OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day veteran Benjamin Watson was introduced to the local media, the Ravens continued making news at the tight end position.
After signing the 35-year-old to a two-year, $7 million contract on the first day of free agency and surprisingly tendering the relatively-unknown restricted free agent Chase Ford $1.671 million, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the organization received “some positive news” on Crockett Gillmore last week. The third-year tight end needed surgeries for torn labrums in both shoulders this offseason.
Newsome first revealed that Gillmore might not be ready for the start of training camp at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, but he remains confident that the 2014 third-round pick will play this season.
“He’s still has a recovery road that he has to go down in order to get himself ready for the beginning of the year,” said Newsome, who admitted that Gillmore’s health and Nick Boyle’s 10-game suspension turned the tight end position into an unexpected priority that needed to be addressed. “But I feel very good about it, barring any setbacks.”
The Ravens also revealed that they are moving 2015 sixth-round pick Darren Waller from wide receiver to tight end. The Georgia Tech product caught two passes for 18 yards in six games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
The 6-foot-6 target was a solid special-teams player in his first NFL season, but the organization sees his size better utilized at a different position.
“We just feel like a 250-pound wide receiver who can run like he can has a chance to maybe grow into a tight end,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s embraced it, and he’s working on that right now in the offseason. Ben will have a chance to kind of work with him a little bit, too. It’s pretty exciting.”
The Ravens currently have nine tight ends on their 90-man offseason roster: Watson, Gillmore, Boyle, Ford, Waller, Maxx Williams, Konrad Reuland, Harold Spears, and Dennis Pitta. Of course, most expect Baltimore to release Pitta if he doesn’t retire, and a post-June 1 designation would create $5 million in salary cap space for the 2016 season and $4.4 million in dead money on the 2017 cap.
In other news, the organization created an additional $4.5 million in cap space by restructuring cornerback Jimmy Smith’s contract. The Ravens converted $6 million of his original $7 million base salary for 2016 into a bonus, lowering his cap figure from $9.6 million to $5.1 million for the coming season.
According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens began Thursday with just over $12.5 million in cap space, but that did not reflect all maneuvers from the last couple days, making the actual amount slightly lower than that.