Tag Archive | "michael huff"

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Ravens awarded four compensatory picks at Owner’s Meetings

Posted on 24 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Last year’s off-season after the Super Bowl was painful for Ravens fans, but now the team is being rewarded for its troubles and patience in free agency.

At the NFL Owner Meetings today in Orlando, the Baltimore Ravens learned more about their off-season approach in May as they received the league maximum number of compensatory picks possible for free agent losses.

The team received a third (99th overall),  two fourth-round (134th, 138 overall), and a fifth-round pick (175th overall).

The picks were rewarded for the losses of DE Paul Kruger (Cleveland), MLB Dannell Ellerbe (Miami), CB Cary Williams (Philadelphia), and FS Ed Reed (Houston) in free agency.

Because the Ravens did not sign any unrestricted free agents in the 2013 off-season, the team was not docked any picks from their total.

DE Elvis Dumervil, DL Chris Canty, DL Marcus Spears, S Michael Huff, and MLB Daryl Smith were all signed after teams cut them or late into training camp.

All-in-all, the Ravens will have eight picks as their disposal in May.

Follow all your Ravens news on @WNST on Twitter! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Sports!

 

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I’m glad the Red Sox won.  I hope it ticks off the Orioles…

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I’m glad the Red Sox won. I hope it ticks off the Orioles…

Posted on 31 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

Back in October of 2009, I wrote right here and said on the air that I hoped the Yankees would win the World Series against the Phillies.

I got clobbered by people who couldn’t believe a Baltimore guy would stoop to such a low level.

I had my reasons for doing it, and it looks like I might have been right.

And, for those same reasons, still, I’m happy the Red Sox won the World Series last night.

Really, I am.

I’m happy the Red Sox won because their success might light a fire under the Orioles front office this winter, in the same way the Yankees winning in 2009 might have been the kick-starter for Peter Angelos waking up and realizing that trotting out inferior managers like Perlozzo and Trembley wasn’t going to cut it.  Five months into the 2010 season, Buck Showalter arrived on the scene at Camden Yards and things haven’t been the same – in a good way – since that move.

I’m happy for the Red Sox and I’m glad they won.

They’re an organization that TRIES to win.  Their fans…yeah, they might be jerks, but the football fans in Charm City aren’t exactly gold medal “good winners” either.  The Red Sox, though, understand the same concept the Yankees employ: “We owe it to our fans to be a champion.”

It’s been 30 years since the Orioles played in the World Series and nearly 20 years since the team advanced to the A.L. Championship Series.

I’m all for anything that gets Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette to say, “Enough is enough.  We’re tired of seeing New York and Boston win.”

Does seeing the Red Sox win bother those two enough?

My guess is probably not.

Which, of course, explains why the club has never been to the World Series in the Peter Angelos era of ownership.

—————————————————————

Two vested veterans like Huff and Spears getting cut is a very telling statement from the Ravens.

They’re basically saying, “Neither of those players could have helped us for the remainder of the season.”

Quite an admission.

And, a rare swing and miss from Ozzie Newsome.  Make that TWO swings — and TWO misses.

A few people e-mailed me on Wednesday after the news of Huff and Spears getting the boot was made public and once again tried to pigeon-hole a player move into why the Ravens should have kept Anquan Boldin instead of signing those two players.

Let me, I promise, try and educate you all on this one final time.

Anquan Boldin was due to make $6 million this season with the Ravens.

In the Ravens opinion, he wasn’t a $6 million football player anymore.

So, in their estimation, he was worth $4 million and they asked him to play for that.

He said “no”.  The Ravens said, “Well, we don’t think you’re worth $6 million, so we’ll have to part company.”

And that’s that.

The Ravens DID use the money they saved by trading Boldin on other players, yes, but they were going to go out and get football players in the off-season whether or not Anquan Boldin was retained or not.

If Anquan Boldin would have agreed to play for $4 million, he’d be in Baltimore.  Instead, he’s making $6 million in San Francisco, which is what he wanted.

The Ravens wanted Boldin, too.  But, they didn’t think he was a $6 million football player anymore.

Were they wrong on that estimation?  I’d say based on his overall performance in San Francisco this season, probably not.  That said, with Dennis Pitta on the sidelines in Baltimore, Boldin would have been a welcome sight here over the last seven weeks of the 2013 season.

Without money being a consideration, if you asked me “would you rather the Ravens HAVE Boldin on their team or NOT HAVE him on their team?”, I’d absolutely say, “Have…”

Only problem?  Money is always a consideration in the NFL.  It’s the driving force behind the structural formula that gives each franchise hope every March.

We must also keep this in mind anytime we’re discussing a player in one city vs. another city:  Nothing is ever the same.  These aren’t pieces of a puzzle that fit in next to one another.  What Boldin does in San Francisco can’t just be cookie-cuttered into “look at what he would have done in Baltimore for us…”  It just doesn’t work that way.  For all we know, Boldin might have torn his ACL in week two against the Browns if, in fact, he played for the Ravens this season.

People who don’t know sports like to generalize and say stuff like, “Look at what Boldin is doing in San Francisco.  He’d be doing the same thing here for us if Ozzie wouldn’t have let him go.”

Maybe.  Maybe not.  He might be doing worse.  Or, he might be doing better.

The Ravens – in their expert opinion – felt like Anquan Boldin wasn’t worth $6 million anymore and he wasn’t going to be worth it even if they didn’t sign Marcus Spears or Michael Huff.

Now — pay attention here:  If you want to beat up the Ravens for signing a couple of stiffs, that’s where you should point your angry finger.  Huff was a complete zero here.  Spears tried, but he’s not healthy anymore.

Those were bad signings.

But they had nothing at all to do with the fact that the Ravens didn’t think Anquan Boldin was a $6 million football player anymore.

 

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Post-bye message clear with Ravens’ decision to jettison Huff, Spears

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Post-bye message clear with Ravens’ decision to jettison Huff, Spears

Posted on 30 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Coach John Harbaugh promised the Ravens would make changes in an effort to improve as they entered the bye week with an underwhelming 3-4 record and that promise came to fruition Wednesday morning.

Backup free safety Michael Huff and veteran defensive tackle Marcus Spears were expected to be key cogs in revamping a defense that struggled a season ago despite a Super Bowl title, but both were waived on Monday after just seven games in Baltimore. The pair joined recently-jettisoned left tackle Bryant McKinnie as offseason signings that failed to pan out for general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Though Harbaugh downplayed any hidden agenda behind the decision to part ways with the two veterans, the remaining players on the roster understand what’s at stake over the final nine games of the regular season as the Ravens hope to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.

“The message is, ‘Win,’ plain and simple,” said defensive end Chris Canty, who teamed with Spears for four seasons in Dallas. “If you don’t get your job done, they’re going to find somebody else that can get it done. And in the case of Michael and Marcus, they felt like it was in the best interest of the team to move forward.”

Safeties Brynden Trawick and Omar Brown were promoted from the practice squad to fill the vacated spots on the 53-man roster and to boost the specials teams, an area where Huff and Spears weren’t contributing.

Signed to a three-year, $6 million contract to assume the departed Ed Reed’s free safety spot, Huff was benched following a disastrous performance in the Ravens’ 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos in the season opener. The 30-year-old hadn’t played a defensive snap in the last three games and was guilty of losing outside containment on the final kickoff return that set up Pittsburgh’s game-winning drive two weeks ago.

Spears agreed to a two-year, $2.75 million contract to add depth to the defensive line, but a knee injury limited the 30-year-old to just five games. The former Cowboys defensive end made just 11 tackles and appeared to be in danger of losing reps to rookie Brandon Williams and the returning Terrence Cody after the bye before the Ravens decided to release him ahead of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Any player — veteran or rookie — failing to make significant contributions at his offensive or defensive position or on special teams will quickly find his roster spot on shaky ground as Harbaugh said last week that the coaching staff would find players who wanted to play special teams, a message that could have been interpreted as a shot at Huff’s poor efforts in that area.

“There’s always the fact of life in the National Football League,” said Harbaugh about Wednesday’s cuts. “And what we’ll always try to do is have the strongest roster we possibly can to be as good a team as we possibly can be on Sunday. We feel like these moves move us in that direction.”

Though neither player represented a steep financial investment with long-lasting ramifications — the Ravens will carry $1.3 million in dead money on next year’s cap as a result of their releases — their in-season departures tarnish Newsome’s reputation for making savvy veteran signings that often fly under the radar. And the latest development only fuels the lingering criticism over the Ravens’ decision to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin after the veteran wouldn’t agree to a $2 million pay cut from his scheduled 2013 salary of $6 million in early March.

With Spears and Huff both vested veterans, their contracts are guaranteed and the Ravens will not recover any cap savings for the remainder of the season. The pair account for $2.55 million on this year’s salary cap.

Trawick and Brown are expected to boost the special-teams units, which have had two punts blocked and have experienced issues in kick coverage at different points this season.

“Those are guys who will give us a chance as backup safeties but also special teams players that have done a good job in practice on special teams and in games when they’ve been in there,” Harbaugh said. “It will give us a chance to bolster that area a little bit. These are two good, young safeties. We have high hopes for both of these guys.”

The Ravens signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and quarterback Nick Stephens to fill the open spots on their practice squad.

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

At 3-4 and below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens face an uphill battle in advancing to the postseason for the sixth straight season.

Clearly at a crossroads as the first defending Super Bowl champion since the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers to hold a losing record after seven games, the Ravens made a number of offseason additions to reload a roster that dealt with free-agent departures, salary-cap casualties, and retirees. It’s time to revisit those moves to see how they’ve worked — or haven’t worked — as the Ravens try to regroup during their bye week.

Grades are included for free-agent signings and trade additions made prior to the start of training camp with the players listed in the order in which they were acquired. Contract terms are listed in parentheses for free-agent additions.

DE Chris Canty (three years, $8 million)
Grade: C+
Skinny: The Ravens needed a 5-technique defensive end and Canty has been solid, but he hasn’t offered as much as a pass rusher as the team would have hoped. Canty is fourth on the team with two sacks, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees has often replaced him with Arthur Jones in the nickel package for improved run support. 

DT Marcus Spears (two years, $2.75 million)
Grade: C-
Skinny: Hamstring and knee injuries have hampered the veteran defensive lineman, but Spears has offered very little when he’s been part of the defensive line rotation and has little pass-rush ability. It would be easy to envision rookie Brandon Williams wrestling away some of Spears’ snaps  in the second half of the season. 

LB Elvis Dumervil (five years, $26 million)
Grade: B+
Skinny: The three-time Pro Bowl selection has been more of a situational player with the run-stopping presence of Courtney Upshaw, but Dumervil has 27 quarterback pressures and is the league’s sixth-most efficient pass rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. He had a miserable day in Pittsburgh, but Dumervil has been the bookend pass rusher Terrell Suggs needed and an upgrade over former Raven Paul Kruger for a cheaper price.

S Michael Huff (three years, $6 million)
Grade: F
Skinny: Huff was benched after a disastrous performance in the season opener against Denver, forcing the Ravens to essentially go with two strong safeties in the secondary with James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam. The former Raider hasn’t taken a defensive snap since Week 4 and has brought very little to special teams, making it possible that he doesn’t even make it through the rest of the season before being cut. 

OT Bryant McKinnie (two years, $6.3 million)
Grade: D
Skinny: Though McKinnie was technically re-signed, he spent almost two months on the open market as general manager Ozzie Newsome explored other options at left tackle before inking him in early May. McKinnie wasn’t the biggest problem along the offensive line before the Ravens acquired Eugene Monroe, but the 34-year-old wasn’t motivated to play at a high level after winning a Super Bowl and receiving a $2 million signing bonus, making his signing a clear mistake as he was dealt to Miami for a conditional late-round pick earlier this week.

C A.Q. Shipley (acquired for 2014 conditional draft pick)
Grade: D+
Skinny: Expectations weren’t very high for the former Indianapolis Colt, but it’s telling that Shipley hasn’t been able to unseat the struggling Gino Gradkowski at the center position. Shipley is undersized and is not a great option as a backup interior lineman, so it will be interesting to see if rookie Ryan Jensen leapfrogs him on the depth chart in the second half since he’s recovered from a broken foot suffered in the first week of training camp.

LB Daryl Smith (one year, $1.125 million)
Grade: A
Skinny: Not only did Smith make most people forget the embarrassing decision to sign troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, but he’s easily been the best bargain of the offseason as his signing was an afterthought that came on the same day the Super Bowl champions visited the White House. His two interceptions lead the team and he’s made everyone forget about the serious concerns that existed at inside linebacker during the offseason. Smith isn’t Ray Lewis, but he’s been as solid as a rock in the middle of the defense.

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Harbaugh won’t hesitate to make roster changes to get better

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Harbaugh won’t hesitate to make roster changes to get better

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Entering the bye week with the Ravens sporting a losing record this late in the season for the first time in his six-year tenure, it was clear head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t in a jovial mood while meeting with reporters on Monday.

Offering short answers with little elaboration on several occasions, Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens need to improve in every phase of the game after a 3-4 start to the season. After the Ravens traded the recently-demoted left tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins earlier in the day, the Baltimore coach said his team will explore every channel — internally or externally — to turn around a season that now includes a two-game deficit with AFC North-leading Cincinnati.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll trade guys. We’ll cut guys. We’ll sign guys. We’ll coach guys. We’ll change schemes. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to find a way to get better. That’s the business we’re in.”

The issues with the running game and offensive line are well-documented through the first seven weeks of the season, but Harbaugh was critical of a running game that surrendered 141 yards on the ground in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their AFC North foe entered Week 7 averaging just 61 rushing yards per game, but the Ravens gave up at least 140 yards on the ground for the third time in four games.

Harbaugh was even more critical of Jerry Rosburg’s special-teams units after reserve safety Jeromy Miles was offside on Justin Tucker’s failed onside kick attempt with 13:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the kickoff team lost outside containment on Steelers returner Emmanuel Sanders 44-yard kickoff return to set up Pittsburgh at its 37 to begin its final drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal. Realistically speaking, the Ravens could make a few changes to impact their special teams more easily than finding impact players on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Disappointing free safety Michael Huff was one of several players who failed to hold outside contain on that final kick return and was limited to just five special-teams plays on Sunday after he was initially signed to a three-year, $6 million contract to serve as the team’s starting free safety. He was benched after the season opener and has made little impact on special teams while playing sparingly in the Ravens’ dime package.

“We’ve got to play better on special teams; we’re going to go find some guys that want to play special teams,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not going to have guys out there letting the ball run outside of them; that’s unheard of. We’re not going to run a surprise onside kick and not know what we’re doing; we’ll go to work on that. If it means changing people out, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Like last year, the Ravens will enjoy their bye during Week 8, but their 3-4 record has prompted plenty of frustration. Baltimore didn’t exactly enter last year’s bye on a high note after the Houston Texans dismantled them in a 43-13 final, but a 5-2 record was easier to swallow.

Players will continue to put in work at the team’s Owings Mills facility through Wednesday afternoon before being dismissed for four straight days off as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement.

“The biggest difference between last year and this year right now is that we’ve lost the close games,” Harbaugh said. “Last year, we won the close games. We’ve got to get hot a little bit and win some close games. It’s going to be a long season, and we have an opportunity going forward. We’ve just got to become a good football team.”

Osemele playing through back ailment

Struggling left guard Kelechi Osemele told Sports Illustrated after Sunday’s game that he is dealing with a disc problem in his back that will require surgery in the offseason, prompting questions about the second-year lineman’s health.

Osemele missed most of the Ravens’ Week 5 win over Miami as he dealt with back spasms that surfaced during pre-game warmups, but the 2012 second-round pick appears to be pushing through the injury for now.

“Most players in the league have something along those lines that way, so he fights through it,” said Harbaugh, who was initially dismissive of the report but didn’t firmly address whether surgery would be in order. “He had the same issue last year [and] he fought through it last year. All the guys have things like that. All those things get addressed in the offseason if it needed to be addressed. We looked at it last year — it wasn’t addressed that way. Maybe this year it will be, but I really don’t know.”

An exchange between Osemele and another Twitter user last week prompted further suspicion, but trying to draw conclusions based solely on a social media site is difficult. Both Osemele and the Ravens declined comment in requests made by WNST.net and portions of the conversation have since been deleted on the player’s verified Twitter account.

“I respect [that] K.O.’s tough. All those guys are,” Harbaugh said. “Anybody in this league that plays in this league with the physical demands that this game puts on you, you have to respect, especially those guys in the trenches. He’s no different than most of the guys that way.”

Positive review for McClain’s return

Harbaugh praised linebacker Jameel McClain’s effort in making his return to game action for the first time since suffering a spinal cord contusion on Dec. 9 of last season.

Filling in for the injured Josh Bynes, who underwent surgery on an infected finger late last week, McClain played 30 defensive snaps and collected five tackles while also serving on some special-teams units. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said last week that McClain would be the team’s weakside inside linebacker upon being activated, so it will be interesting to see how both McClain and Bynes fit into the defensive plans when they’re both healthy.

“Given the circumstances, [he] probably played really well,” Harbaugh said. “[He] hadn’t played for a long time, hadn’t practiced much, was throw into a situation because of Josh’s situation where he had to play quite a few snaps. He did a solid job, and he’s only going to get better from here on out. He came out of it healthy, so that’s important. He’ll really benefit from the next couple days of work.”

Suggs’ ‘state of emergency’

Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs provided the greatest sense of alarm following the 19-16 loss to the Steelers, describing the Ravens as being in “a state of emergency” as they enter the bye week.

Harbaugh didn’t express agreement with those words but echoed the sentiment he shared last week in which he thought some frustration to get better was a positive for his struggling team. Suggs said he was very concerned and that the Ravens could no longer kid themselves over the seriousness of their problems in every phase of the game.

“All the guys have a right to say whatever they think,” Harbaugh said. “If that is how Terrell sees it, then that’s good. A sense of urgency is a good thing.”

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Our Ravens/Broncos “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Broncos “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 06 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Denver Broncos 49-27 Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Rick Wagner

4. Brynden Trawick 

3. Ed Dickson

2. John Harbaugh

1. Jimmy Smith (two slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

Posted on 03 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens heard the questions, the concerns, and the doubts about their once-proud defense in the weeks and months that followed their win in Super Bowl XLVII.

How would they survive without the retiring Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history and unquestionably the leader and face of the franchise for their entire 17-year existence? What would they do to replace future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed’s presence in the defensive backfield as well as in the locker room? And how could they afford to lose younger talents such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams in a quest to rebuild an aging and frequently-ineffective defense?

Those who downplayed Lewis’ departure because of his declining play over the final seasons of his career couldn’t overlook the colossal void in leadership and identity that needed to be addressed for an organization that both empowered and depended upon his presence. And after years of watching former Baltimore defensive players escape Lewis’ shadow before finding that the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere, the Ravens themselves will now see how they fare without him.

“In the spring, everybody was hitting the panic button on us because of the guys we lost,” Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs said. “Even though we were very sad to see those guys go, the show must go on.”

The time for change was right as general manager Ozzie Newsome remembered what some had seemingly forgotten while basking in the image of confetti dropping in New Orleans in a storybook ending for the 2012 Ravens. Though praised for a “bend but don’t break” style that was good enough to complement quarterback Joe Flacco’s incredible postseason performance, the Baltimore defense finished 17th in total defense, tied for 12th in points allowed, 20th against the run, 17th against the pass, and tied for 15th in sacks.

Frankly, the defensive numbers and overall performance were un-Raven-like as Baltimore was weak along the defensive line as well as at safety, prompting Newsome to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin and his $6 million base salary in 2013 to clear just enough salary cap space to rebuild the defense in terms of both talent and leadership. Defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears would provide improved depth upfront while free safety Michael Huff seemed like a good bet to, at worst, match the declining play of Reed for a fraction of the cost that the Houston Texans paid for the longtime Raven’s services in free agency.

The prize of the group, however, was Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who was released due to a contract-restructuring snafu made by his former agent and joined the Ravens after signing a five-year deal worth a maximum value of $35 million. It appeared to be a bargain for a three-time Pro Bowl selection whose work ethic and leadership have been praised by everyone in the organization from the moment he stepped foot in Owings Mills in the spring.

“I think [it comes with] the way you play on the field and how you lead by example,” Dumervil said. “Leadership doesn’t come with talking or speech — it’s just how you carry yourself. I’ve always been a leader. That’s just natural for me, and I think I’ve learned how to follow before I can lead.”

After drafting four defensive players in the first four rounds of April’s draft, Newsome had one more trick up his sleeve in signing longtime Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal on the same day the Super Bowl champs visited President Barack Obama at the White House. The 31-year-old has stepped in to play Lewis’ Mike linebacker position while looking like the team’s best player in the preseason, recording 14 tackles and a sack while showing steady ability in pass coverage.

Initially perceived as little more than an insurance policy for injured inside linebacker Jameel McClain, Smith has been praised by everyone in the organization, ranging from his new defensive teammates to quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith’s personality couldn’t be more different from Lewis, which might be a positive while handling such an unenviable task of replacing a legend.

“He doesn’t say a lot, because he’s just about business, and then you sit down and talk to him and realize the depth of his character and personality,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a great family man, he’s a mature guy, he’s a man. And he’s also – I really believe – one of the most underrated defensive players in football over the last eight [or] nine years. We feel pretty fortunate that he’s here right now.”

The common threads among the five veteran newcomers were the leadership qualities they displayed with their former teams. It was clear the Ravens weren’t simply placing the defensive leadership crown on the heads of Suggs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata alone.

There was no replacing Lewis or Reed, but the Ravens appear to be pleased with their by-committee approach as they enter Thursday night’s opener against the Denver Broncos. On paper and in the controlled environment of spring and summer practices, the transition has appeared organic and seamless.

Suggs will be viewed as the new figurehead, but the 30-year-old has acknowledged repeatedly that he’s not looking to be the next Lewis and has appeared more subdued than in past seasons. Overall, it’s a Baltimore defense that lacks the bravado of past units without the camera-friendly Lewis out in front, but the quiet confidence veteran newcomers and young players alike have expressed seems appropriate in a new era.

“It’s different like in any organization when you lose guys that have been there for so long that they kind of assume those roles,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think everybody else kind of sat back and just said, ‘Well, that’s really kind of not my role. That’s kind of Ed [Reed] and Ray’s [Lewis] role.’ Now those guys are stepping up, and I don’t think it’s any one particular guy who’s saying, ‘OK, I’m going to be the new Ray Lewis.’ It’s just a bunch of guys collectively stepping up and showing some leadership.”

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens agree to four-year deal with first-round safety Elam

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Ravens agree to four-year deal with first-round safety Elam

Posted on 18 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With rookies scheduled to report to Owings Mills for the start of training camp on Sunday, the Ravens announced Thursday that they’ve agreed in principle to a four-year deal with first-round safety Matt Elam.

The contract will be officially signed when Elam arrives at the team’s facility along with the rest of the rookie class, quarterbacks, and injured veterans on Sunday. The 32nd overall pick from the University of Florida, Elam is the last of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks to ink his contract.

His deal includes an option for a fifth year and was never considered in doubt to be completed by the start of camp with the NFL’s slotting system that’s eliminated the past drama of rookie signings since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed two summers ago. Elam didn’t hire an agent, instead relying on his older brother and veteran NFL safety Abram Elam and other advisors for guidance in completing the rookie deal.

The slotted amount for the 32nd pick of the draft is worth a total of $6.767 million over the four years and includes a $3.3 million signing bonus. Elam’s 2013 cap number is projected to be $1.231 million.

The 5-foot-10, 210-pound safety is expected to compete with veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety job next to free-agent acquisition Michael Huff in the revamped Baltimore secondary. Elam played in 39 career games for the Gators, starting his final 26 contests and collecting 176 tackles, six interceptions, 24 tackles for a loss, and five sacks.

“We’re both interchangeable,” Huff said during spring organized team activities. “We can both play strong safety, free safety, we can both play the nickel. We can do it all, so that way, offenses don’t know who’s doing what before the snap. I think it will help the defense.”

While Huff faces the difficult task of following in the footsteps of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed at free safety, Elam is expected to bring a physical presence similar to departed strong safety Bernard Pollard, who punished opponents with big hits and often played closer to the line of scrimmage.

In his final season in Gainesville as a junior, Elam became the second safety in school history to be named a first-team All-American, with Reggie Nelson being the first in 2006.

In April, Elam became the ninth defensive player to be selected in the first round by general manager Ozzie Newsome in the 18-year history of the franchise. He will join linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and cornerback Jimmy Smith as former first-round picks selected by Baltimore who are on the current defense.

As the first of four straight defensive players — second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown, third-round nose tackle Brandon Williams, and fourth-round outside linebacker John Simon being the others — to be selected by the Ravens at the head of their 2013 draft class, Elam understands expectations will be high to continue the tradition of great Baltimore defense despite an offseason full of changes.

“I don’t want anything given, because if it’s given, it’s not earned,” Elam said in late April. “With two great safeties leaving, I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and keep on improving and do the great things that they did and win championships and win games.”

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McClain does Ravens favor in wasting no time with latest arrest

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McClain does Ravens favor in wasting no time with latest arrest

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Luke Jones

Perhaps the Ravens should thank troubled linebacker Rolando McClain for not waiting until after this weekend’s draft to show his true colors yet again.

After meeting with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh less than two weeks ago to learn what was expected of him in receiving an opportunity to join one of the model organizations in the NFL, McClain found trouble once again by being arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in his hometown of Decatur, Ala. on Sunday night. The former Raiders linebacker — released earlier this month with his old team carrying $11 million in dead money this season just to be rid of him — showed how much he thought of the second chance awarded by the defending Super Bowl champions.

Even if the move appeared to go against everything the Ravens try to do in adding high-character players, the financial risk was minimal and Newsome made it very clear where McClain stood when asked about the 2010 first-round pick last week. A $700,000 base salary that included $400,000 in incentives based on playing time — none of the money guaranteed — reflects that the Ravens weren’t expecting much.

“Rolando is just getting an opportunity to come and make our 53-man squad,” Newsome said bluntly. “That’s it.”

To this point, all the Ravens have invested in the 23-year-old is time and an opportunity; he’s already proven to be unworthy of either.

But the timing of McClain’s latest run-in with the law reaffirms the Ravens’ need to address their inside linebacker position. By no means was it a position Newsome and the front office planned to neglect after McClain’s addition, but his projected status to man one of the Ravens’ starting inside positions in their base 3-4 system would have made it easier to focus on other positions of need such as offensive tackle, wide receiver, and safety.

The temptation would have been there to forgo an inside linebacker if players of similar stature at other need positions remained on their draft board, but not anymore.

“You always look at need. We say best player available, but you have to factor need into the equation,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said last week. “If the best player available is a quarterback in the first round, we’re not going to take him. You have to look at the best player available based on need. Obviously, if you have three players that are next to each other in your sequence and one player is a big need and the other players aren’t needs — even if the other players may be ahead of that one player that is a need — you’re going to flip your list because they’re all close.”

The Ravens shouldn’t waste any more time on McClain after he spit in the face of the gift handed to him by Newsome and Harbaugh. Details of his Sunday arrest remain vague and McClain is certainly entitled to due process as it relates to his legal standing as a citizen, but the fact that he even put himself in such a position again is enough reason to warrant the termination of his contract.

After veterans such as Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed exited amidst speculation that their opinionated locker-room presence was at least partially the reason why they were jettisoned, allowing McClain another chance sends a message to the rest of the locker room that such off-field conduct will be tolerated. The Ravens shouldn’t expect all players to be perfect — the prize of their free-agent class, Elvis Dumervil, doesn’t have a spotless reputation — but a headache like McClain who’s proven to be no better than a solid two-down linebacker to this point in his career simply isn’t worth the hassle and sleepless nights spent wondering what he’s doing.

Supporters of McClain’s signing pointed to the dysfunctional atmosphere cultivated by Oakland over the years, but that doesn’t provide an excuse to be a bad citizen. Newly-signed safety Michael Huff spent the first seven years of his career with the inept Raiders, but you didn’t see him build such a rap sheet or receive a suspension for conduct detrimental to the organization like McClain did last year.

The Ravens spent their offseason adding solid character veterans such as defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to help complement a locker room that lost a significant amount of leadership following Super Bowl XLVII. A marginal player like McClain only threatens to disrupt a winning culture by sending the wrong message to the rest of the team already assembled in Owings Mills.

He simply isn’t worth the headache, a possibility the Ravens acknowledged with such a small investment in the former Alabama standout and confirmed by his inability to stay out of trouble before even taking part in his first practice with his new team.

Anyone’s deserving of a second chance, but McClain wasted no time in showing he’s not committed to the Baltimore Ravens.

That’s why Newsome will focus this week on finding the inside linebacker who is.

And he can thank McClain for the ungrateful reminder.

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Ravens, veteran safety Huff come to three-year agreement

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Ravens, veteran safety Huff come to three-year agreement

Posted on 27 March 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens took a step toward replacing the giant shoes left behind by future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed by agreeing to a three-year deal with veteran safety Michael Huff on Thursday.

The agreement was announced by general manager Ozzie Newsome and is pending a physical. The deal is worth a total of $6 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The 30-year-old Huff had spent his entire career with the Oakland Raiders after being selected as the seventh overall pick of the 2006 draft. He was released by Oakland prior to the start of free agency on March 12 after reportedly balking at the idea of a pay cut and had visited the Dallas Cowboys earlier this week.

Having missed only four games in his seven-year career, Huff is expected to play free safety in the Baltimore secondary but is also capable of playing cornerback, a position he played last season as the Raiders dealt with a slew of injuries. In 16 starts in 2012 — 14 coming at cornerback — Huff collected 71 tackles, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups.

The 6-foot, 211-pound defensive back has 11 interceptions, 453 tackles, and 57 pass breakups in his NFL career. Though he is not known for being particularly strong against the run, Huff will likely  be an upgrade in that department as Reed struggled more and more against the run in recent seasons due to a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder. Huff isn’t considered a playmaker in the way Reed was viewed for so many years, but he is widely regarded as more than solid in pass coverage.

The Ravens made it a priority to add a veteran free safety as the only other options on the roster at that position included 2012 fourth-round pick Christian Thompson, former practice squad members Omar Brown and Anthony Levine, and Emanuel Cook, who missed the entire 2012 season with a broken leg. Veteran James Ihedigbo is expected to have the inside track for the strong safety job after he filled in admirably for an injured Bernard Pollard in making three starts last season.

Tracked carefully by the Ravens as they prepared for the 2006 draft before selecting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in the first round, Huff starred at the University of Texas and became the first player in school history to win the Jim Thorpe Award, an honor bestowed upon the nation’s top defensive back.

Despite much hype after helping lead the Longhorns to the national championship, Huff never realized the potential many saw in him to become a star at the next level but has been a quality starter at the free safety position for most of his career.

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