Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

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Flacco saying right things entering critical year for him and Ravens

Posted on 18 April 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never come across as someone who peruses the mock drafts circulating this time of year.

But he’s aware of the smoke coming from even some of the more respected reporters and draft pundits suggesting general manager Ozzie Newsome may select a quarterback such as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State in the first round. The Ravens are either seriously considering taking a quarterback early or doing their best to make it look that way.

“It is what it is. It’s a business,” said Flacco, entering his 11th season in Baltimore. “Eventually, at some point, that’s going to have to happen. It’s not really for me to worry about. I come in here and you worry about what’s here and now and doing your job, which is for me right now getting guys out there working hard and making sure we’re moving towards our goal of getting to that championship.”

Whether the Ravens are serious or not, taking a quarterback in the first round would seem to contradict many circumstances facing the organization as owner Steve Bisciotti even said in early February that the Ravens had “bigger fish to fry” then finding Flacco’s successor. After Bisciotti acknowledged considering replacing head coach John Harbaugh at the end of last season, would the front office really give a coaching staff presumably fighting for its jobs a first-round pick who won’t see the field unless Flacco is injured or completely ineffective? The Ravens cited their late-season improvement as justification for retaining offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, but they’re suddenly ready to move on from Flacco, who played well down the stretch despite little help at the pass-catching positions?

An organization having missed the playoffs four out of five seasons and facing an attendance crisis is going to use its first-round pick on a player unlikely to make any meaningful impact while Flacco carries a $24.75 million salary cap number this year and would still cost the Ravens another $16 million in dead money if he’s released next season? So much for maximizing the first couple years of having a young quarterback on a cheap rookie contract, and that’s assuming the drafted signal-caller pans out, which is far from the sure thing teams and their fans want it to be this time of year.

Finding a new franchise quarterback is a proposition never to be taken lightly.

Regardless of what happens next week, the pressure is mounting on Flacco, who is coming off a third straight subpar statistical campaign and is facing his most pivotal season since the final year of his rookie contract in 2012. The Ravens have done a poor job building an offense around him since Super Bowl XLVII, but that doesn’t absolve him from criticism as even his biggest supporters should be concerned with his declining yards per attempt average and questions about his durability moving forward as the 33-year-old missed the entire 2017 preseason with a back injury, an absence that severely stunted the offense. For what it’s worth, Flacco said he feels “really good” after placing an emphasis in his offseason training on keeping his back healthy.

Newsome has followed through on his vow to change the look of the wide receiver room this offseason with the free-agent additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, but it’s still debatable whether that duo is markedly better than Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin and the Ravens still don’t have a pass-catching tight end on the roster after Benjamin Watson’s exit. To his credit, Flacco says he’s already spoken to Crabtree and Brown about working out away from the team’s Owings Mills facility before training camp. It’s an activity that’s been overrated by both media and fans on an annual basis, but there’s also no downside to it and such a commitment would likely garner some favor after both Newsome and Harbaugh mentioned the need for him to get on the same page with his new targets.

“I think sometimes those things are just as much, or more, about developing a relationship with those guys and developing that trust,” Flacco said. “For those guys to see that I really like who they are as football players, and for them to see that hopefully they like who I am as a football player. I think when you can get that relationship going, that’s going to help your football team out a ton.”

The Ravens have more work to do with their offense, further making the notion of taking a quarterback in the first round a puzzling one. After taking just four offensive players — left tackle Ronnie Stanley, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and tight ends Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore — with their last 17 Day 1 and Day picks in the last five drafts, tight end, wide receiver, right tackle, and center remain among the roster’s biggest needs.

If Flacco has his way, the Ravens won’t wait until next week’s draft to add another pass catcher or two as he provided a ringing endorsement when asked about the possibility of adding former Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant.

“I got used to throwing to a guy like that when Anquan [Boldin] was here,” Flacco said. “He was a guy that even if he didn’t have the separation, it may have taken me a couple games, but you got used to throwing him the ball and having trust that he was going to get it. At the end of the day, in order to win big games, you have to have guys that can do that, because eventually, you’re not going to have guys running wide open – you’re going to have guys that can deal with traffic, winning in traffic, catching the ball in traffic. I think he’s another one of those guys.”

If Newsome finishes the job of improving the offensive cast, there will be no more excuses for the veteran quarterback. Flacco’s current deal runs through 2021, but new general manager Eric DeCosta — and perhaps even a new head coach — could elect to move on next year if 2018 offers more of the same from Flacco and an offense that’s consistently been below average in recent years.

His renaissance would likely save jobs and change the outlook of the organization as it enters a new era with Newsome stepping down as general manager.

Yes, time very well could be running out. How the Ravens proceed next week could say plenty about just how much remains, but Flacco still deserves the chance to hit pause with an improved 2018 campaign.

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Ravens open voluntary offseason workout program

Posted on 16 April 2018 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

The Ravens began their voluntary offseason workout program for the 2018 season in Owings Mills on Monday.

The opening phase of the nine-week program lasts two weeks and is limited to strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation. Coaches are not permitted to lead players in on-field workouts during this first part of the offseason program.

This phase of the program is voluntary, but most players beyond select veterans are quietly expected to attend regularly.

The Ravens will provide media access on Tuesday, but photos and videos released by the team showed many players in attendance on the first day, a list including new wide receiver Michael Crabtree, quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III, tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams, fullback Patrick Ricard, defensive linemen Michael Pierce and Carl Davis, safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, cornerback Maurice Canady, long snapper Morgan Cox, linebackers C.J. Mosley and Tyus Bowser, and running backs Alex Collins, Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon among others.

In a series of moves that were mere formalities, Baltimore officially signed Collins, wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste, tight end Vince Mayle, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, and offensive linemen Maurquice Shakir and Matt Skura to their exclusive-rights tenders on Monday.

The next phase of the program lasts three weeks and consists of on-field workouts that may include individual instruction and drills as well as team practice as long as the offense and defense do not work against each other. No live contact is permitted.

The third and final phase of the program lasts four weeks and permits teams to conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity (OTAs), which are also voluntary. No live contact is permitted, but teams may conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

Teams may hold one mandatory minicamp for all veteran players during that final phase of the offseason program.

Earlier this month, the NFL released the following dates for the Ravens’ OTA and mandatory minicamp schedule, but these have been subject to change in the past:

First Day: April 16
OTA Offseason Workouts: May 21-22, May 24, May 29, May 31-June 1, June 4-5, June 7-8
Mandatory Minicamp: June 12-14

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Dez Bryant could help, but is he the best fit for the Ravens?

Posted on 16 April 2018 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that the Ravens still have much work to do to their offense with the NFL draft looming.

One of those positions remains wide receiver, but Baltimore has yet to add a pass-catching tight end following the free-agent departure of Benjamin Watson and has also lost two starters from last year’s offensive line. And while some help figures to come by way of a few draft choices next week, you never want to be in a position where you’re reaching with too many picks to fill out a depth chart, leaving a team at the mercy of how the draft board plays out and how other teams value the players you covet most.

That brings us to former Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was released Friday after eight seasons with the Cowboys that included three trips to the Pro Bowl and three 1,000-yard seasons. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver won’t turn 30 until November, making it reasonable to think he still has some good football left despite his statistical decline, recent health concerns, and his exit from a now receiver-needy team that moved ahead of the Ravens to draft him in the first round eight years ago.

It’s easy to be mesmerized by the memory of Bryant catching 273 passes for 3,935 yards and 41 touchdowns from 2012-2014 when he was one of the NFL’s top play-makers, but any interested team must have blinders to focus on the receiver he is today. That’s where the Ravens must determine if Bryant is the best fit for what they currently need.

With just over $10 million in salary cap space entering Monday and the ability to create more room with another contract restructure or two as well as a potential C.J. Mosley extension, general manager Ozzie Newsome can likely make it work. The Ravens can’t offer Bryant the opportunity to play against Dallas this season, but a contract in the neighborhood of Michael Crabtree’s three-year, $21 million deal inked last month would be doable if he wants to catch passes from Joe Flacco.

Assuming there’s mutual interest and a financial match, what would the Ravens be getting at this stage of his career?

Bryant never had elite wheels as he used his leaping ability and physicality to complement his speed in making big plays in his prime, but knee, foot, and ankle problems have slowed him considerably. Making that more problematic is that he’s never been a disciplined route-runner, making a transition to the slot more difficult to envision as his physical tools aren’t what they once were to win as consistently on the outside. While acknowledging the physical challenges that limited him to just 150 catches for 2,035 yards and 17 touchdown in 38 games over the last three years, Bryant also had to adjust to a new quarterback and a greater emphasis on running the ball in Dallas over the last two seasons, variables that can also limit a receiver’s production.

That brings us to how he’d fit in the Baltimore passing game with Crabtree and fellow free-agent acquisition John Brown already in the mix.

Neither Crabtree nor Brown have shown great productivity in the slot in the past, a reason why the Ravens expressed interest in the likes of Cam Meredith, Willie Snead, and Eric Decker in recent weeks. Crabtree’s prime never approached Bryant’s best years, but the two are similar receivers at this point, lacking good speed and relying on making contested catches in tight coverage and in the red zone to remain productive. Many might prefer Bryant to Crabtree, but the latter is already under contract and on the roster, making that argument rather inconsequential.

We often get caught up in the labels of a No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, but passing games need receivers with diverse skill sets. With the Ravens employing two tight ends more frequently than anyone in the NFL last season — a staple in Greg Roman’s run-blocking schemes — the starting duo of Bryant and Crabtree sounds good in terms of name recognition, but it doesn’t leave much speed on the field and the Ravens still lack a tight end who can beat a defender down the seam, potentially leaving them even more vulnerable to tight underneath coverage. On top of that, the Ravens offensive line will be replacing two starters and wasn’t exactly elite in pass protection last year, leaving one to wonder how long Bryant and Crabtree would have to maneuver against coverage before Flacco must get rid of the ball in the pocket.

Of course, there are ways around this and you wouldn’t assume the Ravens offense to remain exactly the same as last year with different personnel at wide receiver. Perhaps even more critical, however, would be how Bryant meshes with another wideout who would be used in similar ways. It’s no secret that Bryant can be a handful from an emotional standpoint, but Crabtree has also been viewed as a mercurial player at previous stops.

Is Bryant prepared to come to a new team with an internal understanding that he isn’t the same star he was five years ago? No one expects the Ravens to morph back into a pass-happy attack, so would both veterans remain patient when the targets aren’t coming their way as frequently? What about those game situations when Baltimore simply needs to have more speed on the field?

Looking at the rest of the roster and the salary cap, would a Bryant signing make it more difficult to add a veteran offensive lineman or a tight end who might shake free between now and the start of the season? Would his addition prompt the Ravens to once again forgo using a meaningful draft pick on a wide receiver who could still contribute now and then develop into a long-term answer?

Is the juice worth the squeeze for a volatile receiver whose last 1,000-yard season came a year before Jeremy Maclin’s?

The answer very well might still be yes, but these are all factors that must be considered carefully. And they should far outweigh the attraction of simply adding another big name at a position of need.

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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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Ravens among teams with most adjusted games lost in 2017

Posted on 24 March 2018 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret the Ravens endured a slew of serious injuries in 2017, especially before the regular season even began.

But where did their health rank compared to the other 31 NFL teams?

You’ll typically see the number of players on injured reserve cited in these discussions, but that alone doesn’t really paint the most insightful picture from team to team. How many on IR were starters compared to reserves or training camp bodies who had no realistic chance of even making the roster before getting hurt? How many on each team went to IR in September as opposed to the last week or two of the season? What about the teams that had more players pushing through injuries than those having cleaner injury reports on a weekly basis?

Football Outsiders uses a metric called adjusted games lost to attempt to quantify how much teams were stricken with injuries. Instead of simply counting the number of games lost with each player on IR, the metric weighs the projected role of each injured player (starter, key reserve, bench-warmer, etc.) and even accounts for those listed on weekly injury reports who ended up playing despite being less than 100 percent. In other words, the metric doesn’t treat the absence of six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda or starting cornerback Jimmy Smith the same as developmental players Brandon Kublanow and Stephane Nembot being on IR and doesn’t completely ignore players battling through documented ailments.

The Ravens finished with the sixth-most adjusted games lost in 2017 with only Arizona, Houston, Miami, Chicago, and Washington having more than their 101.6. Ten of the 12 teams who qualified for the postseason — the exceptions being Kansas City and New Orleans — finished among the 14 teams with the fewest adjusted games lost, reinforcing just how critical health is to success. The Chiefs (80.0) and the Saints (95.9) were the only teams with more than 62.0 adjusted games lost to make the playoffs last season.

Before giving the Ravens a total pass for missing the playoffs for the third straight season, however, it’s fair to note Football Outsiders ranked their schedule as the second easiest in the NFL. It’s no secret the Ravens faced an unusual number of teams with poor quarterback situations, and they finished with the third-lowest strength of victory in the AFC with just one win against a team finishing with a winning record in 2017. That said, you wonder where Baltimore might have finished with even a middle-of-the-pack injury situation and such an advantageous schedule.

Football Outsiders also observed that the Ravens used the second-highest number of questionable designations on their weekly injury reports and finished with the second-highest percentage of questionable players to play, prompting the site to conclude they’re probably listing too many players as questionable that are much more certain to play that week. That likely skewed their adjusted games lost total a little bit on the high side.

Philadelphia winning the Super Bowl after losing several key players reminds us that it’s not impossible to overcome injuries with a deep roster and great coaching, but there is a breaking point, a reality reflected by the adjusted games lost totals and how they related to teams qualifying for the playoffs in 2017.

“Next man up” sounds great as a rallying cry or as a slogan on a t-shirt, but there are only so many injuries most teams can take. And when you acknowledge the number of early season-ending injuries sustained on an offense that didn’t look particularly impressive on paper to begin with and then consider the difficult-to-quantify impact from Joe Flacco’s preseason absence, Baltimore couldn’t persevere.

That’s not an excuse as the Ravens certainly have other deficiencies to address, but poor health was very much a part of their reality in 2017.

Below is a look at where the Ravens have ranked in Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost in recent years:

2017 – 101.6 (sixth most in NFL)
2016 – 62.0 (11th fewest in NFL)
2015 – 96.1 (third most in NFL)
2014 – 52.6 (seventh fewest in NFL)
2013 – 49.8 (ninth fewest in NFL)
2012 – 57.4 (13th fewest in NFL)
2011 – 18.8 (fewest in NFL)
2010 – 50.9 (15th fewest in NFL)
2009 – 28.8 (seventh fewest in NFL)
2008 – 95.0 (third most in NFL)

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Ravens still paying for past mistakes at start of free agency

Posted on 13 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Owner Steve Bisciotti declared last month that the Ravens could “make a splash” to improve one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks, but it was always going to need to come at their price.

Free agency hasn’t yet officially begun, but dreams of a discounted rate for a high-impact wide receiver like Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins are long gone as both agreed to deals for a combined $55 million in guarantees. Former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham is going to Green Bay. Even second- and third-tier free-agent receivers such as Paul Richardson and Albert Wilson are fetching deals with an average annual value of $8 million despite underwhelming production in their careers.

If the Ravens wanted to hand out a contract or two along those lines — many of them aren’t exactly looking wise — entering the week with less than $5 million in salary cap space left them in poor position. And as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer noted, the popular three-year structure being used in many deals this offseason makes it difficult for a cap-strapped team to spread out high guarantees and keep a free agent’s 2018 cap number affordable.

That isn’t an excuse, but it serves as a reminder that the Ravens continue to pay for past mistakes that have piled up since Super Bowl XLVII. And it’s why fixing their passing attack in one offseason isn’t going to be easy. Yes, these free-agent prices have looked outrageous, but Baltimore hasn’t shown the ability — or used the necessary resources — to draft and develop its own receivers over the years, either, meaning something has to give at some point.

To their credit, the Ravens have spent to the salary cap on an annual basis, but how they’ve used it is certainly open to criticism as too many back-loaded deals and veteran restructures have frequently left them in tight spots. It’s a vicious cycle that’s contributed to the current era of mediocrity, leaving one to wonder if some type of reset is needed sooner than later. Of course, try selling that strategy to John Harbaugh and his staff, who are likely coaching for their jobs after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

Joe Flacco’s biggest critics will point solely to his $24.75 million cap figure and label the remainder of his lucrative contract as holding the roster hostage. Of course, they’d be overlooking the fact that the Ravens felt compelled to give a box safety (Tony Jefferson) a $34 million contract last offseason when it was clear the offense was what needed more help, just a recent example of that side of the ball being neglected in favor of the defense. Two of the three modest veteran additions (running back Danny Woodhead and right tackle Austin Howard) made to the offense last year have already been jettisoned with the other (wide receiver Jeremy Maclin) possibly going next, illustrating the minimal impact they made.

Only four of Baltimore’s 17 combined picks in the first three rounds of the last five drafts have been used on offensive players with all four of their Day 1 and Day 2 selections last year spent on defense. Exactly one of those four offensive picks — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — has panned out with wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams standing out as major disappointments at positions of great need. Making matters worse, several of those early picks on defense didn’t pan out, either, which compelled general manager Ozzie Newsome to pump even more resources into positions like safety.

The Ravens did re-sign offensive lineman James Hurst on Monday, but it’s difficult selling that move as a positive after the decision to cut Howard, who was solid at right tackle last season. Neither Hurst nor Alex Lewis is a proven starter at the position, creating another question mark on offense to go with the gaping holes at wide receiver and tight end. And should center Ryan Jensen receive the lucrative deal elsewhere that many are predicting, it would mark the third straight offseason in which the Ravens have lost an above-average offensive lineman in free agency.

When you haven’t spent major free-agent money or used meaningful draft capital on your offense, what exactly do you really expect from Flacco, who clearly has his own flaws?

Perhaps this offseason and this draft will be different. A number of marquee free agents have already come off the board, but potential value remains and some cap casualties are still to come with Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson being the latest cut loose on Tuesday. Maybe the organization will actually focus on the offense for this year’s draft and hit on multiple picks in a way similar to how New Orleans reversed its fortunes last year.

It’s only mid-March and much will happen between now and the start of the season, but the Ravens’ needs are too great and their resources too limited to simply trust that everything will be OK.

Too many mistakes in recent years leave them no longer enjoying the benefit of the doubt like they once did.

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Franchise tag developments bode well for Ravens’ wide receiver search

Posted on 06 March 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are one of several teams in the mix to acquire Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, but two other accomplished receivers are on track to hit free agency after not receiving the franchise tag on Tuesday.

Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Los Angeles Rams wideout Sammy Watkins were not tagged and will hit the open market next week unless their respective teams sign them to long-term contracts. The Watkins news wasn’t a big surprise, but many assumed Robinson would be tagged despite the former Penn State product coming back from an ACL injury suffered in the 2017 season opener.

If fully healthy, the 6-foot-3 Robinson could bring the most upside of any free-agent receiver after he caught 14 touchdowns and posted 1,400 receiving yards in 2015 while playing with maligned Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. His numbers slipped to six touchdowns and 883 receiving yards a year later, but the 24-year-old represents the kind of red-zone and jump-ball threat quarterback Joe Flacco has sorely lacked in years.

Watkins, the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, had over 2,000 receiving yards combined in his first two seasons with Buffalo, but a foot injury derailed his 2016 season and he was traded to the Rams last summer. In 15 games in 2017, he caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Landry has easily been the most consistent of the trio, but Robinson and Watkins hitting the market could certainly impact the overall demand — and subsequent asking price from the Dolphins — in trade talks. Their presence would also figure to impact the cost of a variety of second- and third-tier free-agent options such as Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief.

Regardless of which receivers the Ravens ultimately target, more quality on the open market is good news for a roster in need of at least two meaningful additions at the position. With disappointing veteran Jeremy Maclin likely to be cut and leading wide receiver Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency, the Ravens will need to be aggressive to improve the league’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

And though many are clamoring for Baltimore to address the position in next month’s draft, the need for both experience and upside makes it obvious that Newsome should be looking at the free-agent and trade markets before the final weekend in April.

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Landry tag reinforces challenge of Ravens finding No. 1 receiver

Posted on 21 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens signing wide receiver Jarvis Landry was always going to be a long shot before he received the franchise tag from Miami on Tuesday night.

With limited space under the salary cap this offseason, Baltimore hardly would have been the favorite to land the Dolphins slot man had he made it to the open market. But Miami retaining Landry — or at least forcing teams to talk trades for his services in addition to signing him to a lucrative deal — only reinforces the challenge of finding a No. 1 receiver as those types of talents rarely reach free agency.

A list of the top wide receiver contracts in the NFL shows nearly all have remained with their original teams. According to OverTheCap.com, 15 of the top 18 wide receiver deals in terms of average annual value are with the team that either drafted or signed the player out of college with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Emmanuel Sanders being the exceptions to the rule.

Jacksonville is also expected to place the franchise tag on the 24-year-old Allen Robinson, which would take the top two projected free-agent receivers off the market. The absence of Landry and Robinson leaves a group of free agents without any bona fide No. 1 types, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting talents who could help Joe Flacco and the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

The likes of Marqise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief may carry questions, but each is capable of contributing and an offense needing No. 1 and No. 2 options can’t afford to be too picky in adding pass-catching talent. The problem may end up being the asking price of these second- and third-tier options with the top two talents off the board and many teams looking for pass-catching help on an annual basis.

Regardless of the status of Landry or Robinson, the Ravens were always going to need a multi-pronged attack to improve at wide receiver with Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency and many expecting the disappointing Jeremy Maclin to be a cap casualty. General manager Ozzie Newsome will need to add some experience to the position via free agency or trade and invest a draft pick or two in the early rounds of the 2018 draft to truly move the meter at the position.

This year’s draft class may lack slam-dunk first-round picks beyond Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but other prospects such as Courtland Sutton of SMU, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, James Washington of Oklahoma State, and even Maryland’s DJ Moore could be enticing if the Ravens either trade back in the opening round or refrain from selecting a wide receiver until the second day of the draft.

After frequently neglecting the position in recent years, the Ravens need to put their best foot forward instead of simply waiting to make a post-June 1 addition or hoping a late-round pick magically pops.

Anything less will likely leave them in an all-too-familiar position in a pivotal season for the future of the organization.

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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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How did Ravens quarterbacks stack up to rest of NFL in 2017?

Posted on 08 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens failed to make the postseason for the fourth time in five years, but where exactly did their players stack up across the NFL in 2017?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few put in the necessary time and effort to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop any kind of an authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Los Angeles Chargers this season? What about the Detroit Lions linebackers or the Miami Dolphins cornerbacks?

That’s why I can appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither should be viewed as the gospel of evaluation and each is subjective, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis. It’s important to note that the following PFF rankings are where the player stood at the conclusion of the regular season.

Below is a look at where Ravens quarterbacks ranked across the league, according to those outlets:

Running backs
Defensive linemen
Tight ends
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Inside linebackers
Offensive linemen
Safeties

Joe Flacco
2017 offensive snap count: 1,027
NFL1000 ranking: 27th
PFF ranking: 23rd
Skinny: A herniated disc suffered in the summer preceded one of the worst seasons of Flacco’s career as he finished last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.7) and yards per completion (8.9). However, he posted a 91.4 passer rating with nine touchdowns and two interceptions over the final five games.

Ryan Mallett
2017 offensive snap count: 59
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: If Flacco’s back was as big of an issue as his early play reflected and Steve Bisciotti recently suggested, you’d like to have had a backup who could have been a viable option to fill in for a few weeks. Mallett’s summer play made it clear the Ravens need to upgrade this spot, most likely through the draft.

2018 positional outlook

There’s no point in belaboring Flacco’s numbers as he was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league from a statistical standpoint and needed a strong finish just to avoid 2017 being the worst season of his career. The real — and complicated — issue is determining how much his play through the first 11 games of the season was a product of his health, conservative coaching, the dearth of skill-position talent around him, and his own regression as his yards per attempt and yards per completion dropped for the third straight year. The only prudent course of action this offseason is to upgrade the skill-position spots and hope the 33-year-old responds favorably to new quarterbacks coach James Urban and stays healthy enough to bounce back. If the Ravens do improve the offensive talent and Flacco still doesn’t show meaningful improvement, significant changes could be on the table as soon as next winter.

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