special-teams roles vacated by departing veterans such as Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. The Ravens hope Jackson can assume the punt return duties so No. 1 cornerback Lardarius Webb will not have to be exposed to the role as he was last season.

The Ravens are banking on their recent success of drafting FCS players such as quarterback Joe Flacco and Webb to strike again in 2012.

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Big picture takes priority in draft over immediate needs for Ravens

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Big picture takes priority in draft over immediate needs for Ravens

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Luke Jones

In summing up the phenomenon that has become the NFL Draft over the years, former Ravens coach Brian Billick’s introductory mantra for teams drafting a quarterback is more than fitting in describing the entire event.

Nobody knows anything.

Of course, the phrase is hyperbole when considering the individuals — such as the ones residing at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills — who have proven time and time again they mostly know what they’re doing. Still, other organizations over the years — the franchise down the road in Landover comes to mind — have either used their picks as blind shots at a dartboard or, even worse, sold them away for deteriorating veteran pieces for the short term that often leave their franchises in football purgatory.

While everyone hopes to discover the winning Powerball ticket, there is just as much anxiety about uncovering the kind of skunk that can get the head coach, general manager, and scouting department fired. After four months of mock drafts, 40 times, pro days, and the assembling of draft boards, we’ll finally get our first look at the hand each of the 32 teams is holding this weekend.

And, even then, the same will hold true for everyone after the 253rd pick is turned in Saturday evening: we won’t really know for a few more years.

For the Ravens, we all know the philosophy and can recite it by heart. It’s all about the “best player available” and staying true to their draft board. However, they arguably have their most glaring need — the left guard position — since drafting Joe Flacco as their badly-needed franchise quarterback in 2008.

Whether you believe second-year tackle Jah Reid can successfully make the transition to left guard or not, it doesn’t take a fortune-teller to predict loud concern among fans should the Ravens walk away without an interior lineman in the first couple rounds of the draft. Even if that scenario plays out, a look at recent history reminds us how essential it is to allow the results to play out.

In 2008, the second-round selection of Rutgers running back Ray Rice appeared curious after the Ravens had just forked over multiple draft picks and a hefty contract to Willis McGahee the year before. Of course, Rice soon became a Pro Bowl running back while McGahee drifted to a backup role before ultimately being shown the door last year.

And with the benefit of hindsight and the surprising emergence of Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams last season, would the Ravens have still selected cornerback Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick in 2011 or perhaps traded out of the spot to address another area?

Could the Ravens pass on selecting a guard and watch Reid blossom into an above-average guard?

You never know what the future holds, making it even more critical to choose the player you envision to be the best over the next four or five years and not just one who can help immediately in 2012.

The consensus choice among experts’ mock drafts is Wisconsin center Peter Konz, who makes perfect sense on paper because of the perceived ability of Konz to shift over to left guard for a season before taking over for veteran Matt Birk, whose three-year contract is essentially structured to be a one-year deal. Konz would certainly address the Ravens’ most immediate need, but will he ultimately be the best player available when thinking about the next four or five seasons?

The Ravens have lacked a tall, impact receiver since the early years of the franchise, making it difficult to pass on a raw talent with major upside such as Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill at the end of the first round. As WNST.net’s Glenn Clark pointed out, there is value at wide receiver in the second and third rounds, but does make you turn away from Hill and toward another position, even if you’re confident he becomes a premier receiver over the next five years?

Other than perhaps quarterback and cornerback, the Ravens could stand to benefit from adding premium talent at any position. In the unlikely scenario that a left tackle prospect such as Riley Reiff of Iowa or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin becomes available — and assuming the Ravens’ brass grade out the given player as favorably as the experts do — Baltimore shouldn’t think twice about drafting its left tackle of the future, even if it means he sits on the bench for a year behind Bryant McKinnie and is unable to spend a cameo season at guard. The same holds true if Alabama’s Mark Barron slides down the draft board, even though the Ravens appear set at safety this season with Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard under contract.

The NFL Draft is about building franchises for the long haul, not plugging holes for that coming fall. You weigh the merits of perceived “safer” picks such as Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler who might have a lower ceiling against the potential rewards of drafting an upside player like Hill who possesses a higher bust rate.

If you’re confident that safe pick will blossom into a Pro Bowl player, you take him like the Ravens did with Ben Grubbs in 2007. But there are other times where rolling the dice — within reason — is the best move if you’ve done your homework and are confident in your coaching staff and the young man in which you’re investing.

The good news is Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and Joe Hortiz know these lessons as well as any talent evaluators in the league.

Whether their first-round selection falls in line with an immediate need such as guard or wide receiver or is more of a long-term consideration like left tackle, inside linebacker, or safety, the Ravens are looking beyond next season when they turn in their card on Thursday night. It’s not just about 2012 and trying to move the Ravens one step further than they went last year; it’s finding the player who will put them in the best position to win over the next five years.

You never truly know whether it’s going to work out or not, but keeping the big picture in focus will keep you pointed in the right direction.

It’s not always what the fans want and it may leave them scratching their heads and groaning about the results on draft day, but you’re ultimately making the choice based on the cheers you expect to hear over the next several years.

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Biggest needs remain unchanged as Ravens inch closer to draft

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Biggest needs remain unchanged as Ravens inch closer to draft

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Luke Jones

At the Ravens’ season-ending press conference two months ago, general manager Ozzie Newsome stated his team’s most glaring needs entering the offseason.

The Ravens have boosted their special teams and retained center Matt Birk and inside linebacker Jameel McClain in free agency, but limited cap space has hindered their ability to make improvements in other areas. As a result, the organization will rely on the avenue in which they’ve thrived over the last 16 years — the draft — to make improvements at the positions Newsome and the front office referenced in early February.

“I don’t think that has changed much from the end of the season,” Newsome said. “We need to add some players on the offensive line. We can add another receiver. We still feel that we can add some depth at the pass-rush position or at SAM ‘backer.”

With Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs signing a five-year contract to join the New Orleans Saints, the Ravens have a huge hole on the offensive line they will desperately try to address in the early rounds. While coach John Harbaugh has expressed optimism that second-year tackle Jah Reid can make the transition to the inside, a viable competitor for the position is a necessity in trying to replace the team’s best offensive lineman.

Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta offered no surprises in assessing the top interior lineman in the draft, mentioning Stanford’s David DeCastro, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz of Wisconsins, and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn. DeCosta praised Glenn’s ability to play multiple positions on the line, but his comments were lukewarm when asked about Konz’s potential to be moved from his normal center position to guard as some have suggested with Birk back at center for 2012.

Of the aforementioned names, the Ravens are unlikely to have each at their disposal with the 29th overall pick, but they remain confident in their ability to land a quality offensive line prospect in the first few rounds.

“I think we have players in every round that we like,” DeCosta said. “One of the things we try to do is ascertain the value, league-wise, and then look at our value, how we value players. And usually, there’s a match there for us. At any point in any round we have a couple of players to choose from in any given position, for sure.”

Though not as pressing as left guard, wide receiver is another position at which the Ravens would like to add depth behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. A speedy receiver with size would bring more diversity to the passing game and provide another red-zone target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill has stolen draft-season headlines with impressive workouts, ideal height (6-feet-4), and a 4.33-second 40 time even though his college production was underwhelming in a run-first offensive attack. His measurables have propelled his draft stock as high as the second half of the first round, according to some prognosticators.

“He’s an explosive guy who plays in that triple-option offense and really jumped off the film in terms of vertical speed,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He’s raw, like a lot of guys are who have come out of that offense, [like] Demaryius Thomas. Their route polish isn’t quite there, but his athletic traits are really outstanding and exceptional, rare for the position.”

The Ravens will also look at versatile wide receivers who can add to the return game, an area in which they struggled in 2011. Coach John Harbaugh admitted in a perfect world he would like to have a backup handle punt return duties rather than starting cornerback Lardarius Webb but would not go as far as saying he won’t return punts in 2012.

With the departures of backups Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura via free agency and starters Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard entering the final year of their respective contracts, safety is a position at which the Ravens need to add depth as well as potentially search for long-term solutions.

Alabama’s Mark Barron is the consensus top safety in the draft, but it’s unlikely he’ll be on the board by the time the Ravens pick in the first round. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith might be a more realistic option at the end of the first round or early in the second if the Ravens would choose to trade back.

“Harrison Smith is an interesting guy, too,” DeCosta said. “He’s a big, rangy safety who runs pretty well. He’s got good ball skills. He’s very smart. I think he’s a two-time captain at Notre Dame, which tells you about his personality, intangibles and leadership. Both guys are very good players.”

While only so much should be taken from Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference — nicknamed the “liar’s luncheon” over the years — the Ravens will maintain the same philosophy that’s brought them so much draft success in the history of the franchise.

“Some needs have to go into play, because we have to fulfill them,” Newsome said. “But we still — and we have said this for 16 years — we will not take [a lesser player for] need over a real good player at another position.”

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Bisciotti revisits many reasons he hired John Harbaugh

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Bisciotti revisits many reasons he hired John Harbaugh

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Four years ago Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti fired Brian Billick and set forth to hire a new head coach. After dancing with Jason Garrett, he hired John Harbaugh. The success has been apparent to all as well as Bisciotti’s decision to keep Ozzie Newsome aboard in Baltimore.

Hear what Bisciotti told me this afternoon in Palm Beach, Fla.:

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DeCosta remaining with Ravens, won’t interview for GM openings

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DeCosta remaining with Ravens, won’t interview for GM openings

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their bye week and poised to host a playoff game next Sunday in Baltimore, they received even more good news with the announcement on Friday that director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is staying put.

After having his name linked to general manager openings in Chicago, St. Louis, Oakland, and Indianapolis, the 40-year-old will forgo any interviews to remain with the organization where he received his start in 1996. DeCosta has been identified as the heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome and had turned down interview opportunities in the past, including one with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009.

“He has chosen to stay with the Ravens, and we’re excited that he will,” Newsome said in an official statement. “He is a most valuable asset and will continue to help us win championships.”

DeCosta served as the Ravens’ director of college scouting for six years before being elevated to his current position on Jan. 28, 2009. He began at an entry-level position within the organization in its first year in Baltimore before becoming an area scout in 1998.

Past front office members such as Phil Savage and George Kokinis have left the organization to accept general manager positions, only to find the grass isn’t always elsewhere. Kokinis has since returned to the Ravens as a senior personnel assistant. DeCosta, a Massachusetts native, has close ties to the area with his wife hailing from Maryland.

“Since this franchise started in 1996, we’ve established a strong history of retaining our most important executives, players, coaches and personnel experts,” Newsome said. “Eric, who has had opportunities to interview with other teams recently and over the years, is another one we want to keep and will keep.”

With DeCosta staying with the Ravens, the question will now continue to be how much longer the 55-year-old Newsome remains as general manager. Serving as Newsome’s right-hand man, DeCosta has a strong relationship with the long-time architect of the Ravens.

Hear DeCosta’s Friday morning conversation with Drew Forrester and Nestor Aparicio hours before the announcement right here.

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ….

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ….

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Rex Snider

As we’ve now endured more than 130 days immersed within football’s version of HELL, it appears the brink of a new season awaits us.  Vote on this, vote on that ….

Training camps are supposedly opening next Saturday morning.  That’s the latest information from a twisted saga that has taken many, many turns.

Free agency is predicted to be a frenzied period of mass signings and cuts, along with very little time for dragging out negotiations.  In other words, we won’t be tortured with weeks of whether Brett Favre is coming back or not.

The biggest free agency prizes will likely have new homes and helmets by the time I return from vacation, two weeks from today.  And, Owings Mills will most certainly be a destination for a number of known NFL talents, as well.

Did I mention vacation?

That’s correct …. as the Ravens report to Westminster-East at the franchise’s headquarters, and as the world of the NFL is turned upside down with mass rumors, tweets, speculations and ultimate transactions, I will be enjoying all the news from the comforts of a beach chair in the surf, at Dewey Beach.

Perfect timing, huh?

We’re still days away from any official windows of negotiation – we’re not 100% certain of rules and policies regarding such overtures – and names of possible casualties and additions for the 2011 edition of the Baltimore Ravens are abounding.

Who do you believe?  What do you believe?  Should you even believe this lockout is really coming to an end?

The lockout is ending.  The owners and players have long concluded this marriage won’t suffer a separation that costs either side any money.  Thus, you can bet we’re on the brink of actually seeing, hearing and talking about football and its daily drama …..

And, as we’re on the verge of a new season, the speculation has already begun.  We know the Ravens will make some painful cuts of veteran talents, while also conceding to allow some of the team’s free agents to walk away.  But, they’re likely to make some very exciting additions, as well. 

We kinda know most of the team’s needs – but, we don’t really know what Ozzie Newsome and company are thinking …. OR how they’ll go about building their vision of the best team for the upcoming season.

But, we’ve heard the rumors.

Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie, Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh and others whom are tasked with collaborating to the choices of parting with members of “the family” are undoubtedly conflicted over a number of such decisions.  They’re human and while the heart doesn’t likely figure into the ultimate decision, its certainly impacted – especially when they leave Winning Drive and explore their conscience. 

But, it’s the business of the National Football League.

I’ll leave you with a pictorial collection of the rumored potential exits that could transpire over the next couple weeks.  Some are predictably apparent and others are a reach.  From a personal perspective, I can imagine this process is among the toughest and most agonizing for any executives.

I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to weigh in with thoughts and opinions …..

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Former Terps WR Torrey Smith ready to “help Ravens get to a Super Bowl…and win it”

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Former Terps WR Torrey Smith ready to “help Ravens get to a Super Bowl…and win it”

Posted on 04 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

From the start of the evaluation process for the 2011 NFL Draft, the Ravens personnel department said repeatedly that they were very interested in bringing in former Maryland Terps wide receiver Torrey Smith for a look at solving their offensive woes.

Torrey Smith

But only if the price was right.

And that price was at best a second-round pick-which happened to be the case as former Ravens LB Peter Boulware announced that Baltimore had selected the Maryland Terrapins junior receiver with the 58th selection last Friday night.

And for Smith, playing for the nearby Ravens was definitely a possibility  for him, as he told Thyrl Nelson Monday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” in his first appearance on Nelson’s program since becoming a Raven.

Smith had joined Nelson every week since January giving updates on his draft preparation.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Smith told Nelson. “I wanted to be there.”

Before the draft based on Smith’s pure athletic ability, resume at Maryland and his Combine numbers, Torrey Smith had been projected by every mock draft to at least land on all 32 NFL teams.

But luckily, Smith was able to fall given some of the other wide receivers and position players being of need.

But despite not being drafted Thursday by an NFL team, Smith knew that he could always rely on the Ravens to call his name.

“I felt like Ozzie and Coach Harbaugh wanted to draft me,” Smith said. “I’m just happy everything happened the way it did.”

In a sense, it seemed like it was meant to be for the Ravens to take their second Jimmy Smith of the draft weekend (Torrey’s real first name is James.)

“I didn’t necessarily think he was going to be there,” Ravens director of pro personnel Eric DeCosta told Drew Forrester Tuesday morning. “I thought it was probably a 50-50 shot.”

It does come as quite the surprise that Smith was available to the Ravens at 58 given his impressive resume in his final season at Maryland.

Smith had 67 catches (4th best in school history), 1,055 yards and a Maryland-record 12 TDs in his final season at College Park, and built on his career numbers of 152 catches, 2,215 yards, and 19 TDs.

Only former Raven Jermaine Lewis has more receiving touchdowns (21)and yards (2,932)in his career than Smith.

Smith hopes he can bring the same skills to the table taking passes from Joe Flacco behind two of the best in the business.

“I just want to help anywhere I can,” Smith said. “I’m lucky to be able to learn from Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. I’m looking forward to learning from them.”

Smith also offers versatility and options to the Ravens in the return game. In fact, Smith broke onto the scene in the ACC more for his return skills at first-then he blossomed into an NFL-caliber receiver.

In his career, he amassed 2, 983 return yards which broke the previous ACC-record.

His three career touchdowns returned via kickoff are a Terrapins school record.

All-in-all, it was everything Smith brings to the Ravens that caused Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome to call Smith their “three-pointer”.

“I think the Ravens can use my speed,” Smith said. “They need that from me. I’m happy I can provide that and give the Ravens my best up there.”

But Torrey’s going to have to put on the brakes for now. Just like the rest of the Ravens draft picks minus first-rounder Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith unfortunately wasn’t able to get a playbook from the Ravens coaching staff due to the lockout being put back into place by the owners Friday into Saturday.

“I was only able to say hello at the press conference and that was it. I couldn’t talk about football and didn’t get any playbooks,” Smith said. “It was tough.”

But so far, he has heard from several of his new Ravens teammates though and they are ready to embrace him as quickly as the opportunity presents itself.

And he’s ready to use the same speed in getting prepared toward playing in the NFL that he used toward burning past ACC-defenders and tacklers.

“My goal is to help the Ravens get to a Super Bowl and win it,” Smith said. “I hope the judge rules in favor of the players so that everything can get going.”

WNST thanks Torrey Smith for joining “The Mobtown Sports Beat” after being drafted by the Ravens and leading up to the Draft as well! Torrey being a Raven makes it that much easier to root for him! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Live From Owings Mills: With Draft in Rear View, Pass Rush Must Be Priority for Ravens

Posted on 30 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens concluded the 2011 NFL Draft Sunday by making five additional selections.

Indiana WR Tandon Doss (4th round-123rd overall), Texas CB Chykie Brown (5th round-164th overall), Mississippi State DE Pernell McPhee (5th round, 165th overall), Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor (6th round, 180th overall), and Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen (7th round, 225th overall) will all have the opportunity to make the roster out of Training Camp and provide depth for a team that appears to be capable of again making a run at the AFC playoffs.

Yet as the team now transitions from the end of the Draft to what we eventually hope will be the start of the offseason, they do so without having made a significant upgrade to a disappointing pass rush unit. The good news is that unlike in past years, the team was able to make their choices in the Draft knowing they would still have a way to upgrade the rush.

“I like it better” said Head Coach John Harbaugh Saturday. “You’re always looking for need. You take the best available player, but everybody knows that’s not a pure rule. Need is mixed into that whole thing.”

Harbaugh acknowledged that without taking a rusher early the Ravens can now “look at free agency and try to pay for a guy.”

The Ravens will presumably have options to pay free agent defensive ends whenever free agency does begin. Ray Edwards (Minnesota Vikings), Jason Babin (Tennessee Titans) and Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants) are all expected to become free agents. The Ravens could use any of that group to help improve a D-Line that finished the 2010 season with just 9.5 sacks last season and only four sacks from D-Linemen not named Haloti Ngata.

“Pass rushers are like corners” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “You don’t ever have enough of those guys. You need as many rushers as you can get. We tried to draft a couple of them, they got picked one pick or two picks before us.”

The wild card in the group is of course McPhee, who showed signs of being a productive rush end during two years in Starkville and was an outstanding rush end before that at Itawamba Community College. He tallied 32.5 sacks in two JUCO seasons but just seven during his two seasons at MSU.

The Ravens have been unable to produce a productive rush end since Trevor Pryce’s 13 sack season in 2006. The team had hoped for more immediate production from 2009 second round pick DE Paul Kruger, but he has produced just one sack total in his first two seasons. Cory Redding performed admirably in 2010, but got to the quarterback just three times.

The Ravens will be more hard-pressed to find OLB production in this year’s free agent class. Kansas City Chiefs LB Tamba Hali was franchised earlier in the offseason, taking the only premiere rush linebacker out of the offseason mix.

Newsome confirmed the team would make pass rush a priority for the remainder of the offseason.

“If we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in a position to get someone else, we would probably be looking at it very seriously.”

The team still hopes LB Sergio Kindle can help improve a defense that totaled just 27 sacks in 2010. Kindle missed the entire season while recovering from a fractured skull suffered in a preseason accident at a friend’s house in Austin. Kindle combined for 16 sacks between his junior and senior seasons with the Longhorns before being selected by the Ravens in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Kindle has received medical clearance to begin football work, but is not guaranteed to be on the field when the Ravens open the season September 11th against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Should the Ravens not be able to upgrade their pass rush via trade/free agency, they may ultimately regret not using an early round selection on a front seven defender. The good news is that unlike in other years, the team will be able to address their needs after the Draft.

NOTES: Newsome and Harbaugh introduced their first two picks-Colorado CB Jimmy Smith and Maryland WR Torrey Smith-at a Saturday morning press conference. The presser can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Our brief interview with Smith is available courtesy of WNSTV/YouTube below……Harbaugh told reporters the team was able to give Jimmy Smith a playbook Friday night before the lockout was put back into effect, but was not able to get a playbook to any other Draft choice……Conference calls with Brown and Taylor are also available in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault, as is the team’s Draft wrap press conference featuring Newsome, Harbaugh, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IeV-3JDH_Q&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

-G

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