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Ravens sign all but one of 2015 draft picks

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Having not even completed their first rookie minicamp of the spring, the Ravens have wasted no time in signing eight of their nine 2015 draft picks to rookie contracts.

Baltimore announced Friday afternoon that seven of their nine choices had signed contracts before third-round defensive tackle Carl Davis announced via Twitter later in the evening that he had signed his contract. First-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman is the only Ravens draft choice not to have signed a contract, but he was present and participating during this weekend’s minicamp in Owings Mills.

Since the introduction of the latest collective bargaining agreement in 2011, rookie signings have become little more than a formality with a slotting system that includes standard four-year deals for all draft picks. Teams may exercise a fifth-year option for first-round picks.

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Ravens officially sign 15 rookie free agents

Posted on 08 May 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens signed the following 15 rookie free agents, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Friday:

DARIUS ALLEN

No. 47

Outside Linebacker

Colorado State – Pueblo

6-2, 229

Allen appeared in 43 career games during his four-year tenure at Colorado State-Pueblo, recording 180 tackles (93 solo), 58 TFL (-274 yards), 34.5 sacks (-188 yards), nine forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries…Allen received a number of accolades for his play as a senior, including: Associated Press Little All-America Team; Cliff Harris Small College Defensive Player of the Year; Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year (second-consecutive season); and Daktronic’s Ron Lenz National Player of the Year, All-Super Region Four Defensive Player of the Year, All-Region first-team and first-team All-America.

DARRYL BALDWIN

No. 61

Tackle

Ohio State

6-6, 305

Baldwin saw action in 48 games (15 starts) for the Buckeyes…Earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after starting all 15 games at right tackle for the National Champion Buckeyes as a senior in 2014…Helped anchor an O-line that led the Big Ten in total offense (511.6 ypg) and scoring (44.8 ppg) and ranked second in rushing (264.5 ypg).

BRENNEN BEYER

No. 45

Outside Linebacker

Michigan

6-4, 256

Beyer appeared in 49 games (32 starts) for the Wolverines, totaling 92 tackles (45 solo), 7.5 sacks (-55 yards), 12 tackles for loss (-64 yards), two forced fumbles and one interception (7 return yards)…Earned Academic All-Big Ten honors as a senior after appearing in 12 games (11 starts), recording 35 tackles (12 solo), 5.5 sacks (-39 yards) and 7.5 tackles for loss (-42 yards).

DEANDRE CARTER

No. 16

Wide Receiver

Cal State – Sacramento

5-8, 185

In 41 games at Cal State-Sacramento, Carter recorded 207 receptions for 2,760 yards and 35 touchdowns…He also carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards (4.2 avg.) and one touchdown, adding 18 kickoff returns for 426 yards (23.7 avg.) and 10 punt returns for 125 yards (12.5 avg.) and one touchdown…As a senior in 2014, he served as team co-captain and appeared in all 12 games, earning All-American honors from the Associated Press after posting single-season school records with 99 catches for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns.

BLAINE CLAUSELL

No. 63

Tackle

Mississippi State

6-6, 329

Clausell played in 49 career collegiate games, starting 38 at left tackle…Started all 13 games and helped pave the way for the most prolific offense in MSU school history, one that shattered 13 single-season records…Key marks set by the Bulldogs’ attack in 2014 include total yards gained (6,679), yards per play (6.7), yards per game (513.8), points scored (480), points per game (36.9), offensive touchdowns (60), total first downs (334), passing yards (3,649) and passing yards per game (280.7)…Last name pronounced: claw-ZELL.

TREY DEPRIEST

No. 40

Inside Linebacker

Alabama

6-1, 258

DePriest appeared in 53 games (39 starts) for the Crimson Tide, finishing his career with 237 tackles, including 17.5 tackles for loss (-63 yards), two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and six passes defensed…Was a member of two Alabama National Championship teams (2011 and 2012)…Recorded 88 tackles (41 solo) as a senior in 2014, earning first-team All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association and first-team All-SEC accolades by the league’s coaches

NICK EASTON

No. 79

Tackle

Harvard

6-3, 303

Easton saw action in 24 career games for Harvard…He was a first-team All-Ivy League, fourth-team, BSN All-American, third-team FCS All-American and first-team FCS North All-American selection, after starting all 10 contests as a senior in 2014…Also earned Academic All-Ivy League honors…Part of a Crimson O-line that protected QB Scott Hosch, allowing him to set career highs in attempts (176), completions (109), passing yards (1,428) and TDs (eight) en route to a perfect 10-0 season.

KALEB JOHNSON

No. 62

Guard

Rutgers

6-4, 303

Johnson played in 52 games for the Scarlet Knights, finishing his career by starting 50-consecutive games along the O-line…Named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media and the league’s coaches, while being named third-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele after starting all 13 games at left guard as a senior in 2014…Also earned the Iron Knight Award at the team’s banquet, which is presented to the player who has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of mental and physical toughness throughout his career.

JERRY LOVELOCKE

No. 7

Quarterback

Prairie View A&M

6-4, 248

Seeing action in 39 games at Prairie View A&M, Lovelocke completed 676 of 1,107 passes (61.1%) for 7,359 yards, 54 touchdowns and 26 interceptions…Also rushed for 885 yards and 24 touchdowns on 234 attempts…He appeared in 10 games as a senior in 2014, completing 202 of 351 passes for 2,473 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions…Also registered 60 rushes for 217 yards (3.6 avg.) and 10 touchdowns.

TERRENCE MAGEE

No. 30

Running Back

LSU

5-9, 210

Magee played in 40 games (one start) in his four years with the Tigers, rushing for 1,330 yards and 12 touchdowns and netting 24 receptions for 271 yards…As a senior, he was given the honor of wearing the coveted No. 18 jersey. The No. 18 tradition started with QB Matt Mauck in 2003 when he led the Tigers to the National Title. Since then, the player who most represents what it means to be an LSU Tiger – on and off the field – is awarded the No. 18…In 2014, he saw action in 13 games (one start), finishing with 571 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 112 carries (5.1 avg.).

JUSTIN MANTON

No. 3

Punter

Louisiana-Monroe

6-2, 199

Manton punted a total of 204 times for 8,798 yards (43.1 avg.), including a long of 77 (second longest in school history), for the Warhawks…Also connected on 36 of 56 FGAs and 148 of 152 PATs, combining for 256 points over his four-year career…As a senior in 2014, he earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors for the second-straight year at punter after booting 76 punts for 3,222 yards (42.4 avg.), including a 67-yarder…Also placed 20 punts inside the 20 and registered just eight touchbacks.

NICK PERRY

No. 36

Safety

Alabama

6-1, 201

Perry saw action in 45 games (17 starts), finishing his collegiate career with 121 tackles (71 solo), 10 passes defensed, 6.5 tackles for loss (-25 yards), two interceptions (returned for 24 yards) and one sack (-7 yards)…Played in all 14 games (13 starts) as a senior and registered career highs in every category with 80 tackles (51 solo), six passes defensed, 4.5 tackles for loss (-18 yards) and two interceptions (returned for 24 yards).

DE’ONDRE WESLEY

No. 77

Tackle

BYU

6-6, 313

Wesley played in 25 games (22 starts) at right tackle for BYU after transferring from Diablo Valley (Pleasant Hill, CA) Community College…As a senior in 2014, he started all 13 games on a Cougars’ O-line that helped the offense average 181.8 yards rushing, 278.7 yards passing and 37.1 points per game – more points than any previous BYU attack since 2001…Earned first-team All-Independent honors by CollegeSportsMadness.com, helping BYU achieve its 10th-straight bowl invitation.

JULIAN WILSON

No. 42

Cornerback

Oklahoma

6-2, 215

Appeared in 48 career games (22 starts) during his career at Oklahoma, recording 99 tackles (76 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss (-21 yards), four interceptions (100 return yards, including one INT-TD) and 15 passes defensed…Named second-team Academic All-Big 12 as a senior in 2014 when he played in 11 games (nine starts), recording a career-high 39 tackles (32 solo), one interception (returned 100 yards for a TD) and seven passes defensed.

CAM WORTHY

No. 81

Wide Receiver

East Carolina

6-3, 212

Saw action in 24 games (11 starts) in two seasons at East Carolina, recording 74 receptions for 1,311 yards (17.7 avg.) and four touchdowns after beginning his career with the Pirates as a walk-on…Started all 11 games as a senior in 2014, finishing second on the team with 55 receptions for 1,016 yards and four touchdowns…Recorded 6 receptions for a career-high 224 yards against Virginia Tech.

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reed

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From Brian Griese to Ryan Tannehill: Ed Reed’s career of interceptions

Posted on 08 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed did it all, but the interception is what he’ll most be remembered for in his 12-year NFL career.

He walks away ranked sixth on the all-time list with 64 interceptions in the regular season. His nine postseason picks are tied for first with three others — Charlie Waters, Bill Simpson, and Ronnie Lott — on the career list.

He led the NFL in interceptions three times (2004, 2008, and 2010) and twice led the league in interception return yards (2004 and 2010).

His 1,590 interception yards in the regular season are the most in NFL history while he added 168 more in the playoffs. Putting those together, Reed fell just two yards shy of a full mile in interception return yardage for his career.

In total, 46 passers — a full active roster on game day — were intercepted by the 2002 first-round pick from the University of Miami. Of that group, half went to a Pro Bowl at least once in their careers and six were starting quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl.

Only Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, and New Orleans avoided throwing an interception against Reed. He never played a game against the Bears — he was injured for contests against them in 2005 and 2009 — and all of those teams except the Ravens played in the NFC.

Reed was right in expressing his love for Cleveland quarterbacks during his retirement press conference as his 12 interceptions against the Browns were his highest total against any team, but he also plagued Cincinnati 10 times. Pittsburgh came in third, but only three of those six interceptions came against Ben Roethlisberger despite nearly a decade of battles between the Steelers quarterback and the Ravens safety.

Brian Griese was the first interception victim when Reed was 24 and Ryan Tannehill was the last in the 35-year-old Reed’s final game in 2013.

Reed’s final interception in a Ravens uniform came against Colin Kaepernick in Super Bowl XLVII, the night he’d raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the only time in his career.

A 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde was the oldest quarterback on which the intercepting Reed preyed.

Brian St. Pierre was the most obscure to be victimized as he was picked off by Reed in his only NFL start.

Former New York Jets running back LaMont Jordan was the only non-quarterback to be intercepted by the ball-hawking free safety. It came during Reed’s 2004 Defensive Player of the Year season, and a holding penalty wiped out what would have been a 104-yard return for a touchdown on the play.

Carson Palmer threw the most interceptions (six) against Reed, but the future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning tossed the highest number (three) in the playoffs. It was a family affair for the Manning brothers as Eli was intercepted once by Reed in 2004.

Three quarterbacks — Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, and Jason Campbell — went five years in between throwing interceptions to Reed.

Campbell and Griese were Reed’s only victims to throw interceptions playing for two different teams. Campbell was the only quarterback that Reed intercepted both as a Raven and as a Jet.

Derek Anderson was the only passer to be intercepted by Reed in three straight seasons.

And even though they once played together in Philadelphia, Jeff Garcia and Kevin Kolb will forever be linked for throwing record-setting interceptions to the incomparable safety. Reed returned a Garcia interception 106 yards for a touchdown in 2004 and ran one back 107 yards for a score against Kolb in 2008. They are the two longest interception returns in NFL history.

In all, 73 interceptions and a Hall of Fame career no one in Baltimore will ever forget.

Passers who threw interceptions to Reed (including postseason)
1) Carson Palmer – 6
2) Peyton Manning – 4 (three in postseason)
3) Kelly Holcomb – 3
4) Derek Anderson – 3
5) Ben Roethlisberger – 3
6) Jason Campbell – 3
7) Tom Brady – 2 (one in postseason)
8) Chad Pennington – 2 (both in postseason)
9) Brian Griese – 2
10) Jon Kitna – 2
11) Ryan Fitzpatrick – 2
12) Andy Dalton – 2
13) Colt McCoy – 2
14) David Garrard – 2
15) Trent Green – 2
16) Charlie Batch – 2
17) Tony Romo – 2
18) Steve McNair – 1 (postseason)
19) T.J. Yates – 1 (postseason)
20) Jeff Garcia – 1
21) Kevin Kolb – 1
22) Trent Dilfer – 1
23) Colin Kaepernick – 1 (postseason)
24) Gus Frerotte – 1
25) Donovan McNabb – 1
26) Michael Vick – 1
27) Matt Hasselbeck – 1
28) Kellen Clemens – 1
29) David Carr – 1
30) Drew Brees – 1
31) Chad Henne – 1
32) Ryan Tannehill – 1
33) Brandon Weeden – 1
34) Matt McGloin – 1
35) Jeff Blake – 1
36) Marc Bulger – 1
37) Vince Young – 1
38) Brian St. Pierre – 1
39) Tommy Maddox – 1
40) Drew Bledsoe – 1
41) Vinny Testaverde – 1
42) Chris Simms – 1
43) Charlie Frye – 1
44) Eli Manning – 1
45) Sage Rosenfels – 1
46) LaMont Jordan – 1

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edreed

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Ed Reed always kept everyone on their toes

Posted on 07 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The only certainty about Ed Reed over the years was to be ready for just about anything.

Announcing his retirement after 12 NFL seasons — 11 with the Ravens — and speaking to the Baltimore media, the future Hall of Fame safety tossed a few more laterals and certainly didn’t disappoint during his farewell press conference.

“This is home. Baltimore, I love the city, I love this organization,” Reed said. “I hope that I did more than I was supposed to as a Raven, bigger than any contract could ever explain as a player.”

In discussing the ceremonial one-day contract he signed with general manager Ozzie Newsome, Reed revealed that he lobbied for a three-day contract or even one more season with the Ravens. He was joking, of course.

At least we think he was.

From honestly expressing his love playing against Cleveland’s many quarterbacks to awkwardly dropping a 4-20 reference, Reed covered it all in his 45-minute press conference that also featured Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and team president Dick Cass. He compared his early relationship with longtime teammate Ray Lewis to Mufasa and Simba from “The Lion King” and even worked in a final jab at the media for the perceived twisting of his words over the years.

It was just Ed being Ed, one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL and one of the most unique sports personalities Baltimore has ever seen.

Depending on the day of the week or even the hour in the day, Reed could be thoughtful or disinterested or cordial or surly with just about anyone. He was as likely to take a moment to introduce himself to a young and clueless media member covering his first training camp in Westminster as he was to grumpily walk by his closest teammates in the locker room without saying a word.

The only thing you knew about Reed — other than him being one of the best players in franchise history — was that you never knew. He liked it that way.

“I never thought about making it to the Hall of Fame,” said Reed, who is eligible for induction as soon as 2019. “I just wanted to be a great football player for my teammates. I was just studying and doing all that so that we could be our best. As everybody knows, this is a team sport, but an individual business. As an individual, I had to make sure I was taking care of my business.”

The 36-year-old says he hasn’t yet hung up his cleats despite announcing his retirement from the NFL as he continues to work out regularly and is currently busy coaching his 7-year-old son’s flag football team. Reed quipped that the latter experience doesn’t really make him want to be a coach, but he acknowledges that football is in his blood and has entertained thoughts of coaching at a higher level. This was evident late in his career when he quietly mentored the likes of Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and Jimmy Smith while Lewis received the spotlight as the leader of the Ravens.

Despite not enjoying talking to the media for much of his career, Reed opened up on Thursday.

He shed light on his passion for helping others, which has been evident through various charitable endeavors over the years and his adoption of Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore early in his career. He spoke sincerely on the recent unrest in the city, emphasizing the need for youth to have sports and other positive avenues on which to focus beyond school.

Along with his nine Pro Bowl selections, 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year award, and Super Bowl XLVII championship ring, Reed’s contributions in the community — here and in his home state of Louisiana — make him an easy choice to be officially inducted into the Ring of Honor on Nov. 22. Of course, a trip to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will follow.

“Deep commitment to the city of Baltimore,” said Cass, adding that Reed invited 26 Booker T. Washington students to every home game for over a decade in addition to the other contributions he made to the school. “The love that he felt for the city has been returned many times over by our fans and by the people in Baltimore who know that Ed is committed to the city. That deep commitment is returned to you in many ways.”

No, Reed didn’t have the storybook ending to his career in the same way Lewis did as he made the business decision to chase another payday with the Houston Texans. His final season with Houston and then the New York Jets was forgettable, but the 2002 first-round pick always moved to his own beat, even joking about his retirement as recently as April Fools’ Day last month.

Whether it was an ill-advised lateral on the field, the mixed signals about his contract and possible retirement in his later years, or the calculated and well-studied gambles that resulted in countless game-changing plays, Reed did things his way. No other player could provide you the full array of emotions in a matter of seconds, whether he was blocking a punt, recklessly flipping the ball to a teammate in heavy traffic, or intercepting a pass deep in his own end zone before sprinting the length of the field for a record-setting touchdown.

Everyone — coaches, teammates, media, and fans — was just along for the ride. And even if we rarely knew what was happening, what an exciting trip it was.

“When he told me later, yes,” said Harbaugh as he laughed when asked if he always knew what Reed was thinking on the field. “I was happy to hear about it.”

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Ed Reed to officially announce retirement on Thursday

Posted on 06 May 2015 by Luke Jones

After 12 NFL seasons, nine Pro Bowls, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and a Super Bowl trophy, future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed is officially calling it a career.

The Ravens will hold a 2 p.m. press conference Thursday to announce the 36-year-old’s retirement after he did not play during the 2014 season. Reed retires as one of the best players in franchise history and holds the franchise record of 61 interceptions before finishing his NFL career ranked sixth on the all-time list.

Owner Steve Bisciotti said earlier this year that Reed would be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium as soon as he officially retired from the NFL. Always an enigmatic figure during his time in Baltimore, Reed hinted that he was retiring as an April Fools’ Day joke last month before coming to his final decision.

Counting the postseason, the 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year scored a remarkable 14 touchdowns during his career. Not only making an impact as a ball-hawking safety, Reed is the only player in NFL history to score touchdowns off an interception, blocked punt, punt return, and fumble recovery.

The 2002 first-round pick often lived in the shadow of linebacker Ray Lewis, but Reed finally tasted championship glory in his final game with Baltimore, securing an interception in the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII. Instead of retiring like Lewis, the University of Miami product elected to continue his career with the Houston Texans and the New York Jets during the 2013 season.

Reed was considered a great all-around player before suffering a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder late in the 2007 season, an injury that hindered his tackling ability in the latter stages of his career. Despite Reed’s physical limitations, opposing quarterbacks were forced to continue to account for the game-changing free safety on every play as his preparation and knowledge of the game were second to none. When playing the Ravens, four-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady famously wrote on his wristband a telling message about Reed’s potential impact on any given game:

“Find 20 on every play.”

Reed finishes his career with 643 tackles, 64 interceptions, six sacks, 113 pass breakups, and 11 forced fumbles.

He will be eligible for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, one year after Lewis.

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zsmith

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Ravens assign jersey numbers, finalize preseason times

Posted on 05 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Preparing for this weekend’s rookie minicamp, the Ravens officially assigned jersey numbers to their 2015 draft picks on Tuesday.

WR Breshad Perriman – No. 18
Skinny: Let’s hope this number works out better for Perriman than it did for Elvis Grbac, who retired after his lone season in Baltimore in 2001.

TE Maxx Williams – No. 87
Skinny: If you were one of the few to throw caution to the wind and buy a Demetrius Williams jersey years ago, you’re in luck.

DT Carl Davis – No. 94
Skinny: Someone might have wanted to steer Davis in another direction after failed draft picks John Simon and Sergio Kindle wore this number in recent years.

LB Za’Darius Smith – No. 90
Skinny: With so many comparison being made to Pernell McPhee, it’s fitting that Smith was assigned this number.

RB Buck Allen – No. 37
Skinny: Former Ravens running back Ant Allen wore No. 35, but the 2015 fourth-round pick has much more upside than the former special-teams player.

CB Tray Walker – No. 25
Skinny: Some joked that Walker should sport the No. 41 formerly worn by the maligned Frank Walker, but he instead takes Asa Jackson’s number after the veteran switched to No. 27, Ray Rice’s old jersey.

TE Nick Boyle – No. 82
Skinny: The Ravens wasted no time assigning Torrey Smith’s old number to the second tight end they selected in this year’s draft.

G Robert Myers – No. 70
Skinny: I’ll bet on Myers working out better than former sixth-rounder Ramon Harewood, who wore this number after being taken one spot ahead of future All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown in 2010.

WR Darren Waller – No. 12
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 receiver won’t factor into the return game like Jacoby Jones, but I’m still looking forward to watching him this summer.

The NFL also announced final dates and times for all preseason games, with the Ravens schedule below:

Week 1: Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. New Orleans Saints, 7:30 p.m.
Week 2: Saturday, Aug. 22 at Philadelphia Eagles, 7:00 p.m.
Week 3: Saturday, Aug. 29 vs. Washington Redskins, 7:30 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 3 at Atlanta Falcons, 7:00 p.m.

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melvin

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Even after strong draft, Ravens remain vulnerable at cornerback

Posted on 05 May 2015 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens receive much-deserved praise for addressing an extensive list of needs and wants in this year’s draft, one clear truth remained at the end of an otherwise-successful weekend.

The secondary remains vulnerable after the Ravens finished 23rd in pass defense during the 2014 season. To be clear, this isn’t meant to be a biting criticism as detractors pointing to the failures of the Ravens defense in the divisional playoff loss to New England last January are conveniently failing to mention that Baltimore needed to replace starting wide receiver Torrey Smith and starting tight end Owen Daniels before worrying about a No. 3 cornerback or help at safety, a position with few immediate solutions in this year’s draft.

Yes, the defense deserved more blame than the offense in that 35-31 defeat to the Patriots, but the Ravens weren’t going to replace two individuals responsible for 32 percent of Joe Flacco’s 2014 passing yards on hopes and dreams alone, which is why they selected Brehad Perriman and Maxx Williams with their first two picks.

Of the nine selections made by general manager Ozzie Newsome, however, fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker has raised the most eyebrows as many projected the Texas Southern product to be a late-round selection or even a priority free agent. The Ravens really like the 6-foot-2 corner’s upside and worked him out privately during the pre-draft process, but it’s fair to wonder if it was a reach to ensure they’d come away with at least one cornerback with room for grwoth. At the very least, it would be quite ambitious to assume Walker will be ready to immediately step into the No. 3 cornerback role behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

“Could we have taken a corner in the first round? We probably could have. In the second round? We probably could have,” Newsome said. “But at the point when we were picking, it wasn’t the best player. But we do feel good. Getting Jimmy back healthy, Lardarius having a year to train, and then some of the young guys to have a chance to play being in the system for a second year [will help].”

Newsome’s correct about the Ravens being ravaged by injuries with five cornerbacks finishing the season on injured reserve. While Rashaan Melvin wouldn’t have been filling a starting role late last season under normal circumstances, the former Tampa Bay practice-squad member played well enough to garner a look as the potential third cornerback. He, Walker, Anthony Levine, and the oft-injured Asa Jackson currently stand as the candidates for the No. 3 job, but the Ravens will also be depending on first-year cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss and first-year defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt — who served as Steve Spagnuolo’s assistant secondary coach a year ago — to oversee their development.

Finding a No. 3 cornerback is not an impossible task, but that only comes with the assumption that Smith is back to form after a season-ending Lisfranc injury and Webb can build on the improvement shown late in 2014 after a back injury cost him all of training camp and the first month of the regular season. The two have missed 33 regular-season games due to injuries in their respective careers and have only played full 16-game seasons three times between them.

It’s also worth noting that the Ravens ranked just 24th in pass defense before Smith went down for the season in Week 8, proof that all wasn’t well in the secondary before defensive coordinator Dean Pees lost his top cornerback.

With the draft complete, it’s worth noting that some teams will part ways with veteran cornerbacks in the coming days and weeks like the Patriots did with Alfonzo Dennard on Tuesday. Of course, none of those names can be regarded as a sure bet, but the Ravens could find an appealing candidate or two to throw into the current No. 3 and No. 4 mix, especially with more than $10 million in current salary cap space.

“We’re not done putting this team together right now,” Newsome said at the draft’s conclusion. “It’s still maybe four months before we have to play Denver [in the season opener]. We’re still going to be mining for players to make our roster to make us better.”

Despite everything accomplished with their nine selections this past weekend, cornerback remains a top position to try to improve between now and the start of the season.

Pondering Pitta’s future

Admittedly, I’ve been surprised by some of the reaction to the Ravens drafting two tight ends and the “new-found” conclusions many have reached about the future of veteran Dennis Pitta.

All offseason, Baltimore has expressed hope that the 2010 fourth-round pick would be able to play again after suffering two devastating right hip injuries in a 14-month span. But, like everyone else, the organization saw the manner in which Pitta innocuously caught a short pass and tried to turn upfield before crumpling to the ground without even being touched in Cleveland last September.

Knowing Pitta’s character and commitment to the game, I would never count out his potential return to the field. But I’m also rooting for a 29-year-old man to do what’s best for him and his family, whether that means trying to play football again or calling it a career with what should be plenty of financial security.

If Pitta returns, having too many tight ends is a great problem to have, but the Ravens simply can’t count on any production from him in 2015 or beyond. Even if he does resume playing, it will be difficult for the Ravens — or anyone else — to shake the fear of what happened to Pitta in Cleveland from happening again.

Return game

Another position of interest that appeared to go unaddressed in this year’s draft was return specialist as the Ravens must replace veteran Jacoby Jones.

Many have pointed to wide receiver Michael Campanaro as the top candidate to return punts, but it will be worth keeping an eye on rookie free agent DeAndre Carter from Sacramento State. Carter is only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but he was projected by some to be a late-round pick with potential to be a solid return man at the next level.

The Ravens have a history of finding rookie free agent returners from B.J. Sams and Cory Ross to Deonte Thompson, so an opportunity could be there for Carter despite a very crowded group of young wide receivers.

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perriman

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Football a family affair for Ravens’ top picks Perriman, Williams

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams will forever be linked as the first two Ravens picks of the 2015 draft, but the standout pass catchers share another connection as second-generation NFL players.

With fathers who combined to play 21 years in the NFL, Perriman and Williams have a lot to live up to in not only becoming immediate starters for the current Baltimore offense, but they’ll also try to step outside of their fathers’ NFL shadows. Brett Perriman, a standout receiver at the University of Miami, caught 525 passes and 30 touchdowns in 10 NFL seasons with New Orleans, Detroit, Kansas City, and Miami. Brian Williams spent 11 seasons as a center with the New York Giants, appearing in 129 games and making 62 starts.

Of course, a strong bloodline doesn’t guarantee success as Jarrett Payton — the son of the late Walter Payton — and Jerry Rice Jr. both went undrafted after their collegiate careers. But both Perriman and Williams hope their professional careers play out more like Peyton and Eli Manning, who have both surpassed their father’s acclaim in the NFL by wide margins.

Though not a trait the Ravens were intentionally seeking — general manager Ozzie Newsome admitted he wasn’t even aware that Williams’ father had played in the NFL before drafting the Minnesota tight end — it’s clear that the organization views the circumstance as a positive trait.

“The thing that I like about Perriman is that he has grown up around the game of football with his dad, Brett,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He’s been around Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades, Brian Blades, and all of those guys [from Miami], so the game is not going to be too big for him.”

Breshad Perriman has already surpassed his father in terms of where he was drafted after being picked 26th overall by the Ravens. The senior Perriman was drafted by the Saints in the second round of the 1988 draft.

Brett’s greatest success came in Detroit while playing with former Ravens quarterback Scott Mitchell. Posting 1,488 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 1995 and following that with another 1,000-yard season in 1996, Brett Perriman has shared his experiences with his 21-year-old son, who was too young to remember his father’s playing days.

“For me looking up to him when I was a child, I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Breshad Perriman said. “Once I created a great passion for the game, I wanted to make a name for myself. I’m slowly doing that, and I feel like there’s no one else better to celebrate that with.”

Similar to his new teammate, Maxx Williams was only five when his father retired from football, but it was actually his mother, Rochelle, who taught him how to catch. She and Brian Williams also attended the University of Minnesota where she played volleyball and he was a future first-round pick for the Gophers. Maxx’s grandfather was a quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959 before choosing to go to medical school.

Such a bloodline would make you wonder if complacency would be a problem, but the 2015 second-round pick exceeded expectations at Minnesota where he made 25 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman and was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award last year after catching 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

With some already touting the 6-foot-4, 250-pound target as an offensive rookie of the year candidate, what advice did Williams’ father offer him about life in the NFL?

“You have to earn respect,” the 21-year-old tight end said. “You have to go in, shut your mouth, and go to work every day and earn the respect of your teammates and show who you are, because now you’re at the highest level where no matter what, everyone’s the best there is.”

Having dealt with the reality of trying to escape their fathers’ shadow for most of their lives, Perriman and Williams will have a better idea of what to expect as they prepare for their first minicamp later this week. With the Ravens needing both to fill significant roles as rookies, their bloodlines and mentors figure to help along the way.

Now playing in an organization that values family — beginning with head coach John Harbaugh who grew up the son of a longtime college coach and regularly has his father around the training facility — Perriman and Williams should fit right in despite high expectations. The former didn’t wait long to find another tie to his father’s NFL career when he met the inspirational O.J. Brigance on Friday.

“I don’t think he really knew the O.J. story, and he went in and Breshad was great,” Harbaugh said. “O.J. was talking through his machine, and he said, ‘I played with your dad in Miami,’ and Breshad was like, ‘Wow!’ They played together in 1997, I think it was. Another amazing connection.”

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What to expect from each of Ravens’ nine 2015 draft picks

Posted on 03 May 2015 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2015 draft, so what should we now expect from each of the Ravens’ nine selections?

Below is an early look at how each rookie fits:

WR Breshad Perriman
Drafted: First round (26th overall) from Central Florida

2015 projected role: The Ravens hope the 6-foot-2 wideout with blinding speed can immediately come in and pick up where Torrey Smith left off as a starter and deep threat opposite veteran Steve Smith.

Long-term view: Arguably more physically gifted than any receiver the Ravens have ever had, Perriman could become the authentic No. 1 receiver Joe Flacco has never enjoyed in his career. However, he’ll need to refine his route-running ability and improve his concentration level with his hands in order to do it.

TE Maxx Williams
Drafted: Second round (55th overall) from Minnesota

2015 projected role: General manager Ozzie Newsome moved up three spots in the second round to take Williams with every expectation of him being ready to start with Dennis Pitta’s future so uncertain.

Long-term view: The Ravens hope the talented 6-foot-4 Williams is the next in a line of impact tight ends that includes Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, and Pitta. It’s difficult not to be excited about his upside after he entered the draft following his redshirt sophomore season.

DT Carl Davis
Drafted: Third round (90th overall) from Iowa

2015 projected role: Davis will give the Ravens another run-stopping option who can ease the load on Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan on a rotational basis.

Long-term view: At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, Davis could play his way into a starting role, so it will be interesting to see where he best fits at the NFL level. He has a chip on his shoulder after sliding to the third round and expressed confidence that he was one of the best defensive linemen in the draft.

OLB Za’Darius Smith
Drafted: Fourth (122nd overall) from Kentucky

2015 projected role: With Pernell McPhee now in Chicago, the Ravens expect Smith to back up Terrell Suggs at the rush linebacker spot and to rush the passer on a situational basis.

Long-term view: Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are under contract for a few more years, but both are on the wrong side of 30, meaning Smith could have an opportunity to step into a starting role eventually. Courtney Upshaw is also a free agent after 2015, so the Ravens need this pick to work out.

RB Javorius “Buck” Allen
Drafted: Fourth round (125th overall) from USC

2015 projected role: Allen will compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro for touches behind starter Justin Forsett in the running game.

Long-term view: His one-cut running style and ability as a receiver would appear to put him in line to eventually become the starting tailback over the more straight-ahead running Taliaferro. There are concerns that Allen runs too high, but there’s plenty to like about the former Trojans rusher.

CB Tray Walker
Drafted: Fourth round (136th overall) from Texas Southern

2015 projected role: He will enter training camp competing with the likes of Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin for the No. 3 cornerback spot behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Long-term view: His 6-foot-2 frame is a plus, but it’s just too difficult to know how Walker will project after facing less-than-stellar college competition. Webb was a success, but the Ravens have completely whiffed on other FCS-level players such as David Pittman and Christian Thompson in the secondary.

TE Nick Boyle
Drafted: Fifth round (171st overall) from Delaware

2015 projected role: Boyle will likely settle in as the No. 3 tight end behind Williams and Crockett Gillmore on the depth chart.

Long-term view: At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Boyle is most appealing as a blocker, but he showed decent hands with the Blue Hens to keep him in mind for goal-line and short-yardage situations. The Ravens would be happy if he could eventually settle in as a reliable No. 2 tight end.

G Robert Myers
Drafted: Fifth round (176th overall) from Tennessee State

2015 projected role: With the Ravens loaded at the guard position, Myers will be used as depth and will probably be inactive on many game days if the offensive line is healthy.

Long-term view: After the Ravens tabbed Rick Wagner and John Urschel in recent fifth rounds, you should take notice of this pick. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo loves Myers and Kelechi Osemle and Marshal Yanda are both free agents next offseason, which could lead to a bigger role as soon as 2016.

WR Darren Waller
Drafted: Sixth round (204th overall) from Georgia Tech

2015 projected role: Waller will compete for a roster spot as a rookie and the Ravens could use his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame inside the red zone, but he has a lot to prove as a developmental player.

Long-term view: The Ravens would love to see Waller become another Marlon Brown — or better — but he’s probably more likely to be the next Tommy Streeter or Aaron Mellette. Unlike other receivers his size who are drafted late, Waller is credited for having solid hands, but his route-running needs major work.

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Puzzle pieces impressively fall into place for Ravens’ 2015 draft

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The smiles on the faces of the Ravens decision-makers said it all at the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft.

Entering the three-day event with 10 scheduled picks and an extensive grocery list of positions to address, general manager Ozzie Newsome was able to put a check mark next to nearly every item by the time Saturday evening rolled around. The Ravens may have stayed true to their draft board, but it’s difficult to recall a time when it aligned so closely with their biggest needs and wants.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I think, just in terms of if we had imagined this draft beforehand, we’d be very, very excited. We got it, and it looks great on paper. But hopefully, it looks good in person as well.”

Seven weeks after waving goodbye to Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Haloti Ngata, and Pernell McPhee, the Ravens said hello to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams, defensive tackle Carl Davis, and defensive end Za’Darius Smith with their first four draft picks. It’s a sequence of selections that would make you think the Ravens were drafting solely for need if not for the fact that all four prospects were projected to be taken earlier in the draft by many pundits.

Newsome followed that by adding a cornerback (Tray Walker) and a running back (Buck Allen) — two other positions of need in most minds — before finally building more offensive depth with tight end Nick Boyle, guard Robert Myers, and wide receiver Darren Waller.

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Time will tell how well these nine players pan out — history tells us at least a couple won’t — but it’s difficult not to be impressed with the manner in which the Ravens worked. Newsome only pulled off one trade to do it, forfeiting one of three fifth-round picks to move up three spots in the second round to take the consensus top tight end in Williams.

“We’re not done putting this team together right now,” said Newsome, adding that they had already begun the process of signing rookie free agents. “It’s still maybe four months before we have to play Denver [in the season opener]. As a personnel staff, we’re still going to be mining for players to make our roster to make us better.”

Of course, no draft is perfect as the fourth-round selection of Walker, a lesser-known player from FCS school Texas Southern, could be considered a reach with many projecting him as a late-round pick or priority free agent. His 6-foot-2, 191-pound frame is impressive for a corner, but he’s unlikely to quell concerns about the depth behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Then again, Walker’s performance at the College Gridiron Showcase game as well as his private workout with cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss left the Ravens very impressed, making you wonder if they’ve uncovered the latest diamond in the rough. Unsurprisingly, Newsome wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making other additions when he was inevitably asked about a secondary that endured a mountain of injuries in 2014.

The selection of two tight ends confirmed what we’ve known all offseason about the Ravens not counting on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who reiterated last week that he hopes to play again despite two serious right hip injuries in two years. Baltimore wasn’t going to forgo the opportunity to add the best tight end in the draft as well as Boyle, a physical blocking tight end from Delaware.

If Pitta can make his way back to the field at some point, a position of clear weakness before the draft could ultimately become of the Ravens’ biggest strengths. Having too many tight ends would be a good problem to have in the West Coast offense that will continue to be used by new offensive Marc Trestman.

“I still don’t know what’s going to happen with [Pitta],” Newsome said. “But Maxx Williams was way ahead of anybody that we had on the board when we picked him, and Boyle was the same way. We have a very tight end-friendly offense, so having one or two is not enough.

As always, the Ravens weren’t only drafting for 2015 as the selection of Myers provides insurance behind guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, who are both set to become free agents next offseason. And while Baltimore hopes Perriman becomes an immediate starter and the eventual No. 1 receiver, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Waller is an intriguing project to keep an eye on during training camp as the 204th overall pick and final Ravens selection of this year’s draft.

Beyond giving two thumbs up for addressing virtually every need and want on their list — safety and kick returner were the only real positions of interest to go untouched — you don’t grade a draft immediately after its conclusion despite the many who will try to. Three or four years from now, Newsome and the Ravens might look at this weekend fondly or they could cringe with regret.

The value and names are impressive on paper, but now these draft picks — along with a batch of rookie free agents to follow — must show how it translates on the field.

“Our needs and the types of things that are going to make our team better — specifically by position or by the type of player and where they were strategically found — I just thought it was masterful,” said Harbaugh in summarizing this year’s draft. “It’s a big success. Now we have to turn these guys into a football team.”

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