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How Zuttah fits in return to Ravens offensive line remains unclear

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah is back with the Ravens, but determining how he’ll fit into a revamped offensive line isn’t easy.

After starting all 16 games and being invited to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, the 31-year-old was traded to San Francisco in March as the Ravens wanted to get bigger and stronger at the position. But after season-ending injuries to Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa and the surprising retirement of John Urschel, the Ravens found themselves extremely thin on the interior line, prompting general manager Ozzie Newsome to re-sign his former starting center a week after he was cut by the 49ers.

No assurances have been made that Zuttah will automatically move back into the starting job he held over the last three seasons.

“The role for right now is to come out, work hard and earn playing time,” Zuttah said after his first practice back with Baltimore. “They said to go out there, compete, and we’ll see where we’re at. That’s honestly where we are.”

Head coach John Harbaugh isn’t tipping his hand, either, but he did say Zuttah would work primarily at center and probably wouldn’t be viewed as an option to start at guard beyond an “emergency” scenario. Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was listed on the latest depth chart as the first-team left guard after the news broke about Lewis undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, but he’s played left tackle in recent days with starter Ronnie Stanley sidelined with an undisclosed ailment.

With Hurst also serving as the primary backup at both tackle spots, some have speculated that the Ravens could shift Jensen to left guard to help stabilize that position and to allow Hurst to focus on left and right tackle responsibilities in practice. Former practice-squad member Matt Skura started at left guard in Thursday’s preseason win over Miami.

The third preseason game against Buffalo next Saturday will offer more clarity, but Harbaugh was content to declare a center competition between Zuttah and Jensen for now.

“They are both in play. We will do whatever is best for the Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “The best players play, and the best players are the guys who play the best. That is how we do it — always have, always will. We will see how it plays out. I love competition, and I’m sure that all of those guys in there want to start.

“They have to earn it, so that is what they will try to do.”

Listed to be 19 pounds heavier than Zuttah, Jensen better fits the profile of what the Ravens wanted at the position with senior offensive assistant Greg Roman implementing a more downhill and physical brand of run-blocking schemes. Zuttah was originally acquired by the Ravens in 2014 when former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was bringing his stretch-zone blocking scheme to Baltimore.

There’s also something to be said about Jensen’s durability and performance at center this summer, which has been steady despite a carousel of players at every other position on the line.

“Even when he has had [physical issues], he has fought through them and gone out and practiced,” Harbaugh said. “He has played well in the games. He played better in this [past] game than the first game. I thought he played well in this game. He’s a motivated guy. We will see what happens.”

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humphrey

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Five new absences from Ravens practice after second preseason game

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to practice with five new absences after their preseason win over Miami on Thursday night.

Veteran running back Danny Woodhead, 2017 first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey, wide receiver Chris Matthews, linebacker Donald Payne, and defensive back Robertson Daniel were among those missing from the field during the portion of Saturday’s workout open to reporters. All five played in the 31-7 victory over the Dolphins.

Head coach John Harbaugh said after the game that the Ravens were being cautious with Humphrey after he’d recently been dealing with a “soft tissue” injury. Humphrey took part in just six defensive snaps and three special-teams plays on Thursday, leading one to assume he aggravated the previous injury against Miami. The Alabama product missed five straight workouts with the ailment earlier this month and had only returned to practice last Saturday.

Other players missing on Saturday included quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), offensive lineman Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee). Harbaugh said after Thursday’s game that Flacco is not expected to return to practice this week.

The newly-signed Jeremy Zuttah was present and working a day after rejoining his former team. The veteran offensive lineman was assigned No. 64 since his old No. 53 is currently being worn by linebacker Bam Bradley.

Former Ravens tight end and Ring of Honor inductee Todd Heap was visiting practice and was greeted with a hug from former teammate Terrell Suggs.

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zuttah

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Ravens bring back veteran Jeremy Zuttah to boost offensive line depth

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Just over five months after being traded to San Francisco, veteran offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah is returning to the Ravens.

On Friday, the sides agreed to a two-year contract worth just under $4 million in base salary and up to $6 million with incentives, according to NFL Network. Zuttah had also drawn interest from Indianapolis after being released by the 49ers last week.

The 31-year-old started 41 games at center for the Ravens from 2014-2016 and was invited to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, but he was bothered by nagging injuries over the last two years. Baltimore aimed to have a more physical presence at the center position this offseason, prompting the trade to San Francisco that included an exchange of sixth-round picks in April’s draft.

Last year, Zuttah was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best center in the NFL and was ranked 26th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system. It remains unclear what Zuttah’s role will be as Ryan Jensen has shown steady play as the starting center this summer, but the former’s return could push Jensen to left guard where the Ravens are trying to fill the void left by the injured Alex Lewis.

Zuttah also started 41 games at left guard early in his career with Tampa Bay.

No matter where Zuttah fits, the Ravens needed depth for the interior line after losing Lewis (shoulder) and 2017 fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa (knee) to season-ending injuries and fourth-year lineman John Urschel to retirement since the start of training camp. Baltimore started unknown third-stringer Jarrod Pughsley at right guard against Miami on Thursday night, a reflection of how thin their depth had become.

Zuttah is the second notable addition to the offensive line this month as general manager Ozzie Newsome signed veteran right tackle Austin Howard to a three-year contract on Aug. 4.

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Former Ravens center Zuttah released by San Francisco

Posted on 09 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Less than five months after being traded, former Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah has been released by San Francisco.

The 49ers chose to part ways with the 31-year-old Wednesday after it was apparent that he wasn’t going to win the starting job from incumbent Daniel Kilgore. The Ravens swapped Zuttah and their 2017 sixth-round pick for San Francisco’s 2017 sixth-round pick on March 15, a move that led to general manager Ozzie Newsome selecting Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark with the 186th overall pick in April’s draft.

Zuttah was scheduled to make $3.5 million in base salary for the 2017 season.

Baltimore’s decision to trade Zuttah was more about his underwhelming play in 2016 and the desire to get bigger and stronger at the position than about his salary, but the organization didn’t add a veteran center in the offseason and lost fourth-year interior lineman John Urschel to his surprising retirement at the start of training camp.

It’s unclear if the Ravens would be interested in re-signing Zuttah at a lower salary for depth with Ryan Jensen currently slated to start at center. In addition to Urschel’s retirement, the Ravens lost fourth-round rookie guard Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury in training camp, leaving former practice-squad member Matt Skura as their top reserve interior lineman behind Jensen and starting guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis.

Zuttah has started 117 games in his NFL career and was added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, but nagging injuries contributed to a decline in his play over the last two seasons. He started 41 games at center in his three seasons with the Ravens.

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yanda

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Offensive line

Posted on 26 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Linebackers
Tight ends
Safeties

OFFENSIVE LINE

Projected depth chart:
LT – Ronnie Stanley, De’Ondre Wesley, Roubbens Joseph
LG – Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa, Jarell Broxton, Maurquice Shakir
C – John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Matt Skura, Brandon Kublanow
RG – Marshal Yanda, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jarrod Pughsley
RT – James Hurst, Stephane Nembot

Why to be impressed: Even with a shoulder injury that forced him to move to the opposite side last season, the 32-year-old Yanda remained the standard at the guard position in today’s NFL and is Baltimore’s best offensive player. Stanley graded as Pro Football Focus’ most efficient pass blocker among rookie offensive tackles and is poised to be even better in his second year.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens lost above-average right tackle Rick Wagner in free agency and traded starting center Jeremy Zuttah without adding a veteran at either position or selecting an offensive lineman before Day 3 of April’s draft. As promising as Stanley and Lewis are, the pair missed a total of 10 games as rookies and are now being counted as the surest things the Ravens have beyond Yanda.

2017 outlook: The hiring of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris shouldn’t be overlooked, but the three options who worked at center this spring were all behind the maligned Zuttah on the depth chart last year and Hurst has never come close to proving himself as an acceptable NFL starter. This is easily the Ravens’ biggest concern entering training camp.

Prediction: Yanda will make his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, but at least one of Baltimore’s Week 1 starters on the offensive line isn’t currently on the roster.

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mornhinweg

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Ravens offense waits as defense receives substantial facelift

Posted on 23 March 2017 by Luke Jones

During Brandon Carr’s press conference this week, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees was recalling how he’d sent a text message to John Harbaugh after the latest defensive signing was made when the head coach interjected.

“I got a text from Marty [Mornhinweg], too, by the way,” said Harbaugh about his offensive coordinator. “He thought it was a good signing, too — just for the record. We’ve got some work to do over there, too.”

That’s an understatement as general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent lucrative dollars and most of his salary-cap space to revamp a defense that still finished in the top 10 of most significant statistical categories last season despite its well-documented problems down the stretch. Meanwhile, an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in virtually everything in 2016 has last four starters and has added only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead, who is an intriguing talent but coming off a major knee injury.

Some have attempted to skew the 2016 narrative by pointing to a 27-point scoring output and the late defensive collapse in Pittsburgh on Christmas Day as justification for focusing on the defense this offseason, but that anecdotal evidence clouds the truth. The offense played at a high level only a few times all year while the defense — flawed as it was when cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn’t on the field — was the bigger reason why the Ravens were still in contention in Week 16. That’s not to say that improvements weren’t warranted on the defensive side — which still could use another edge rusher — but the offense was summarily broken all year and has only gotten worse since the season finale in Cincinnati. You can certainly be excited about the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the additions of safety Tony Jefferson and Carr, but it’s fair to ask if some of those resources might have been better served addressing the offense.

To be clear, we know the start of the season is more than five months away, and Newsome and the Ravens are aware that they still have much work to do on that side of the ball. But with the first and second waves of free agency now in the books, Baltimore has fewer remaining channels — with the draft being the biggest one — to not only replace departed starters but find ways to markedly improve the offense. Of course, the margin for error is smaller without a dynamic offensive playmaker on which to lean.

Harbaugh sent a loud signal that the Ravens want to get back to running the ball at a high level by hiring senior offensive assistant and ground-game guru Greg Roman, but they need the horses in the trenches to do it. Otherwise, the offense will inevitably revert to Joe Flacco throwing more than 40 times per game, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out since Super Bowl XLVII.

The biggest objective must be to address the offensive line after the departure of right tackle Rick Wagner and the trade of center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco. Whether you believe Detroit overpaid for Wagner or not, replacing an above-average right tackle without meaningful drop-off will be very difficult unless new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has a trick up his sleeve.

Moving on from the underwhelming Zuttah wasn’t shocking, but they have to replace him with someone better or at least as good. There’s been little chatter about former New York Jet Nick Mangold to this point, and even if the Ravens eye a draft prospect such as Ethan Pocic from LSU, there are no guarantees of landing him in the second or third round. The Ravens could consider an internal candidate, but neither John Urschel nor Ryan Jensen inspire much confidence after their respective 2016 campaigns.

Finding a fullback to replace 2016 Pro Bowl selection Kyle Juszczyk shouldn’t be too difficult, but — like with Wagner — it may not be easy to do it without some drop-off.

Then, there’s wide receiver, that position we’ve discussed this time of year on an annual basis.

Baltimore lost its top two possessions receivers in Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and elected not to sign any free-agent wideouts from a top tier that included Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor. Perhaps the next Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, or Smith will be acquired in the coming weeks, but one can only look to 2013 and 2015 as recent examples of the Ravens being underprepared at that position and it hurting them substantially. Even looking past the organization’s poor track record with drafting receivers, relying heavily on a rookie wideout is a risky proposition for any team.

You might be willing to give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt along the offensive line — after all, Wagner was mostly an unknown three years ago — but skepticism at wide receiver is justified, whether it’s March or September.

It’s been interesting to see how the offseason has played out to this point, starting with Harbaugh’s decision to retain Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator despite showing little improvement taking over for the fired Marc Trestman. The team’s brass spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about needing to do whatever it takes to help Flacco play better in 2017, but a below-average offense from a year ago is currently standing at a net loss, putting heavy pressure on the front office and scouting department to nail next month’s draft and to find an under-the-radar free agent or two while also hoping that internal options take significant steps forward.

Otherwise, the Ravens will be needing a 2000-like performance from its revamped defense to have a real shot at getting back to the playoffs in 2017.

Yes, there’s plenty of time left, but many boxes remain unchecked.

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stanley

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Ravens own seven selections in first 186 picks of 2017 draft

Posted on 17 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Having completed the Jeremy Zuttah trade with San Francisco that included the exchange of 2017 sixth-round picks, the Ravens now own seven selections in the first 186 picks of April’s draft.

After an encouraging early return from his 2016 draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome hopes to find similar success this year to help Baltimore return to the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Ravens own only one compensatory pick — a third-round selection — but this is the first year in which those picks may be traded.

Their original 2017 seventh-round pick belongs to Los Angeles as a result of the trade for wide receiver Chris Givens two years ago. Barring any maneuvering, the Ravens’ seven selections would be their fewest in a draft since 2010.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are scheduled to pick:

Round 1: 16th overall
Round 2: 47th overall
Round 3: 78th overall
Round 3: 99th overall (compensatory)
Round 4: 122nd overall
Round 5: 159th overall
Round 6: 186th overall (from San Francisco)

Just for fun, here’s a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those slots (or as close as possible) over the years:

16th overall: LB C.J. Mosley (17th), 2014
47th overall: DT Timmy Jernigan (48th), 2014
78th overall: RB Musa Smith (77th), 2003
99th overall: OL Oniel Cousins, 2008
122nd overall: LB Za’Darius Smith, 2015
159th overall: FB Justin Green (158th), 2005
186th overall: LB Adalius Thomas, 2000

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zuttah

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Ravens trade veteran center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco

Posted on 15 March 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:05 p.m.)

Vowing to improve their offensive line after an 8-8 season, the Ravens have opened up another starting job a week after starting right tackle Rick Wagner departed via free agency.

After NFL Network reported earlier in the day that he would be released, center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco after three seasons and 41 starts with Baltimore. The teams will swap their 2017 sixth-round picks, meaning the Ravens move up 12 spots from 198th to 186th overall on the final day of April’s draft instead of receiving nothing in what would have been a release. The trade came a few hours after former Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk lamented his teammate’s reported release on Twitter and suggested he would be a good fit with the 49ers.

Zuttah was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past year, but the Ravens are aiming to have a more physical presence for the middle of their offensive line. His trade saves $2.4 million in salary cap space, but Zuttah becomes the fourth Week 1 offensive starter to exit since the end of 2016, joining Wagner, Juszczyk, and retired wide receiver Steve Smith.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Zuttah was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best center in the NFL and was ranked 26th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system. Seeking an upgrade is an understandable goal, but it remains unclear how the Ravens will proceed as young linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are the only internal candidates to replace Zuttah on the current roster.

Urschel started seven games in place of an injured Zuttah in 2015, but he played just 265 offensive snaps in 2016 despite plenty of unrest at the guard spots. Jensen made three starts at guard in 2016, but he appeared to fall out of favor as the season progressed. Of course, new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and new senior offensive assistant — and running game guru — Greg Roman may have higher opinions of these players than former offensive line coach Juan Castillo apparently did.

Many have speculated about the possibility of the Ravens pursuing seven-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, but there has been little chatter linking the 33-year-old to any team after an injury-riddled season. The New York Jets released Mangold late last month, ending their 11-year union.

The 2017 draft isn’t considered to be rich in center talent, either, but among the top center prospects are LSU’s Ethan Pocic and Ohio State’s Pat Elflein.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has received praise for the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the addition of safety Tony Jefferson on lucrative deals to help the Baltimore defense, but the league’s 21st-ranked scoring offense has endured several losses while 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead has been the only addition to this point. And with the first wave of free agency over, the Ravens will likely be depending on the draft as the primary way to address most of their remaining needs on either side of the ball.

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pitta

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Ravens shouldn’t fret about making substantial changes

Posted on 22 February 2017 by Luke Jones

With the start of the new league year and free agency just two weeks away, we all know which Ravens players stand out as potential salary-cap casualties by now.

A few are easy calls while others have accomplished plenty in their NFL careers and are fan favorites. Most are over the age of 30, which is when you need to ask whether you’re paying too much for what a player used to be rather than what he is today.

After missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four years and lacking difference-making talent atop the roster, what is the realistic goal for 2017? Is the Ravens brass aiming to improve just enough to sneak into the playoffs to avoid being fired — a perceived ultimatum that exists at least in the minds of many outsiders — or is the organization focused on building its next championship team? Of course, incremental improvement and eyeing the long term aren’t mutually exclusive, but these two ideas may offer different viewpoints of the following veterans with questionable cap figures for 2017.

2017 cap figure Pre-June 1 cut savings 2017 dead money
CB Kyle Arrington $2.767M $2.1M $667K
LB Elvis Dumervil $8.375M $6M $2.375M
S Kendrick Lewis $2.267M $1.8M $467K
TE Dennis Pitta $7.7M $3.3M $4.4M
WR Mike Wallace $8M $5.75M $2.25M
TE Benjamin Watson $4M $3M $1M
S Lardarius Webb $7.5M $5.5M $2M
CB Shareece Wright $5.33M $2.667M $2.667M
C Jeremy Zuttah $4.607M $2.393M $2.214M

How many of these potential cap casualties can you envision being as good as or better than they were in 2016? Which of these talents are instrumental to the next championship-caliber team?

With the retirement of Steve Smith and the lack of other established talent at wide receiver on the current roster, cutting Wallace would be a tough pill to swallow without knowing what’s to come in free agency and the draft and also acknowledging the organization’s poor track record at the position. The rest of the players on the list have different degrees of remaining value, but it’d be difficult to say any would be terribly difficult to replace when factoring in either the cost to retain them or the depth at their positions — or even both.

It’s no secret how dependent the Ravens have been on older players the last couple seasons, which is fine when on the cusp of a championship like they were five years ago. But continuing down the same road with a group that’s proven to not be good enough seems counterintuitive when you’re in need of game-changing talent and more cap space. Some of the best teams in franchise history had obvious flaws and positions of weakness, but they had enough playmakers capable of masking them.

Cleaning house doesn’t mean general manager Ozzie Newsome should be hellbent on spending lucrative money on free agents just for the sake of doing it. But if cutting Webb and Pitta means the Ravens can have a healthier cap to go sign an established talent like Pierre Garcon, I’ll take my chances leaning on more youth at those other positions. The same even goes for the tipping point in trying to re-sign a free agent such as Brandon Williams, who is a very good player but plays a position at which the Ravens have consistently found talent over the years.

This roster has many needs and very few free agents or potential cap cuts who are indispensable. The known is more comfortable than the unknown, but the Ravens can’t afford to be in love with their own ingredients when the recipe just hasn’t added up in recent years.

To be clear, adding dynamic playmakers to the roster is easier said than done, no matter how much pundits have hammered the Ravens about it over the last few years. It often involves luck as much as anything else, evident by the fact that Baltimore had two future Hall of Famers — Ray Lewis and Ed Reed — fall late into the first round in the franchise’s first seven drafts. The Ravens are certainly aiming to find a few playmakers in this April’s draft, but they will still hope that a Kenneth Dixon takes a giant leap like Ray Rice did in his second year or that a Breshad Perriman finally takes off in his third season.

Still, the idea shouldn’t be to spend to the cap on an OK collection of veterans in the meantime. Focusing on more of a youth movement might result in some early 2017 pains, but it can yield more meaningful future gains than retaining veterans with steep price tags and rapidly-approaching expiration dates.

You either have something special or you need to be building something special.

The Ravens have been stuck in between for too long now.

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ozzie

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Critical Ravens offseason even more unsettling after Orr retirement

Posted on 24 January 2017 by Luke Jones

We already knew the Ravens were facing a critical offseason.

Having missed the playoffs in three of the last four years and sporting an underwhelming 31-33 record since winning Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore knows it has work to do to reclaim its place as an annual contender in the AFC. Sure, you could try to argue that the Ravens are “close” since they were a tackle away from topping Pittsburgh in Week 16 to take the AFC North lead, but an 8-8 record with such a veteran-dependent roster doesn’t exactly scream that they’re moving in the right direction. It also means that they’re picking in the middle of each round of the 2017 draft, making it more difficult to land the kind of elite game-changing talent they desperately need.

And then the news broke last Friday that 24-year-old inside linebacker Zach Orr was retiring due to a rare congenital spine condition.

The former undrafted free agent wasn’t going to be the next Ray Lewis, but Orr was one of the few second- and third-year Ravens to take a major step forward, establishing himself as a quality talent in his first year as a starter. While general manager Ozzie Newsome has recently counted on many veterans to fight off Father Time to maintain a high level of play, Orr had the potential to get even better, the kind of upside the Ravens need more of to climb out of their rut of mediocrity.

The young linebacker’s unexpected retirement only makes the offseason to-do list longer.

Their 2016 starters at nose tackle, 5-technique defensive end, right tackle, and fullback are unrestricted free agents. The Ravens need to add starting-caliber options at wide receiver, cornerback, and edge pass rusher. They would like to upgrade at center and may need a starting safety if Lardarius Webb ends up being among their salary-cap casualties.

And inside linebacker has now been added to the list of concerns after that position was regarded as one of the most stable. Perhaps they will find an internal option to take Orr’s place, but the Ravens aren’t in a position where they can afford to downgrade their strengths.

With only so much cap space at their disposal, the Ravens won’t be able to address all of the aforementioned needs to the degree they’d like and frankly will need good fortune along the way, whether it’s finding some late-round gems or a diamond-in-the-rough free agent or two.

Losing Orr is the opposite of good luck and is unsettling in a crucial offseason that hasn’t really started yet.

Pro Bowl shuffling

With safety Eric Weddle and center Jeremy Zuttah added to the AFC roster on Monday, the Ravens now claim a total of seven players invited to the Pro Bowl, one shy of the franchise high.

At what point does the madness end with this charade of a game in which many players don’t even want to participate and many fans don’t want to watch?

Even if fans and media were too hard on Zuttah this season, it’d be very tough to argue that his play warranted an invitation to Orlando as an alternate. What about Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian, who reportedly would have been invited to play in the game if not for recent shoulder surgery?

Ask Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert if playing in the game is worth it after an ankle injury suffered in last year’s Pro Bowl cost him half of the 2016 season.

If the NFL wants to preserve whatever prestige that remains for being a Pro Bowl selection, the game needs to be discontinued. Maybe they could instead hold a rousing game of musical chairs, a much better reflection of the roster shuffling.

Keep the honor, but please dump the game.

Second-round suffering

With Orr’s retirement, many have pointed to Kamalei Correa as his potential replacement with the Ravens currently viewing the 2016 second-round pick as more of an inside linebacker than an outside option.

To do that, Correa will need to buck the trend of second-round disappointments after he played just 48 defensive snaps as a rookie. Baltimore’s last four selections in the second round have made a total of 31 starts with defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan making 24 of those.

Jernigan may not blossom into a Pro Bowl player, but he’s at least been a productive starter, a fair standard for a second-round choice. In contrast, inside linebacker Arthur Brown didn’t make it through his rookie contract, tight end Maxx Williams is coming off major knee surgery for a cartilage problem, and Correa couldn’t crack an outside linebacker rotation that had playing time up for grabs in 2016.

This is a big offseason for the Boise State product to prove he’s not the latest second-round disappointment.

Patriots Invitational

Perhaps a healthy Derek Carr would have made the Oakland Raiders an intriguing foe, but it was clear how big the divide was between New England and everyone else after Pittsburgh was demolished in the AFC championship game on Sunday.

Even in past years in which the Patriots ultimately advanced to the Super Bowl, you usually felt there were at least a couple AFC teams who had a real chance to beat them, but that simply wasn’t the case this season.

A league that champions parity had more mediocrity than usual with most of the 12 playoff teams not posing a serious threat to the contenders at the top. Eight of the 10 playoff games being blowouts helped support that notion.

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