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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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The Reality Check Presents “The Five Plays That Have Defined Ravens History”

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The Reality Check Presents “The Five Plays That Have Defined Ravens History”

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

With no game to offer analysis for this weekend, Ryan Chell and I decided to go a different way with our Tuesday “Five Plays” segment. Instead of “The Five Plays That Determined The Game”, we went with “The Five Plays That Have Defined Baltimore Ravens History.”

Interesting, huh?

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Tony Siragusa pancakes Oakland Raiders QB Rich Gannon in the AFC Championship Game (January 2001)

gannon

4. Le’Ron McClain 82 yard TD run against the Dallas Cowboys to close Cowboys Stadium (December 2008)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzGRUNJorz8&feature=related[/youtube]

3. Steve McNair intercepted by Indianapolis Colts DB  Nick Harper in AFC Divisional Round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium (January 2007)

harper

2. Kyle Boller drops ball, Denver Broncos DL Demetrin Veal recovers fumble (December 2005)

boller

1. Ray Lewis breaks up pass intended for Eddie George, returns INT for touchdown against Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Round (January 2001)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRlIEMhv-ZE[/youtube]

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Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

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Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Luke Jones

In the immediate aftermath of the lockout coming to an end in late July, the hammer fell on the Baltimore Ravens as we knew them from past seasons.

Gone were established veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a wave of releases to create salary cap room. Key contributors such as Le’Ron McClain, Dawan Landry, Chris Chester, and Josh Wilson found homes in other NFL cities.

Fans panicked as general manager Ozzie Newsome worked methodically instead of snatching up any recognizable name from a market suddenly saturated with hundreds of veteran free agents. When the dust settled in time for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens were not only younger but had a new batch of veteran acquisitions to aid in a potential Super Bowl run in 2011.

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With the Ravens entering the bye week at 3-1 and atop the AFC North, an overwhelming majority of those outside additions have provided positive returns through the quarter pole of the season.

Six noteworthy veterans were acquired in the preseason as I take a stab at grading them through the first four games of the season.

WR Lee Evans (8th year)
Skinny: Despite having rapidly developed a rapport with Joe Flacco after being acquired for a fourth-round pick on Aug. 12, Evans fell victim to a left ankle injury following the Ravens’ third preseason game against the Washington Redskins. His recovery has been slow and frustrating, prompting the Ravens to sit him down the last two games after lackluster play against Pittsburgh and Tennessee in the first two games. Evans has two receptions for 45 yards and has been unable to provide the vertical threat the Ravens envisioned when they brought him to Baltimore.
First quarter grade: INCOMPLETE

RB Ricky Williams (11th year)
Skinny: Signed to fill the role of McGahee, Williams has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, but the veteran has lost two fumbles on only 35 touches to hurt his overall grade. It’s a concerning stat with Williams viewed as a nice change of pace to Ray Rice and an option to receive carries late in games when the Ravens are trying to protect leads. Turning the ball over is the quickest way to allow the opponent back in the game. The former Miami Dolphin has yet to score a touchdown despite many speculating he would take away Rice’s carries at the goal line.
First quarter grade: C+

S Bernard Pollard (6th year)
Skinny: The former Houston Texan was signed to bring a physical presence in the secondary after Landry signed in Jacksonville. Though not particularly strong in coverage, Pollard has been tough against the run and is a talented blitzer from his strong safety position. Pollard has just six tackles and one pass breakup but has contributed on special teams. He received his first start against the Jets last Sunday night and graded out well, which was needed after normal starter Tom Zbikowski left the game with a concussion.
First quarter grade: B

G/C Andre Gurode (10th year)
Skinny: Signed a week before the start of the regular season, Gurode was a valuable insurance policy for veteran Matt Birk at center, but the Ravens have needed the former Dallas Cowboy at left guard with Ben Grubbs missing three games with a right toe injury. Despite never playing the position in his career, Gurode has provided strong run blocking over the last two games to help stabilize the left side of the line. With Grubbs expected back after the bye week, the question becomes whether Gurode returns to a reserve role or the Ravens consider eventually using the five-time Pro Bowler at center in an effort to upgrade the line — even with Birk’s solid play to this point. Either way, Gurode’s versatility on the interior has filled the void left behind by Chester, who signed with the Washington Redskins at the start of training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

OT Bryant McKinnie (10th year)
Skinny: The Ravens certainly raised eyebrows despite the intriguing payoff when they signed McKinnie, who had been released by the Minnesota Vikings after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds during the 134-day lockout. Past questions about his character and overall work ethic made it a risky proposition to insert McKinnie at left tackle and slide Michael Oher to the right side, but the former Miami Hurricane has been a welcome addition with both his play and attitude. After not taking part in any preseason games, McKinnie thoroughly dominated James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the Ravens’ 35-7 season-opening win over the Steelers. His play hasn’t been quite as impressive since then, struggling mightily against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, but McKinnie has stepped into the second-most important position in football (behind the quarterback) and performed admirably despite an abbreviated training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

FB Vonta Leach (8th year)
Skinny: After putting up with fullback Le’Ron McClain’s campaigning for more touches over the past two seasons, the Ravens brought in a throwback, human car accident of a blocking back by signing Leach to a three-year deal. The former Houston Texan has been every bit the bruiser the Ravens thought he would be, opening paths for the eighth-best rushing attack in the NFL. Despite Leach having little interest in touching the football (three career carries in eight seasons), offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has kept opposing defenses honest by occasionally using the 260-pounder in the passing game. The fullback has caught five passes for 15 yards.
First quarter grade: A

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“The Reality Check” Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 30)

They’re so bad even Chad Henne didn’t want to hang around.

31. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 28)

I mean, they’re going to HAVE to start Christian Ponder at some point aren’t they?

30. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 31)

Yes, I moved them up a spot because they’ve played the Steelers and Bucs close in back to back weeks. No, I don’t really think they’re actually any good.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 29)

The fact that the Titans lost to the Jags is becoming more inexplicable every week.

28. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 27)

I will still admit that I’m a bit nervous about the Ravens’ trip to the Emerald City.

27. St. Louis Rams (LW: 25)

I don’t know WHY I’m still giving them the benefit of the doubt as a winless team, but I guess I am. They’ll accidentally win a couple NFC West games this year.

26. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 32)

Todd Haley and Matt Cassel are fighting even during a WIN. I have to imagine Le’Ron McClain and Kelly Gregg are longing for Charm City at the moment.

25. Denver Broncos (LW: 24)

Knowshon Moreno fall off an exercise bike. Willis McGahee is still bitching about John Harbaugh. Just play Tim Tebow already.

24. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 21)

Think GM Rod Graves is experiencing a level of “buyers remorse” when it comes to how much the Cards gave up for Kevin Kolb?

23. Carolina Panthers (LW: 23)

They really shouldn’t be getting this much credit for being 1-3, but they are.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 26)

I really like AJ Green. I don’t really like Andy Dalton. But I really like AJ Green.

21. Cleveland Browns (LW: 20)

They need more Peyton Hillis. And a bunch of good players.

20. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 22)

I don’t care what their record says. They’re not as good as that.

19. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 14)

Tony Romo sucks! You know, until he does something really good at another point in the season.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 13)

Andy Reid just realized the chair in his office felt warmer than he remembered.

17. Oakland Raiders (LW: 12)

I have no idea if they’re really any good. That’s why they’re in the middle.

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Ravens agree to terms with veteran running back Ricky Williams

Posted on 08 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have agreed to terms with veteran running back Ricky Williams, according to Pro Football Talk.

Needing to boost depth behind starter Ray Rice after Willis McGahee’s and fullback Le’Ron McClain signing a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Ravens will likely look to the 34-year-old power back to fill McGahee’s role in short-yardage situations. Williams rushed for 673 yards on 159 carries while sharing time with Ronnie Brown in Miami last season.

Williams will reportedly sign a two-year deal worth up to $4 million.

Veteran Jalen Parmele and seventh-round pick Anthony Allen had been the strongest candidates for the No. 2 job on the depth chart, raising concerns with the Ravens’ apparent commitment to the running game in 2011. At 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Williams gives the Ravens a big back to complement the shiftier Rice in the offensive backfield.

Williams is famously known as the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner who the New Orleans Saints — and then-coach Mike Ditka — famously gave up their entire draft to trade up to take him. The free-spirit running back retired in 2004 after two seasons with the Dolphins, only to return to Miami to rush for 743 yards in 2005. The former Texas Longhorn rushed for 1,121 yards (4.7 yards per carry) in 2009, his best season since making his comeback.

While certainly not the feared back who once produced four straight 1,000-yard seasons earlier in his career, a healthy Williams will provide the Ravens an established insurance policy behind the 24-year-old Rice.

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Le’Ron McClain in NFL Free Agency: “Kansas City…Kansas City..Here I Come!”

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens welcomed in their new fullback earlier in the week in Vonta Leach; it was only inevitable that they said goodbye to their old one in Le’Ron McClain.

That happened finally Wednesday afternoon, as Le’Ron McClain signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs to lead-block for RB Jamaal Charles.

He is the second Raven to run out to the Chiefs in less than a week, joining Ravens DT Kelly Gregg who also signed a one-year deal last Saturday.

It was a given that McClain would not return given his contract demands, demand to carry the football, and already having a fullback on the roster.

However, Gregg and McClain will return to Baltimore on Aug 19th in Week 2 of NFL preseason, so it will not be the last time Ravens fans will get to see the two in M&T Bank Stadium.

Be sure to follow WNST on Twitter for your best Ravens news and be sure to sign up for our text service by sending “WNST” to 68255! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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New Ravens FB Vonta Leach: “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl”

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New Ravens FB Vonta Leach: “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl”

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Baltimore Ravens last week cut four veterans in an effort to clear some cap room-three of them veterans on the offensive side of the ball in WR Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and RB Willis McGahee.

This also does’t include the likes of free agents T Jared Gaither, G Chris Chester and FB Le’Ron McClain who are all likely to take their services elsewhere, and in Chester’s case, he already has.

With wide receiver Anquan Boldin the only veteran returning to the lineup and with a coaching staff wanting to commit themselves to getting back to running the football with Ray Rice, the Ravens knew they needed to bolster that part of the offense.

So why not get the guy that blocked for the NFL’s leading rusher in Houston’s Arian Foster in 2010?

And that’s just what the Ravens did Sunday afternoon, as Baltimore signed FB Vonta Leach-widely believed to be the top free agent at the position.

Leach-the AFC’s Pro Bowl FB last year-signed a three year, 11 million dollar contract with the Ravens, which will reportedly make him the highest paid fullback in the league.

And he told Drew Forrester Monday morning that he’s worth every penny of that money.

He’s going to prove it, and he already told Ravens RB Ray Rice so.

“Me and Ray have talked on the phone,” Leach told Forrester. “I told him that I feel like if I block, whoever behind me will be alright.”

And for the most part, Leach is right.

Vonta Leach

Arian Foster last year for Houston-in only his second year in the league-finished atop the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards with Leach leading the way.

Leach also helped a former Maryland target in WVU RB Steve Slaton reach the 1,000 yard plateau in 2008-Slaton’s rookie year.

And he finally got the respect he deserved this year by earning a trip to Honolulu.

However, Leach told Forrester that he’s not playing in the NFL to make Pro Bowls.

He’s here to win Super Bowls, and he felt like the Ravens give him a good chance to make it there.

“I spent five great years in Houston,” Leach told Forrester. “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl every year.”

It was having his seasons as a Texan end in the last week of December that got him thinking about his free agent destination despite Houston’s desire to overpay to get him back.

“I haven’t been playing in January in awhile, and I’m ready to get back into it,” he said.

And finally, he feels like if he does his job and the Ravens commit to using his and Ray Rice’s skills to their potential, he’ll be able to fulfill his desire very easily.

“I know what’s expected of me,” Leach said. “I’m a blocking fullback. That’s what I do. My main job is to do what I can to help this team win.”

WNST thanks Vonta Leach for joining Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction”! We sure to welcome to Baltimore on Twitter (@Vleach44) and check out the conversation at the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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Top 10 Ravens Priorities Before Breaking Camp

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Top 10 Ravens Priorities Before Breaking Camp

Posted on 26 July 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

#10 – Suring up at Safety – While not a position of urgent need for the Ravens, safety isn’t without its questions. Dawan Landry’s impending free agency and Ed Reed’s present state of health could have the team relying heavily on Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski for critical stretches of this season. As they seem to have greater needs elsewhere it seems unlikely that the team would spend heavily to retain Landry and will take their chances with whomever the market may bear behind Reed, Nakamura and Zbikowski. Historically the Ravens have done well with finding safeties that others haven’t seen value in.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

#9 – Finding a Tight End – The release of Todd Heap leaves the team with a gaping hole at the tight end position, and like safety could have them relying on a couple of unproven players for big contributions in 2011. In this case that pursuit might be even more ambitious as both Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are entering only their second seasons and neither found a major niche in the offense last year. It seems the team has designs on re-signing Heap if possible but otherwise would likely have to turn to the open market for a more reliable answer at TE than Pitta or Dickson look to provide. Absent that, the team might be forced to their 2008 form with little reliance on the TE position as anything but an extra blocker at the line of scrimmage.

 

 

#8 – Backing Up Ray Rice – While the release of Willis McGahee wasn’t much of a surprise on Monday, it leaves the Ravens with a number of unanswered questions in the backfield. Can they trust rookie Anthony Allen to be ready to back up Rice if needed? Are they prepared to go with some combination of Jalen Parmalee and Matt Lawrence at the backup if Allen isn’t up to the task without prep time? If Le’Ron McClain returns will he do so as the full time fullback? Do the Ravens want him otherwise? Will the bounty of free agents and the unwillingness of teams to pay them leave the Ravens with good options to choose from when the dust settles?

 

 

#7 – Backing Up Flacco – If Marc Bulger’s presence on last year’s squad indicated anything at all, it may have been that the Ravens envisioned themselves so close to competing for a title, that they refused to allow themselves to be in a position where a single injury could derail those hopes (even if that injury comes at the most important position on the field). If Bulger finds greener pastures elsewhere, surely the Ravens will be looking for more credible options than Tyrod Taylor or Hunter Cantwell. Hopefully it’s a need that never comes to fruition as the season plays out, but one that must be accounted for nonetheless.

 

 

#6 – Sorting out the Cornerbacks – After the Ravens’ forcible defection of talent on Monday and given their apparent desire to retain some of those players, but at a better price; is it out of the realm of possibility that Domonique Foxworth, coming off of an ACL tear, may also be carrying a price tag that’s tough to justify? Additionally see these 10 cornerback questions.

 

 

#5 – Sorting Out the Wide Receivers – The release of Derrick Mason certainly shakes up the receiving hierarchy in Baltimore for 2011 if the Ravens are unable to compel him back. If not they’re left with a bunch of unproven commodities behind Anquan Boldin. That might make the retention of a guy like TJ Houshmandzadeh suddenly much more realistic than it seemed just a few days ago. Whatever the outcomes with Mason and/or Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens will still need a proven field stretcher to compliment Boldin and whomever else rounds out the receiving corps, and it appears that through free agency they’ll have no shortage of candidates to choose from.

 

 

#4 – Prepping for Pittsburgh – Getting the Steelers, in Baltimore, right out of the gate might be just what the doctor ordered for a team likely still smarting from playoff disappointment at the hands of their rivals. While a win in week one won’t put the rivalry back into balance or even mean much if the Steelers again rain on the Ravens’ post-season hopes, it may mean a great deal in determining where a potential third meeting between the clubs would be played and will probably mean the difference between a big boost or a big letdown to set the tone for the 2011 campaign.

 

 

#3 – Getting Defensive Line Help – The Ravens appear ready to unleash Terrance Cody on the league to compliment the man-mountain that is Haloti Ngata in the middle of the defensive line, and at present have 2 young and interesting commodities backing them up in Kelly Talavou and Arthur Jones, but they’ll still need help in developing a much needed edge rush. At present the Ravens list only 2 defensive ends on their roster, rookie Pernell McPhee and 2nd year Albert McClellan. Unless they’re expecting huge contributions from Paul Kruger and/or Sergio Kindle to compliment Suggs in 2011 it would seem that upgrades are in order. I’ll bet on the latter.

 

 

#2 – Suring Up the Right Side of the Offensive Line – Matt Birk is aging, and everything to his right is a question mark. Did Jared Gaither miss last season by pouting or with a legitimate back injury? In either case can you put any faith in him moving forward? Will Marshall Yanda get tackle money in free agency? Should the Ravens pay him tackle money? What can you expect from Oneil Cousins, Jah Reid, or Ramon Harewood in 2011? Should the Ravens look to pursue a left tackle and move Michael Oher back to the right side?  Answering these questions will probably be the biggest determining factor in the Ravens’ success or lack thereof this season.

 

 

#1 – Coming Up With a New Slogan – If John Harbaugh wasn’t having such success as an NFL coach in his 3-year tenure with the Ravens, one might suggest he pursue a career in marketing. In addition to his knack for having his teams ready to play from week to week, Harbaugh has also shown a knack for getting them up to play through the week to week grind of NFL football. From “Play Like a Raven” to the Muhammad Ali inspired “What’s Our Name”, from the inspirational story of Nehemiah to the recognition of Baltimore’s “53 Mighty Men” Harbaugh has never seemingly been at a loss for a poignant theme or reference. It’s fair to say that players and fans alike have been waiting with baited breath to hear this year’s Harbaugh-ism. Given his biblical affinity and his Thanksgiving Day opponent, I might suggest an infamous tale from Genesis.

 

 

 

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On day of return to football, Ravens getting back to business making tough decisions

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Ryan Chell

On a day where the NFL players executive committee, along with player reps from all 32 teams voted unanimously to approve the CBA and get back to the business of football, so too were the Ravens personnel staff when it came to getting back to the business of making tough roster decisions.

“We are excited to be back in the business of football and looking forward to having our players back,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said in a statement Monday afternoon officially kicking off the Ravens off-season agenda.

However with a new CBA tentatively in place pending re-certification of the players union and a new salary cap of 120 million set, the Ravens didn’t take long to make decisions regarding the trying to free up necessary cap space to sign their draftees, eligible free agents, and upgrades, as the Ravens cut four big name players on Monday-three of them integral parts of the offense.

Much like the bell kicking off the day at the New York Stock Exchange, the Ravens said right off the bat that moves-including the tough ones-would be coming, and they followed up on their promises.

The Ravens cut ties Monday afternoon with RB Willis McGahee, DT Kelly Gregg, TE Todd Heap, and WR Derrick Mason, saving roughly close to 20 million dollars in cap space.

All this occurs on the eve of welcoming in their veteran players tomorrow at 10AM in Owings Mills to get the 2011 season underway.

Newsome said in the same statement that things are different now playing under new rules as opposed to the anarchy of no-CBA in 2010.

In a sense, returning to football came with a price.

“With this agreement comes a new salary cap, unlike last season when there was no cap,” Newsome said. “We will be making a number of roster moves in the next 48 hours that will free up salary cap space.”

Newsome justified the future moves-the four Ravens veterans cannot officially be cut until Thursday and are expected to travel to Owings Mills for exit physicals-by saying that it puts the team in better position to make off-season deals as opposed to handcuffing them for years to come.

“This will give us the ability to make offers to our players we want to re-sign, plus put us in a position to sign free agents from other teams,” he said.

And indeed it did.

By those four moves alone-the Ravens-a team already roughly five million under the cap, saved themselves roughly 18.5 million dollars in salary cap room with the departures of Heap, Mason, Gregg, and McGahee.

This will also go a long ways toward agreeing to terms with draft picks Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, and others.

But even with that money eventually being freed up to use on the Ravens of the future, it certainly is tough for Raven Nation to watch four veterans who put in a combined 30-years in a Baltimore uniform go maybe for good.

Heap, the team’s first-round pick in 2001, put together 10 quality seasons catching 467 balls for 5,492 and 41 touchdowns.

Heap declined to comment until the move became official on Thursday, and given that stance, it could mean that he could be quickly back in a Ravens uniform after negotiating a new deal.

Mason, the team’s all-time leading receiver with 5,777 yards in six seasons after coming over as a free agent from Tennessee in 2005, was only expected to be released had the team made another veteran move.

And while that move could be days away from being official, it appears Mason may have wore out his welcome in Baltimore with retirement talk, criticism of Roger Goodell, “vows of silence” to the media, and complaining about his role on the team. (continued)

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As Offseason FINALLY Opens, Ravens Face Seven Major Issues

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to start writing a football column.

With the NFL offseason officially slated to open…well…any moment now, the Baltimore Ravens can finally go to work where they left off following the NFL Draft.

The Ravens (as well as all 31 other NFL teams) will have a frantic 10-14 days ahead of them. They’ll need to make decisions on their own free agents, as well as consider players they may want to let go of in order to create salary cap space (this year’s cap will reportedly be $120 million). They’ll have to take a look at Unrestricted Free Agents elsewhere around the league, as well as potential trades. They’ll also have to sign undrafted free agents to fill a 90 man roster and then work on contracts with their own draft picks.

As far as the Ravens are concerned, they’ll have to do all of this while also opening Training Camp (scheduled to begin Wednesday per NFL Network) and preparing for a preseason opener Thursday, August 11th at the Philadelphia Eagles.

As General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company go to work, I’ve identified seven major issues the team faces in this crazy offseason period.

In some particular order…

1-Someway, somehow, the pass rush MUST be upgraded

New Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano inherits a unit that tallied just 27 sacks in 2010. Only three teams had a lower total (the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with 26 sacks each, the Denver Broncos finished with 23) last season. The Ravens posted the disappointing total number despite 11 sacks alone from LB Terrell Suggs.

The easiest way the Ravens can upgrade this area is by adding a Rush End. Amongst defensive linemen a season ago, only DT Haloti Ngata (5.5) and Cory Redding (three) posted multiple sacks.

The Ravens have in-house options to anchor their defensive line, although none are ideal. Redding could again be asked to take on rush responsibilities, but only once in his career (2006 with the Detroit Lions) has he tallied more than three sacks in a season (eight).

Third year DE Paul Kruger finally got into the sack column last year, but through two seasons that one sack remains the only he has posted.

Another option is DE Pernell McPhee, the team’s 5th round pick out of Mississippi State. McPhee’s chances are less likely due to the shortened offseason, as coaches will be less likely to trust a player immediately after getting little to no time with him in the offseason.

The Ravens can look to free agency to get rush end help. Green Bay’s Cullen Jenkins, Carolina’s Charles Johnson, Minnesota’s Ray Edwards and Tennessee’s Jason Babin headline a group of available rushers off the edge. All will be pricey for a team that still needs to get Ngata signed to a long term deal.

Battling injuries throughout the season, LB Jarret Johnson finished with just 1.5 sacks in 2010. The Ravens are hoping 2010 second round pick Sergio Kindle can spell him at the SAM position, presenting some heat opposite Suggs. It’s hard to count on production from Kindle considering he’s still working his way back from a fractured skull that forced him to miss what would have been his rookie season, but Kindle has maintained this offseason that he has been cleared to return to football.

On the inside, the Ravens can potentially produce a more consistent rush from within. Releasing DT Kelly Gregg could provide the team roughly $3 million in cap savings, and could pave the way for one of the team’s younger interior linemen to get time on the field. DT’s Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou could all be options and could all provide a little more ability to reach the backfield.

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