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Pondering the Ravens’ potential 2016 salary cap cuts

Posted on 12 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are facing their most critical offseason of the John Harbaugh era, but revamping a 5-11 team won’t be easy with a salary cap lacking flexibility.

Having entered the offseason with an estimated 2016 commitment of just under $146 million to 47 players, general manager Ozzie Newsome can only hope that the salary cap will rise to the highest reported estimate of $153.4 million, an increase of $10 million from this past season. However, that would still leave little room to sign some of their own free agents, let alone try to make other additions.

The direction of the offseason hinges on Baltimore’s ability to adjust quarterback Joe Flacco’s $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season, but additional cap-related moves will likely still need to be made. The Ravens may not have an extensive list of high-priority free agents, but standing pat after missing the playoffs in two of the last three seasons won’t sit well with the fan base — or owner Steve Bisciotti.

And after last week’s revelation that Harbaugh doesn’t plan to make any changes to his coaching staff, the Ravens are signaling that the roster was the bigger problem in 2015.

In evaluating cap space and potential cuts, it’s important to remember the rule of 51 as the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count against the salary cap. The savings from any released player is offset in part by an additional player jumping into the top 51 from the bottom of the list. For example, if a released player carrying a $3 million cap number is replaced in the top 51 by another player carrying a $450,000 cap number, the end result is a $2.55 million savings on the salary cap.

Below is a list of veteran candidates to be cut for cap purposes (with the pre-June 1 cap savings noted in parentheses):

CB Kyle Arrington ($1.433 million)
Skinnny: Signed last spring to serve as Baltimore’s No. 3 corner, Arrington struggled and saw his playing time dwindle dramatically until the late-season move of Lardarius Webb to safety. With younger options such as Will Davis and Tray Walker already on the roster and the Ravens mentioning cornerback as a need to address this offseason, Arrington’s roster spot would appear to be in serious jeopardy.

DE Chris Canty ($2.15 million)
Skinny: The 33-year-old is still a useful player when healthy, but injuries and the presence of Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban for the 5-technique spot make it likely that the Ravens will elect to cut Canty this winter. The organization decided to bring the veteran back after terminating his contract a year ago, but you wonder if either side would have interest in doing that again.

S Matt Elam ($1.328 million)
Skinny: The Ravens would still like to salvage some production out of the worst defensive first-round pick in franchise history, but Elam is making enough money now to wonder if it’s worth it. With Will Hill manning the strong safety spot, where does the University of Florida product even fit? Elam would be an expensive backup and special-teams player at a crowded position.

RB Justin Forsett ($2.3 million)
Skinny: The Ravens have three young running backs behind him on the depth chart, but Lorenzo Taliaferro hasn’t been able to stay healthy, Buck Allen had ball-security issues late in the season, and Terrance West wore out his welcome with two other NFL teams in less than two years. Forsett may not be a home-run hitter, but his $3.7 million cap figure is reasonable and Allen didn’t quite show enough for the Ravens to sign off on him being ready to be a No. 1 running back just yet.

S Kendrick Lewis ($933,333)
Skinny: Though Lewis didn’t bring the impact to the free safety position that the Ravens hoped when they signed him last offseason, his release wouldn’t bring much in the way of cap savings. That being said, if the Ravens truly intend to make Webb their starting free safety, cutting Lewis might be a football move more than one related to the salary cap.

OT Eugene Monroe ($2.1 million)
Skinny: This could be the most complicated decision of the offseason as Monroe has started only 16 games since signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract two years ago. Cutting Monroe leaves $6.6 million in dead money on the 2016 cap, and re-signing Kelechi Osemele won’t be an easy task. If Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley falls into their laps in the first round, the Ravens could wave goodbye to Monroe. Otherwise, they may look to draft a tackle in the second or third round and hold their breath that Monroe bounces back in 2016.

TE Dennis Pitta ($600,000)
Skinny: The veteran tight end said at the end of the season that nothing has changed in terms of his hopes to play again, but things have changed for the Ravens as his 2016 base salary ($5 million) is not guaranteed like it was this past year. There’s always a chance that Pitta agrees to an incentive-laden deal with no guaranteed money to continue with a potential comeback, but he is more likely to be released or to retire. The question will be whether the Ravens want $6.6 million in dead money to be absorbed in 2016 or to give him a post-June 1 designation to push $4.4 million of that to 2017. Either way, Pitta’s exit isn’t going to be of great assistance when it comes to making moves this offseason.

LB Daryl Smith ($2.625 million)
Skinny: The veteran has done a fine job stepping into the position once held by Ray Lewis, but he wore down as 2015 progressed and was being replaced by Zach Orr in nickel situations late in the season. There isn’t an obvious every-down replacement waiting in the wings, but Smith will be 34 and carries a $4.375 million cap figure for 2016. In a perfect world, 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown already would have stepped into the spot next to C.J. Mosley, but we know how that story has played out.

CB Lardarius Webb ($3.5 million)
Skinny: Newsome spoke with conviction at the season-ending press conference about the Ravens moving Webb to free safety, but his $9.5 million cap figure for 2016 would make him one of the most expensive safeties in the league despite his inexperience there. Webb accepted a pay cut a year ago and will likely need to take another one unless the Ravens are that blindly confident in him being a Pro Bowl-caliber safety. The fact that Webb already proclaimed himself to be a safety moving forward probably won’t help his cause in negotiating with the Ravens or on the open market if he’s let go.

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Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam (26) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Ravens safety Elam suspended for substance-abuse violation

Posted on 30 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Injured Ravens safety Matt Elam has been suspended one game without pay for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The league announced Friday that the third-year defensive back would be banned for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers despite Elam already being on injured reserve after suffering a torn biceps in the first week of training camp.

“We have been aware of this situation for a while,” the organization said in a statement. “Matt has been in our building rehabbing his injury on a regular basis, and he will continue to do so.”

The suspension is just the latest bad news for the 2013 first-round pick, who has been nothing short of disappointing in his time with the Ravens. After two underwhelming seasons, Elam entered training camp with no guarantee of being a starter before he suffered a season-ending biceps injury on Aug. 1.

Starting 26 of 32 games in his career, Elam has collected 127 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and seven pass breakups.

In 2016, Elam will enter the final season of a four-year, $6.767 million contract rookie contract signed after he was the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 draft. The suspension means the safety will not receive his game check worth just over $60,000 for Sunday’s contest.

The University of Florida product is scheduled to carry a $2.153 million cap figure next year, and the Ravens would save roughly $1.328 million in cap space by releasing him in the offseason.

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Ravens-related thoughts on Week 7

Posted on 26 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Everything about the Ravens organization has come under scrutiny after a 1-5 start with recent draft history being among the biggest concerns.

Though their draft issues pale in comparison to teams like Cleveland who have failed miserably with multiple top choices, I couldn’t help but notice how few of the Ravens’ recent high picks would be contributing in Monday’s contest against Arizona. And much of the blame can be placed on injuries.

In total, the Ravens have selected nine players in the first three rounds over their last three drafts and just four of them — linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackles Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and Carl Davis — were expected to play meaningful snaps on Monday night. Four others — safeties Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and tight end Maxx Williams — are sidelined with injuries and 2013 second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown has been nothing more than a special-teams player in his third season.

It’s interesting to note that the defensive line is one of the Ravens’ few strengths while they’ve lacked playmakers in the secondary and in the passing game, areas where these absent draft picks normally reside. While the blame doesn’t fall solely on these recent selections, it’s difficult to look at that breakdown without concluding it’s a substantial part of what ails the Ravens.

** Much has been made about the NFL still having five undefeated teams at the end of seven weeks, but taking a closer look at the AFC should have the Ravens kicking themselves over their horrendous start. After New England, Cincinnati, and Denver, the conference sports just two other teams — Pittsburgh and the New York Jets — with winning records as the calendar is ready to turn to November.

Anyone who looked at the Ravens’ early-season schedule needed to be realistic about the daunting task of playing five of their first seven on the road, but many opined that a 4-3 record — even 3-4 — would put John Harbaugh’s team in position to make a run in the second half with an easier schedule. That would have proven to be true if not for a 1-5 start, but the Ravens can’t really complain when holding an 0-2 record at M&T Bank Stadium this year.

** Baltimore appears to be getting San Diego at the right time as the Chargers have lost three straight and were handled at home by Oakland on Sunday, but coming off a Monday night road game is a difficult proposition. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens hold a 3-5 record in games immediately following a Monday road game and one of those wins — against Arizona in 2011 — was the largest comeback in team history.

The defense-challenged Chargers may only be 2-5, but preparing for Philip Rivers and the league’s top-ranked passing game on a short week could be a nightmare for the Ravens pass defense. For what it’s worth, the Ravens were coming off a Monday night road game last year when they lost to the Chargers in Baltimore.

** The Steelers did an admirable job surviving without Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to return to action against the Bengals in Week 8.

Going 2-2 in games started by Mike Vick and Landry Jones is quite respectable, but those two losses came against teams that entered Week 7 with 1-5 records. That has to eat away at coach Mike Tomlin as Pittsburgh trails Cincinnati by three games in the loss column in the AFC North standings.

** Former University of Maryland standout Stefon Diggs had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota’s 28-19 win over Detroit on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman still isn’t practicing and fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker — drafted 10 spots ahead of Diggs — hasn’t been trusted to play defensive snaps despite a slew of injuries in the secondary.

Carry on.

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Ravens defensive end Urban suffers biceps tear

Posted on 08 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having already lost safety Matt Elam to a torn biceps last week, the Ravens have lost a second young defensive player to a similar injury.

Second-year defensive end Brent Urban suffered a torn biceps during Thursday’s practice and will undergo surgery, which is expected to keep him out for at least three months. Head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will decide at the start of the regular season whether to place Urban on season-ending injured reserve or give him the designation to return.

The 24-year-old confirmed being injured via his official Twitter account on Saturday morning.

A fourth-round selection from the University of Virginia in last year’s draft, Urban missed his entire rookie season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in his first training camp. The Ravens had hoped that Urban would step into a meaningful rotation role at the 5-technique defensive end spot and as a situational pass rusher.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive end was listed behind veterans Chris Canty and Lawrence Guy on the first depth chart of the summer, but Urban had impressed so far in practices this summer.

“I was really counting on him,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he would really shine, and I still think he will. He’s had four straight years where he’s had serious injuries. That’s been a bugaboo for him that he’s going to have to overcome.”

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Twenty Ravens players missing from Friday’s practice

Posted on 07 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing 20 players from their 90-man preseason roster as they practiced in shells and shorts on Friday afternoon.

A handful of veterans appeared to be awarded the day off as head coach John Harbaugh periodically does, but several notable players continue to nurse injuries.

Wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back) remain sidelined as the Ravens offense has worked without two of its top four wideouts for most of training camp. The first-round pick Perriman has missed seven straight practices after injuring his knee in the final 20 minutes of the first full-squad practice of the summer while Brown has now sat out five of the last six workouts.

Tight end Maxx Williams was also absent on Friday after being poked in the eye and leaving Thursday’s workout early.

Baltimore continues to deal with injury problems at the guard position with starter Kelechi Osemele (foot) and backups John Urschel (head) and Robert Myers (head) all out. Urschel and Myers both left Thursday’s practice with concussions, according to Harbaugh.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Brent Urban were new absences due to unspecified reasons. Cornerbacks Tray Walker and Chris Greenwood remain out with hamstring strains.

Outside linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) was also missing again.

The list of veterans believed to be receiving a day off on Friday included wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Justin Forsett, cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, and defensive end Chris Canty.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

Already out for the season with a biceps tear, safety Matt Elam rounded out the collection of 20 players not participating in Friday’s workout.

 

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Ravens hoping they’ve finally found stability at safety

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the 30 months since the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, no position has experienced more change than safety.

Free agents like Michael Huff and Darian Stewart have come and gone and draft picks such as Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks haven’t worked out exactly as planned — at least not yet — as the only constant in the back end of the defense over the last few years has been flux.

This was never more evident than a year ago when five safeties played at least 245 defensive snaps, leaving a weekly guessing game of who would line up for defensive coordinator Dean Pees on a given Sunday. More attention fell on the list of cornerbacks going down with injuries in 2014, but the constant rotating and unrest at the safety position was a major factor contributing to the Baltimore pass defense finishing 23rd in the NFL.

“We rotated because we had to rotate. It wasn’t because I sometimes wanted to,” Pees said. “I don’t really care, but I really do think that if you have two guys that establish themselves, they get used to playing together, they get used to communicating together, and guys get used to hearing the communication from them. When that’s a rotation all the time, guys communicate differently.”

The Ravens are hoping they’ve finally solved that problem with the free-agent signing of Kendrick Lewis in March. The former Houston Texan and Kansas City Chief doesn’t carry overwhelming credentials, but the 27-year-old started 66 games in his first five seasons and has been praised for his intelligence in both the meeting room and the field.

Communication was a major problem in 2014, often leading to long pass plays over safeties’ heads. Lewis is viewed as a better center-field defender than the ex-Raven Stewart or any of the safeties still on the roster, which should allow cornerbacks and linebackers to play more aggressively in coverage.

The Ravens secondary has spoken at length this spring and summer about developing more trust than the group had a year ago when a new combination of cornerbacks and safeties was lining up almost every week and there was often more finger-pointing than plays being made.

“Those are the things we talk about when we’re watching film,” Lewis said, “whether we see something, [we’re] communicating, ‘Hey, listen, I’m jumping this one. Protect me here.’ That’s the type of chemistry we’re building in the secondary when we’re in meetings going over the [film], preparing and transferring it to the practice field.”

While the Ravens hope Lewis will bring stability to a free safety position they haven’t been able to fill adequately since the free-agent departure of Ed Reed, strong safety Will Hill might be the bigger factor in determining how much the secondary can improve. A year ago at this time, Hill was just learning his way around the Ravens’ Owings Mills training facility while waiting to serve a six-game suspension, but a full and trouble-free offseason has the 25-year-old primed for a breakout season.

Even before the season-ending biceps injury suffered by Elam on the third day of training camp, most expected Hill to win the competition for the starting strong safety job based on his solid play in eight starts last season.

Hill’s talent has never come into question as the New York Giants only parted ways with the University of Florida product after he drew the third suspension of his young career, so the Ravens are eager to see what the 6-foot-1, 228-pound safety can accomplish with a full year in Baltimore under his belt. His combination of size, speed, physicality, and ball skills is a recipe to become an impact player in the secondary as long as he keeps himself on the field.

“Last year, I just came in and had to hurry up and learn quick, quick, quick,” Hill said. “I had a whole offseason to learn the plays. In training camp, it’s just picking up as we go along. I’m just trying to be that assertive guy out there that they need and [to] produce.”

With so much turnover at the safety position over the last couple years, the Ravens have often relied on players lacking experience or the necessary credentials to lead the secondary. But they hope Lewis’ experience and Hill’s upside will finally bring stability for the foreseeable future while younger players such as Elam and Brooks recover from injuries.

After being spoiled by having a future Hall of Famer at free safety for the first five years of his tenure in Baltimore, head coach John Harbaugh likes what he’s seen from Lewis’ leadership.

“You don’t hear him talk too much,” Harbaugh said. “You see him, and the thing that strikes me is I see him on tape, and he knows what he’s doing, and he has been in this defense for just a couple of months now. He and Will are really taking charge in the back end. I love our communication back there. We’re a lot better than we were last year with that, and we just have to keep building on it.”

It remains to be seen how well this latest safety combination works as the Ravens seek their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years, but the secondary isn’t shying away from its stated goal of creating more turnovers after it came way with just 11 interceptions in 2014. Illustrating how little impact the defensive backfield had in making game-changing plays, the 350-pound Haloti Ngata and rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley led the team with two interceptions apiece while no defensive back had more than one.

Lewis has made it clear to the rest of the secondary in his short time in Baltimore that interceptions must become a part of what the Ravens defense creates again. And there can be no excuse for missed opportunities.

“‘You’re dropping that money. You’re leaving that money on the field,'” said Lewis about the urgency to pick off passes during practice. “We feel like there’s money in [those] balls. Those are money balls — that’s what we call them. You drop one, you owe us 10 pushups, and that’s money you left out there on the grass.”

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Ravens shift training camp to M&T Bank Stadium on Monday

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Giving many rookies their first exposure to playing in an NFL stadium, the Ravens conducted an open training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night.

With an announced 22,111 attending the workout for free, the Ravens were still missing linebacker Elvis Dumervil (Achilles) tendinitis) and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) as both missed their fourth straight practice. The secondary continues to be banged up as well as rookie Tray Walker (hamstring), Rashaan Melvin (hamstring), and Chris Greenwood (undisclosed) were all missing from Monday’s workout.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed after practice that safety Matt Elam would miss the season after suffering a torn biceps on Saturday that will require surgery.

Despite returning to the practice field on a limited basis on Sunday, wide receiver Marlon Brown missed his second workout in three days as he’s nursing a minor back ailment.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) remains on the active physically unable to perform list, but he was running routes in shorts and a t-shirt before the start of Monday’s practice. Safety Terrence Brooks (knee) also remains on the active PUP list.

Defensive tackle Casey Walker (knee) was activated from the PUP list and took part in his first practice of the summer.

Practice highlights

Cornerback Kyle Arrington had a strong night, drawing the ire of Steve Smith after the veteran receiver took exception to the former New England Patriot’s tight coverage on an early pass play. The pair jawed at a couple different points over the remainder of Monday night’s practice.

Despite expectations that he would serve as Baltimore’s nickel back, Arrington has seen extensive on the outside with starter Lardarius Webb moving into the slot when the Ravens use three cornerbacks. Arrington also had an impressive breakup against Kamar Aiken in 1-on-1 drills.

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub continued his early-camp struggles by heaving a pass into triple coverage that was intercepted by rookie free agent Nick Perry.

The Ravens limited No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith’s reps on the stadium turf, but he registered an interception on a Joe Flacco pass that was intended for Michael Campanaro. The starting quarterback was not happy that Campanaro drifted on his sideline pattern, allowing Smith to undercut the route.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams had arguably his best practice as a professional in beating Arthur Brown in coverage to catch a long touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Bryn Renner. However, Williams later dropped what would have been a touchdown despite having a step on starting linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Kicker Justin Tucker drew one of the loudest ovations of the night when he drilled a 64-yard field goal.

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Ravens not taking any chances with early injuries in camp

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already preparing to play the 2015 season without safety Matt Elam, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh isn’t taking any chances with early-camp injuries to several players.

Elvis Dumervil headlines a list of players dealing with minor ailments as the outside linebacker has been sidelined for three straight days with tendinitis in his Achilles tendon. The Ravens want to make sure the issue doesn’t linger as they’re still more than five weeks away from the start of the regular season.

“Dumervil has a tendinitis issue that we’re not even [going] to mess with,” Harbaugh said following Sunday’s practice. “He’ll be fine soon, but it won’t be until he’s 100 percent that we bring him back for practice. And I don’t think it will be more than a week, but then again, I’ve said [a time frame] before, and it’s not right. But I don’t think it will be long.”

Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman remained sidelined on Sunday while continuing to deal with a minor knee injury. Initially labeled a “bruise” by Harbaugh, the 26th overall pick’s knee sprain isn’t expected to keep him out for long, but he hasn’t practiced since Thursday while fellow receiver Kamar Aiken has taken advantage of more reps with the starting offense.

Cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin and Tray Walker are both dealing with hamstring strains as the former did not practice on Sunday. Walker, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick this year, left Sunday’s practice after pulling up lame.

“Whenever a guy gets a hamstring, right now, we’re pretty much getting them out of there,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t want it to go.”

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) and linebacker Andrew Bose (undisclosed) both participated in Sunday’s practice after sitting out the previous day.

Harbaugh gave a number of veteran players the day off on Sunday, including wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Justin Forsett, guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, and defensive end Chris Canty.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), safety Terrence Brooks (knee), and defensive tackle Casey Walker (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

The Ravens will return to M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night for the first time since December to hold an open and free practice for fans to attend. The workout will give rookies an early experience in an NFL stadium before the preseason opener against New Orleans on Aug. 13.

“I just think it’s a real plus to put them in that environment, a different environment,” Harbaugh said. “When it comes time to play the Saints, they’ll at least have been there before. Plus, it’s great for the fans.”

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Harbaugh “not optimistic” with prognosis for Elam’s biceps injury

Posted on 02 August 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens safety Matt Elam suffered what is feared to be a season-ending arm injury during the first full-contact practice of training camp on Saturday.

The 2013 first-round pick underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine whether he suffered a torn biceps when he reached awkwardly for a wide receiver. Head coach John Harbaugh did not have the final results of the MRI when he addressed reporters on Sunday evening.

“I’m not real optimistic right now,” Harbaugh said. “I haven’t heard a final word, but it wasn’t very optimistic yesterday talking to the doctors [about] his biceps.”

After injuring his arm on Saturday afternoon, Elam walked inside the Ravens’ training facility with head athletic trainer Mark Smith. He did not appear to be in serious pain as he walked without any assistance.

After a disappointing start to his NFL career, Elam was expected to compete with Will Hill for the starting strong safety spot this season. Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome made it no secret this offseason that the organization expected more from the University of Florida product, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees had praised Elam for his performance during spring workouts.

“I’m sure it’s very disappointing for him and he told me that,” Harbaugh said. “Here’s a guy who came back with a renewed attitude. He had a better approach than he’d had the first two years. He just had grown up a lot. He was very serious. He was in tremendous shape and then he gets a fluke injury. That’s a disappointment.”

Should Elam be sidelined for an extended period of time, depth at the safety position would become a concern behind projected starters Hill and Kendrick Lewis. Terrence Brooks remains on the active physically unable to perform list while recovering from a knee injury, which would leave Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick, and rookie free agent Nick Perry as the only other healthy safeties on the 90-man preseason roster.

In two seasons, Elam has played in 32 games (26 starts), accumulating 127 tackles, one interception, and seven pass breakups.

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Safeties

Posted on 28 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on Wednesday and the first full-squad workout takes place the following on July 30, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore safeties:

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks
BUBBLE: Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None

Synopsis: Much attention was paid to the rash of injuries at cornerback last year, but the Ravens really struggled at the safety position, using a number of players with underwhelming results. Ozzie Newsome addressed the position with the offseason signing of veteran Kendrick Lewis, who is considered good in deep coverage — an area that was particularly problematic in 2014 — but isn’t a dynamic player. Will Hill emerged as a starter in the second half of 2014 and brings intriguing upside if he can continue to stay away from off-field trouble. Beyond that, this group is filled with a plethora of questions from disappointing 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam to Terrence Brooks, who begins training camp on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from last December’s knee injury.

One to watch: The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Hill brings an impressive combination of size and speed to the position and is projected to be the starting strong safety. It will be interesting to see how much improvement Hill can make after he didn’t sign with the Ravens until training camp last year and served a six-game suspension to begin the 2014 season. Even with other high draft picks currently on the roster, the former rookie free agent from the University of Florida appears to have the most potential to be a stabilizing force at the safety position.

One on notice: The lack of depth at the position leads me to believe Elam isn’t in real danger of losing his roster spot, but the Ravens have made it abundantly clear that they need to see more from him after a very disappointing 2014 campaign. In fairness, he was asked to play a lot of nickel due to the injuries at the cornerback position last year, but that doesn’t forgive his tackling issues as he led the team with 16 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. There’s still time for Elam to turn around his young career, but this figures to be a critical season for him to do that.

Sleeper: Nick Perry had to wait his turn behind other safeties at Alabama, but he performed well in the Crimson Tide secondary as a senior, showing good ability as a tackler and some solid coverage ability. He doesn’t figure to be ready to be a factor defensively, but a strong preseason and ability on special teams could put him in decent position to take away a roster spot from an incumbent such as Anthony Levine or Brynden Trawick. His 4.62-second 40-yard dash is good enough and his intelligence on the football field was praised at Alabama, making him someone to watch this summer.

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