Tag Archive | "matt lawrence"

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Ravens place tenders on restricted free agents Webb, C. Williams, Ellerbe

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:55 p.m.)

With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the Ravens have tendered contracts to restricted free-agent cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams.

As anticipated, Webb will receive a first-round tender at a rate of approximately $2.74 million in an effort to keep the fourth-year cornerback in Baltimore for the 2012 season while a long-term extension is explored. Two years removed from a torn ACL suffered late in his rookie season, Webb had a team-high five interceptions during the regular season and grabbed three more in the Ravens’ two playoff games.

Williams will receive the second-round tender, which would pay him approximately $1.92 million for the 2012 season. Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2011 season, the former Tennessee Titans practice squad member started all 16 games at cornerback and recorded 77 tackles and 18 pass breakups.

Under the rules of restricted free agency, other teams may negotiate with each player and sign either to an offer sheet. However, the Ravens would then have one week to match the offer or to refuse and receive the corresponding draft pick matched with the tender originally offered to the player.

Much speculation persists that the New England Patriots, who own two first-round picks, could pursue Webb in free agency, but Monday’s move guarantees the Ravens would receive a first-round pick if they would choose not to match any potential offer made to the starting cornerback.

According to the Carroll County Times, the Ravens have also placed a second-round tender on linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and have elected not to tender oft-injured running back Matt Lawrence, who spent the last two seasons on injured reserve.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

Posted on 08 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and seven exclusive rights free agents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 2012 salary cap had yet to be set, but most reports indicate it will remain right around the $120 million used for the 2011 season. The Ravens are projected to have somewhere between $11 and $12 million in cap space, depending on what the final cap number will be.

Franchise tag

RB Ray Rice: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with Rice or he will play for the $7.7 million salary mandated by the franchise tag for running backs.

Unrestricted free agents

G Ben Grubbs: LEAVES
Skinny: General manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism at the NFL Combine, but the Ravens won’t engage in a bidding war when Grubbs hits the open market. 

C Matt Birk: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will meet with Birk’s agent Joe Linta next week and could sign the veteran to a cap-friendly, short-term deal to finish his career in Baltimore. 

LB Jarret Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: Despite little depth at outside linebacker, the Ravens appear ready to move on and won’t be able to afford Johnson in a thin market for linebackers. 

LB Jameel McClain: LEAVES
Skinny: Assuming the Ravens do not strike a deal for Grubbs, some of that money could be allocated to retain McClain, but other teams historically throw too much money at Baltimore linebackers in the open market. 

DE Cory Redding: STAYS
Skinny: Though third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones could step into the starting lineup, Redding might have more value to the Ravens than other potential suitors at this stage in his career. 

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: STAYS
Skinny: With the lack of depth at inside linebacker and Ayanbadejo’s ability in pass coverage, the Ravens will hold onto the 35-year-old at a lower rate than the four-year contract he signed with the team in 2008. 

S Tom Zbikowski: LEAVES
Skinny: After four years serving primarily as a backup, the former Notre Dame product is looking for an opportunity to start elsewhere and doesn’t bring enough to the table as a special teams player to warrant overpaying. 

S Haruki Nakamura: STAYS
Skinny: In the same position as Zbikowski, Nakamura’s versatility as a defensive back as well as his special teams prowess will force the Ravens to pony up a little extra to keep him in Baltimore. 

OL Andre Gurode: LEAVES
Skinny: With the Ravens looking to select an interior lineman or two in April’s draft, the five-time Pro Bowl center will continue his career elsewhere. 

DT Brandon McKinney: STAYS
Skinny: A solid member of the defensive line rotation, McKinney won’t figure to draw a ton of interest on the open market, and the Ravens want to maintain their depth up front. 

TE Kris Wilson: LEAVES
Skinny: Adding a veteran tight end was a shrewd move after Todd Heap’s release last season, but Wilson’s spot will be assumed by a younger, cheaper option. 

LB Edgar Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Injuries opened the door for Jones’ return last season, but he wouldn’t figure to fit into the team’s plans for the 2012 season. 

Restricted free agents

(The Ravens can offer a first-round, second-round, or low tender to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted.)

CB Lardarius Webb: STAYS
Skinny: Webb will receive the first-round tender worth roughly $2.75 million as the Ravens will explore a long-term agreement with the fourth-year cornerback. 

CB Cary Williams: STAYS
Skinny: A report indicated the Ravens will offer Williams a first-round tender, but the second-round designation (an estimated $1.9 million) saves money and would still deter teams from trying to pry away the biggest surprise of the 2011 season.

LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens could roll the dice and offer the low tender ($1.25 million) to the inconsistent linebacker, but that would mean they wouldn’t receive a pick (Ellerbe was an undrafted free agent) if they declined to match a potential offer sheet.

RB Matt Lawrence: LEAVES
Skinny: Even with little depth at running back behind Ray Rice, there’s no way to justify even offering the low tender to the oft-injured running back entering his fourth season.

Exclusive rights free agents

(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

Posted on 26 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In the aftermath of the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship on Sunday, the finality of the season coming to an abrupt end was accompanied by the all-too-familiar feeling knowing that same team will never be together again.

The reality of the NFL’s offseason brings substantial change to all 32 teams — some more than others — and forces players to say goodbye to others for the final time as teammates.

“It’s tough to really think about that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You know it’s going to happen, but you don’t know which guys it’s going to be, so it’s tough to be in our shoes and go through that. You finally just take it for what it is, and before you know it, you hope you had a good relationship with everybody on the team and said as much as you could say to that guy. We hope we can bring as many people back as we can.”

While other moves will be made — cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans are the strongest candidates to be cut despite being under contract for the 2012 season — the Ravens have 13 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and four exclusive-rights free agents entering the offseason. I’ve included the entire list with a brief thought on each player’s potential future in Baltimore.

Two dates to keep in mind as the offseason begins are the March 5 deadline to designate a franchise player and the start of free agency on March 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Unrestricted free agents

RB Ray Rice
2011 stats: 16 starts, 2,068 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns
Skinny: Rice isn’t going anywhere as the Ravens will either use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl back or sign him to a long-term deal, though the latter would certainly create more cap space for 2012.

G Ben Grubbs
2011 stats: 10 starts, first Pro Bowl selection
Skinny: The Ravens clearly would like to bring the left guard back, but with Marshal Yanda receiving a sizable deal a few months ago, can the organization afford to invest so much money in the guard position?

C Matt Birk
2011 stats: 16 starts
Skinny: After 14 seasons in the league, Birk may decide to retire, but the Ravens could elect to go with the slightly-younger Andre Gurode or look to the draft for the center position.

LB Jarret Johnson
2011 stats: 16 starts, 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks
Skinny: With Johnson on the wrong side of 30, it might be time to part ways with the veteran linebacker, but the Ravens lack a logical replacement on the current roster with the disappointing development of 2010 second-round pick Sergio Kindle and the limitations of pass rusher Paul Kruger.

LB Jameel McClain
2011 stats: 16 starts, 81 tackles, one sack, one interception
Skinny: The former undrafted free agent credits Ray Lewis for his growth, so you have to wonder if McClain becomes the next Baltimore linebacker to receive an inflated contract elsewhere.

DE Cory Redding
2011 stats: 15 games (11 starts), 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks
Skinny: Before an ankle injury slowed Redding over the final month of 2011, he was having his best season in years, but the Ravens could elect to go with younger — and cheaper — defensive lineman Arthur Jones at this position.

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
2011 stats: 16 games, 27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, nine special teams tackles
Skinny: The 35-year-old intends to play in 2012 and expects to be back with the Ravens, but the nickel linebacker may not be on the same page as Baltimore in terms of a contract to make his return feasible.

S Tom Zbikowski
2011 stats: 14 games (four starts), 16 tackles, one sack
Skinny: Largely a forgotten man after Bernard Pollard wrestled away the strong safety job early in the season, it appears Zbikowski will likely try to find a new home where he can start.

S Haruki Nakamura
2011 stats: 15 games, three tackles, nine special-teams tackles
Skinny: In a similar position to Zbikowski, the Ravens will likely make a harder push to keep Nakamura due to his exceptional ability as as special teams player.

OL Andre Gurode
2011 stats: 13 games (five starts)
Skinny: Signed as an insurance policy behind Matt Birk, the 10-year veteran wound up being needed at left guard for an injured Grubbs and could be the short-term replacement at center next season.

DT Brandon McKinney
2011 stats: 12 games, 14 tackles
Skinny: A regular part of the rotation along the defensive line, it’s hard to envision teams beating down McKinney’s door, but the Ravens may try to go younger and cheaper than the six-year veteran.

TE Kris Wilson
2011 stats: 15 games, four special teams tackles
Skinny: His touchdown catch in the divisional round was his claim to fame, but the veteran’s competent special teams ability may not be enough to keep him in Baltimore next season.

LB Edgar Jones
2011 stats: nine games, three special teams tackles
Skinny: Though he was active all nine games after being signed in early November, there’s a reason why Jones was unemployed when the Ravens were looking for special-teams depth.

Restricted free agents
(The Ravens can offer a tender attached to a draft pick and then have the right to match any offer from an opposing team and would receive that team’s draft pick if they choose not to match it.)

CB Lardarius Webb
2011 stats: 16 games (15 starts), 68 tackles, five interceptions, sack
Skinny: With another season like he had in 2011, Webb will be looking for a large payday and deservedly so.

CB Cary Williams
2011 stats: 16 starts, 77 tackles, two forced fumbles
Skinny: Easily the most pleasant surprise on the Baltimore defense, Williams will battle 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith for a starting corner job in training camp.

LB Dannell Ellerbe
2011 stats: nine games (three starts), 17 tackles
Skinny: The third-year linebacker always leaves you wanting more but could find himself in position to compete for a starting role depending on how the Ravens address the inside linebacker position this offseason.

RB Matt Lawrence
2011 stats: Did not play (injured reserve)
Skinny: Though a competent special-teams player when he’s been healthy in his three-year career, you have to think the Ravens are ready to cut ties with the injury-plagued back.

Exclusive-rights free agents
(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

LS Morgan Cox
2011 stats: 16 games
Skinny: There’s no reason to think the Ravens are displeased with Cox’s performance as the long snapper.

CB Danny Gorrer
2011 stats: 11 games, three tackles, four pass breakups
Skinny: Considering he was pushing Chris Carr for the No. 4 corner spot by season’s end and was strong on special teams, Gorrer should have no reason to think the Ravens won’t bring him back.

LB Sergio Kindle
2011 stats: two games
Skinny: The Ravens will bring Kindle back, but he’ll need to make major strides in the offseason and training camp to make the 53-man roster again.

LB Albert McClellan
2011 stats: 16 games (one start), seven tackles, 12 special teams tackles
Skinny: He drew a start for the injured Ray Lewis on Thanksgiving night and is one of the best special teams players on the team, making his return a certainty.

 

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens place Lawrence on IR to get down to 80 players

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to trim down their roster to 80 players by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, the Ravens have placed running back Matt Lawrence on Injured Reserve with a concussion.

Plagued by knee issues the last two seasons, this marks the third straight year the Ravens have placed Lawrence on IR. Given the timing of the move, it’s likely the Ravens will eventually reach an injury settlement with Lawrence, freeing him to explore other options.

Receiver Lee Evans (left foot) was not practicing for the third straight day, making it highly unlikely for the 30-year-old to make an appearance in the Ravens’ final preseason game in Atlanta on Thursday night. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron downplayed the significance of the injury on Monday, saying the Ravens expect Evans to return “pretty quick.”

Cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), offensive lineman Mark LeVoir (undisclosed), and interior offensive linemen Justin Boren were also absent from the portion of practice open to the media. Carr and LeVoir were both missing for the second straight day.

With the roster now down at 80 players, the Ravens have until Saturday to trim the roster to 53 players for the start of the regular season.

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Live from Owings Mills: Evans, Carr missing from practice field on Monday

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Live from Owings Mills: Evans, Carr missing from practice field on Monday

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Entering the final week of the preseason, the Ravens were again without starting wide receiver Lee Evans as they took the field on Monday afternoon.

Evans was seen in a walking boot during the open portion of practice on Saturday after catching three passes for 60 yards and a touchdown against Washington last Thursday. The injury is not considered serious despite Evans missing his second straight practice. The 30-year-old receiver missed the final three games of 2010 with a left ankle injury, the same foot secured in the boot on Saturday.

Rookie Torrey Smith was taking reps with the starting offense in Evans’ place.

Also missing from the practice field was cornerback Chris Carr, who continues to work his way back from a left hamstring injury. Carr pulled up lame while trying to cover Evans on a fly route two weeks ago and has missed the last two preseason games against Kansas City and Washington. The 28-year-old defensive back went through pregame warmups on Thursday before sitting out against the Redskins. Carr was present and working out during the open portion of practice on Saturday.

Offensive lineman Mark LeVoir (undisclosed) and running back Matt Lawrence (undisclosed) were also missing from the opening portion of practice open to the media. Lawrence practiced in shorts on Saturday while the rest of the team was in full pads.

For the second straight practice, the Ravens had their entire starting offensive line present and working as Bryant McKinnie, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, and Michael Oher try to establish as much continuity as they can prior to the Sept. 11 opener against Pittsburgh.

With the Ravens out of training camp mode, only the first 30 minutes of practice is open to the media, making it possible the aforementioned players could still arrive on the field during the later portions of practice.

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Live from Owings Mills: Evans in walking boot, not practicing

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Live from Owings Mills: Evans in walking boot, not practicing

Posted on 27 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the final week of the preseason upon us, the Ravens returned to the practice field with their projected starting offensive line working together for the first time.

However, a new injury concern appeared as receiver Lee Evans had his left foot in a walking boot and was not participating in the portion of practice open to the media. He was walking around and even stood on his left foot without any apparent limp or discomfort.

There was no word of an injury suffered against Washington on Thursday, and Evans spoke to reporters following the game with no apparent discomfort. Considering the cautious way in which coach John Harbaugh handles injuries, it’s unlikely the Ravens would have wanted Evans anywhere near the practice field on Saturday if the injury were serious.

Evans missed the final three games in Buffalo last season after injury his left ankle, the same foot on which he wore the boot. He has six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown in two preseason games with the Ravens since being traded from the Bills in exchange for a fourth-round pick on Aug. 12.

Newly-signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie was receiving his first action with the starting line as Michael Oher moved to the right tackle position. Prior to practice, McKinnie said he currently weighs 370 pounds and wants to get his weight down to 355 for the regular season.

Also returning to the practice field was veteran center Matt Birk, who was working for the first time since undergoing knee surgery near the beginning of training camp. Birk wore a support on his left knee while working with the starting offensive line during positional drills.

Right guard Marshal Yanda was also dressed in full pads and appeared to be working at full strength after practicing three times on a limited basis and sitting out the Redskins game earlier this week.

Cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring) and receiver James Hardy (hamstring) were also taking part in practice after sitting out Thursday’s game.

Running back Matt Lawrence was practicing in shorts while the rest of the team wore full pads on Saturday afternoon.

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After Stadium Practice, Better Idea of What Ravens Will Look Like in Preseason Opener

Posted on 06 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — Following an annual open practice at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 24,078; fans will not have another opportunity to see the Baltimore Ravens again until their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Sunday’s practice provided some clarity for Ravens fans however, as the team gave a look at would could be expected at various positions.

QUARTERBACK:

There’s of course no question as to who the team’s starting quarterback will be Thursday (Joe Flacco). But with starters not expected to play much in the opener, the retirement of 2010 backup Marc Bulger has left the Ravens with little experience behind him.

Rookie Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) has worked as the team’s backup in Training Camp, and will be likely to get the most snaps Thursday night after Flacco departs. Following Taylor is Hunter Cantwell, a practice squad QB a year ago who is currently the team’s third stringer. Cantwell did VERY limited work in Saturday’s practice and appears to clearly be behind Taylor on the depth chart.

The team could still make a move to bring in a veteran backup before Thursday night, but it would be unlikely a new quarterback would get significant playing time as early as Thursday after limited practice.

RUNNING BACK:

Once again, the team has no questions as far as starters are concerned. 2009 Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice and 2010 Pro Bowl FB Vonta Leach will patrol the backfield to open the game; but neither are expected to play significant time.

The RB position behind Rice is wide open at the moment. The most likely candidates to enter after Rice are Jalen Parmele and rookie Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech), who have each taken second team reps in practice. Parmele is more probable, but both are expected to see a number of plays.

Undrafted rookie Damien Berry (Miami) appears to be fourth on the RB depth chart at the moment, but should keep getting work. If the Ravens don’t add veteran depth at the position, he’s very much in the battle for a roster spot. The team also has undrafted rookie and Mervo grad Walter Sanders (St. Augustine) on the roster, he’ll likely see a few snaps in the second half of Thursday night’s contest as well.

The wild card in the group is veteran RB/ST Matt Lawrence, who missed all of the 2010 season with a knee injury. Lawrence has had very little participation in camp thus far (he did not practice Saturday), but would be expected to see playing time Thursday night if healthy.

Undrafted FB Ryan Mahaffey (Northern Iowa) could see snaps behind Leach.

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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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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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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

Posted on 08 June 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here is my first offseason/preseason ranking of the players who are currently property of the Baltimore Ravens or who were property of the team at the end of the 2010 season.

This list INCLUDES players who are not under contract-whether they are tendered restricted free agents, draft picks, exclusive rights free agents or even players who are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Unlike in the past, I will do this list by position as I attempt to further explain how the team’s roster currently shapes up.

I apologize for my delay in putting this compilation together. Blame Gary Williams…and the Triple Crown…and the team’s practices at Towson University…and my own laziness.

Obviously there is much to be done before any of this matters, but this is simply “as the roster stands now” analysis.

Quarterbacks (4):
Joe Flacco
Marc Bulger (UFA)
Tyrod Taylor
Hunter Cantwell

tyrod

The quarterback position is still in much less than full clarity at this point.

Joe Flacco has been a NFL quarterback for  55 games, including the playoffs. Joe Flacco has played every snap in 55 of those 55 games.

A season ago, the Ravens took a slight risk by parting ways with two backups-trading John Beck to the Washington Redskins during Training Camp and releasing Troy Smith after the preseason finale in St. Louis. They decided to carry only two active quarterbacks, paying a hefty price for veteran backup Marc Bulger.

Bulger appears to be out in Charm City, with most in the league believing he is destined to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens knew they’d need to address quarterback depth during the draft and did so by selecting the explosive former Virginia Tech Hokies star (Taylor-pictured above) in the 6th round.

While Taylor (who hails from the quarterback hotbed of Hampton, Virginia) certainly has a number of supporters who believe him capable of being a legitimate starter in the league-he will not play that role in Baltimore unless there is turmoil this season one way or another (injury or failure).

Flacco is the starter. Taylor will have a great chance of making the roster. The real question facing the team is how else to address the position. It is believed that the Ravens will pursue another veteran QB of sorts when (if?) free agency finally begins. Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington has been a much rumored name the team could consider pursuing.

Should the Ravens not acquire a veteran free agent to backup Flacco, Cantwell could remain in the mix. He spent the entire 2010 season on the team’s practice squad-but has in the past been an active part of the Carolina Panthers’ roster.

With Taylor unlikely to be let go (or placed at risk of being taken away by trying to move him to the practice squad) but also unlikely to be the primary backup early in his career, it is fairly safe to assume the team will keep three quarterbacks this season.

Running Backs/Fullbacks (8):
Ray Rice
Le’Ron McClain
Willis McGahee
Jalen Parmele
Matt Lawrence
Jason McKie
Anthony Allen
Curtis Steele

parmele

Rice is obviously the team’s “featured” back. The issue for Cam Cameron’s offense this offseason is figuring out how to complement the fourth year back moving forward.

The worst kept secret in football is that the Ravens intend to part ways with McGahee because he is unwilling to take a cut from the $6 million he is owed. Should McGahee find the market slim there would always be a chance he could look towards Baltimore again, but it certainly appears unlikely.

With McGahee apparently gone, the Ravens will have to build their backfield without him. One option is McClain, who had his best season yet as a true fullback in 2010 (despite the fact that he was actually passed over for Pro Bowl recognition by Houston Texans FB Vonta Leach) but who has made clear his desire to carry the football more often.

McClain was initially thought to be on the cusp of reaching free agency this offseason (and departing), but without a new CBA McClain (and other fourth and fifth year players) would likely remain under contract. McClain’s size and potential goal line/short distance ability make him potentially a solid complement for Rice.

Should the Ravens move McClain into that role, they would likely need to consider keeping McKie or otherwise improving the fullback position. McKie was a non-factor during his brief stay at the end of the 2010 season-but could be a viable option in a thin market.

Parmele (pictured above) is the wild card in the backfield. The coaching staff has remained high on him throughout his time in Baltimore (and he has connections with Cameron dating back to the Dolphins). Parmele has remained a value special teams player (and is a viable return option), but he has run the ball only seven times in his career.

Lawrence, Allen and Steele are all question marks (and possibly longshots) to make the roster. Lawrence is a talented special teams player but missed the 2010 season with a torn ACL. Allen (the team’s 7th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft) is hoping his 6’1″, 228 pound frame is enough to get him on the roster. Steele spent the 2010 season on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis. The team liked his quick hitting ability, but he will have an uphill climb-especially if there is no Training Camp.

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