Tag Archive | "NFL"

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Pitta reportedly restructures deal to remain with Ravens

Posted on 10 March 2017 by Luke Jones

After making his unlikely return to the field in 2016, Dennis Pitta is staying with the Ravens.

The veteran tight end has agreed to restructure his contract to lower his $7.7 million salary-cap figure for 2017, according to NFL Network. Pitta accepted a pay cut from $5 million to $1 million in base salary last year as he attempted his unlikely comeback from two devastating hip injuries and went on to earn $3 million back in incentives. He was scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary this season in a contract scheduled to run through next year.

It remains unclear how the revised deal will look, but general manager Ozzie Newsome was aiming to add more cap space to continue revamping his roster after the Ravens missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. Asked about Pitta’s cap figure and future with the team earlier in the day on Friday, Newsome would only say that he was “still a Raven.”

Playing this past season for the first time since 2014, Pitta led all NFL tight ends with 86 receptions and was the only Baltimore tight end to play in all 16 games. However, his 8.5 yards per catch average ranked 55th of 56 players with at least 60 catches, leading many to argue that quarterback Joe Flacco was too dependent on underneath passes to his longtime teammate and close friend. Pitta managed only two touchdown receptions and often struggled to gain yards after the catch.

Pitta’s return leaves the Ravens with a very crowded tight end picture that includes fellow veteran Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Darren Waller, Nick Boyle, and Maxx Williams.

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Ravens release longtime defensive back Lardarius Webb

Posted on 10 March 2017 by Luke Jones

After making free agent Tony Jefferson one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, the Ravens are releasing longtime defensive back Lardarius Webb.

Despite a solid first season moving from cornerback to a full-time safety position, Webb was deemed expendable with general manager Ozzie Newsome signing Jefferson to a four-year, $36 million contract earlier this week. The 31-year-old Webb was scheduled to make $5.5 million and carry a $7.5 million salary-cap figure in the final year of his contract.

The fifth-longest tenured player on last year’s roster, Webb started all 16 games this past season and finished with 73 tackles, one interception, and five pass breakups. A cornerback in his first seven years, the 2009 third-round pick collected 13 interceptions in his career with the Ravens.

As he often does after releasing a veteran player, Newsome left open the possibility for Webb to return at a reduced rate later this offseason.

“The door is not closed, because we need as many good football players as we can have,” Newsome said. “And we need as many guys as we can out there competing day in and day out, so it was a good conversation.”

Webb appeared on his way to becoming one of the AFC’s best cornerbacks in 2012 when he signed a six-year, $50 million contract, but he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that season — less than three years after injuring the ACL in his other knee — and never played at the same high level after that. He accepted a pay cut two years ago to remain with Baltimore.

While the 2009 third-round pick from Nicholls State could conceivably return to play a part-time role, his improvement at his new position over the second half of the 2016 season makes it likely that Webb will draw interest from other teams looking for a safety or nickel back.

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Ravens re-sign nose tackle Brandon Williams to massive deal

Posted on 09 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens said that signing nose tackle Brandon Williams was a top priority and delivered on the declaration with a contract that makes him the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.

With negotiations continuing through the official start of the free-agent signing period, the sides agreed to a five-year, $54 million contract with $27.5 million guaranteed on Thursday night. The deal easily exceeds the five-year, $46.25 million contract with $24 million guaranteed that the New York Giants awarded Damon Harrison in free agency a year ago.

Considered one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL since he became a starter in 2014, Williams collected 51 tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup while playing in all 16 games for the third year in a row this past season. He graded as the 39th-best interior line defender by Pro Football Focus and was 18th among defensive tackles in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 rankings.

In 55 career games, Williams has amassed 156 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass breakups.

A respected member of the locker room, the personable Williams became a fan favorite soon after he he was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Missouri Southern State. The 6-foot-1, 340-pound nose tackle has also been very active in the community as he serves as a spokesman for the Maryland Food Bank, works closely with the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, and has helped host the annual Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party.

Williams becomes the first Ravens draft pick since cornerback Jimmy Smith from the 2011 draft to receive a long-term second contract with Baltimore.

It remains to be seen how such a lucrative payday for Williams might impact general manager Ozzie Newsome’s ability to make other improvements to a roster with a plethora of needs on both sides of the ball. The 2013 third-round pick has anchored a run defense that’s ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in his three years as a starter, but he offers little as a pass rusher and the Ravens have consistently found defensive line talent through a variety of channels over the years. The roster also had several young options such as Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, and Willie Henry who could have been asked to fill more meaningful roles had Williams departed and those resources been used elsewhere.

Having already signed safety Tony Jefferson to a four-year, $36 million contract earlier in the day, the Ravens will likely need to make more cuts to clear room on their salary cap and to try to address other needs. To this point, the Baltimore offense has lost starting right tackle Rick Wagner and Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency, gained veteran running back Danny Woodhead, and re-signed backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Ravens also have an obvious need at wide receiver after the retirement of Steve Smith at the end of the season.

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Ravens exercise 2017 option for Wallace, finalize other signings

Posted on 09 March 2017 by Luke Jones

After recording his first 1,000-yard season since 2011, veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace is returning to the Ravens for a second season.

Baltimore exercised its option on the 30-year-old, which will pay him $5.75 million for the 2017 season. After disappointing stops in Miami and Minnesota, the former Pittsburgh Steeler revitalized his career in 2016 by making 72 catches for 1,017 yards and four touchdowns and led the NFL with five receptions of 50 or more yards.

Wallace’s return became a foregone conclusion once former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith agreed to a three-year, $15 contract with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier on Thursday. Baltimore had discussed a potential reunion with the former Maryland standout and may have elected to let Wallace go to clear some salary-cap space under such a scenario.

With Steve Smith having retired and Kamar Aiken hitting the free-agent market, the Ravens couldn’t afford to lose Wallace with 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman being the most experienced receiver behind him on the depth chart. Baltimore still needs to add a possession receiver to work the intermediate portion of the field, but Wallace, Perriman, and 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore make up an interesting trio of vertical threats.

In addition to picking up Wallace’s option, the Ravens officially announced their reported deals with safety Tony Jefferson, running back Danny Woodhead, and quarterback Ryan Mallett.

According to ESPN, Jefferson received a four-year, $36 million contract to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. The former Arizona Cardinal’s average annual salary of $9 million is the most given to a safety in franchise history, but the total amount is less than the six-year, $44.5 million contract awarded to future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed in 2006.

Baltimore signed Woodhead to a three-year contract — an addition that holds more significance with the news of Kenneth Dixon being suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season — while Mallett received a one-year deal to remain as Joe Flacco’s backup.

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Ravens sign safety Jefferson, veteran running back Woodhead

Posted on 09 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens appear on the verge of signing the top safety on the free-agent market for the second straight year.

According to ESPN, Arizona Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson is expected to sign with Baltimore when free agency officially opens on Thursday afternoon. Terms of the agreement were unknown as of late Wednesday night, but Jefferson’s expected signing comes a year after general manager Ozzie Newsome inked four-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle to a four-year, $26 million contract.

A 2013 undrafted free agent from Oklahoma, Jefferson became a full-time starter in the talented Arizona secondary in 2016 and graded fifth among all NFL safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. The 25-year-old is one of the best run-stopping safeties in the league, but he’s also considered capable in pass coverage despite having only two career interceptions. In 15 games last season, the 5-foot-11, 212-pound Jefferson accumulated 96 tackles, two sacks, five pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

A San Diego native, Jefferson had been recruited by Weddle — who spent nine years with the Chargers — to join the Ravens with the two even interacting on Twitter in recent weeks.

Jefferson’s arrival is likely bad news for veteran safety Lardarius Webb, who is scheduled to carry a $7.5 million salary-cap figure in the final year of his contract. After a slow start at his new position in 2016, the former cornerback performed well in the second half of the season, but he will turn 32 in October.

Jefferson wasn’t the only free agent the Ravens were targeting on Wednesday night as they came to an agreement with former San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead, according to NFL Network. The 32-year-old missed most of last season with a torn ACL, but he has been one of the better third-down backs in the league in recent years.

The 5-foot-8 Woodhead caught a career-high 80 passes for 755 yards and six touchdowns in 2015.

NFL Network also reported that the Ravens have re-signed quarterback Ryan Mallett to return as the backup to Joe Flacco.

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Juszczyk signs lucrative deal with San Francisco

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The fullback has been viewed as a dying breed in the NFL in recent years, but you wouldn’t know it from Wednesday’s free-agent activity.

As a few other fullbacks found respectable deals elsewhere, Kyle Juszczyk is preparing to leave the Ravens for a lucrative contract in San Francisco. According to multiple outlets, Juszczyk will sign a four-year, $21 million contract with the 49ers. An ESPN report indicates that the 2013 fourth-round pick will receive $10.5 million guaranteed, an incredible amount that eclipses any other current fullback.

A Harvard graduate, Juszczyk was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 after catching 37 passes for 266 yards and frequently serving as the primary back in passing situations. His 10-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of Baltimore’s Christmas Day battle with Pittsburgh looked like it would be the deciding score before a last-second touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown gave the Steelers the 31-27 win and the AFC North title.

It’s believed that new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan envisions a more diverse role for Juszczyk than that of the typical fullback. Meanwhile, the Ravens will be forced to look for Juszczyk’s replacement this offseason.

One can hardly blame general manager Ozzie Newsome for not paying Juszczyk such a lucrative amount, but his pass-blocking ability will certainly be missed. Primary tailbacks Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon both struggled in pass protection last year, which often led the Ravens to use Juszczyk in single-back formations in passing situations.

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Ravens cut ties with five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are moving on from one of the more prolific pass rushers in franchise history.

Five-time Pro Bowl selection Elvis Dumervil has been released in a move that will save general manager Ozzie Newsome $6 million in space on the 2017 salary cap. The news was first reported by former Raven and NFL Network analyst Steve Smith before Dumervil issued a farewell statement via his official Twitter account.

Dumervil was not expected to return at his scheduled $8.375 million cap figure for 2017, but his departure magnifies Baltimore’s need to improve its pass rush. Tied for 24th in the NFL with 31 sacks last season, the Ravens were led in that department by Terrell Suggs, who will turn 35 in October. Newsome will count on improvement from 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon and 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith while also looking to add help via the draft and free agency.

The 33-year-old Dumervil set the single-season franchise record with 17 sacks in 2014, but his production declined after that. In 2015, he was forced into an every-down role after Terrell Suggs suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the season opener and wore down as the year progressed, finishing with just six sacks.

He then struggled to return from what head coach John Harbaugh originally labeled a “preventative procedure” this past offseason and missed eight games while collecting only three sacks. Not wanting to make excuses for his diminished play, Dumervil revealed only in late December that he had undergone Achilles tendon repair surgery the previous February.

Respected in the locker room as a true professional, Dumervil figures to draw interest on the open market as a situational pass rusher if he can prove he’s fully recovered from the surgery. His 35 1/2 sacks over his four seasons in Baltimore rank sixth on the franchise’s all-time list.

“Elvis Dumervil has been a leader for us on and off the field,” Newsome said in a statement released by the team on Wednesday. “He has made a positive impression on our franchise, and we have been fortunate to have him as a Raven. We respect his professionalism and the way he plays the game, in addition to his extensive charitable efforts that have greatly impacted our Baltimore community and his parents’ native country of Haiti.

“We have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning in the future.”

Dumervil was Baltimore’s first major addition after Super Bowl XLVII as the former Denver Bronco signed a five-year, $26 million contract in 2013. In his four years with the Ravens, he was named to the Pro Bowl twice and collected two sacks in Baltimore’s only playoff win over that time.

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Veteran receivers reportedly no longer options for Ravens

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The official signing period for free agency doesn’t begin until 4 p.m. on Thursday, but two veteran receiver options are already off the board for the Ravens.

Former New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall won’t have to change his address after agreeing to a two-year, $12 million with the Giants on Wednesday morning. The 32-year-old was considered a potential fit for the Ravens by many outsiders — including retired Raven Steve Smith — but it remains unclear whether the organization ever engaged in dialogue with Marshall after he was cut by the Jets last week.

Washington veteran Pierre Garcon has also been identified by many as the prototype receiver that the Ravens covet, but he appears set to join the San Francisco 49ers. According to ESPN, the 31-year-old is expected to earn $16 million in the first year of a deal that can’t be finalized until Thursday.

The Ravens have already lost top veteran Steve Smith to retirement this offseason and appear unlikely to retain free agent Kamar Aiken, who led the team in receiving in 2015.

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Right tackle Wagner set to leave Ravens to join Detroit

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

In what’s been considered more of a formality in recent days, starting right tackle Rick Wagner is reportedly leaving the Ravens for a lucrative contract elsewhere.

According to multiple outlets, Wagner has agreed to terms on a long-term deal with the Detroit Lions. The 27-year-old is expected to make north of $9 million per season, according to NFL Network. Such a deal would set a new bar for right tackles, who have generally topped out at around $6 million annually in recent years.

A three-year starter who ranked 18th among all qualified offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system for 2016, Wagner will be tough to replace with the Ravens having already stated a clear offseason goal of improving their offensive line and running game. James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley, and Stephane Nembot are the current internal options at right tackle, but Hurst has struggled when pressed into starting duty over the last three years and the other two lack any meaningful experience.

The Ravens prefer to keep second-year lineman Alex Lewis at left guard and as the primary backup to starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

Of course, it’s worth noting there was much angst with Baltimore’s decision to hand the right tackle job to Wagner in 2014 after former first-round pick Michael Oher departed via free agency, but the Wisconsin product would start 45 games over three seasons. For what it’s worth, the coaching staff believes both Wesley and Nembot have potential to develop, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t pursue another right tackle via free agency or the draft.

Wagner is just the first of a few unrestricted free agents who could be leaving the Ravens in the coming days. Reports have already indicated multiple teams being interested in Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk while nose tackle Brandon Williams is expected to receive a massive payday on the open market.

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Ravens tender West, four other restricted free agents

Posted on 07 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have taken a big step toward keeping running back Terrance West for the 2017 season.

West, offensive linemen James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Michael Campanaro, and safety Marqueston Huff were all given original-round tenders on Tuesday, according to The Sun. All five of these restricted free agents are now scheduled to earn $1.797 million in 2017 if no other team attempts to sign them to an offer sheet. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will tender cornerback Jumal Rolle, their remaining restricted free agent.

Originally a 2014 third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, West rushed for 774 yards and five touchdowns in his first full season with Baltimore. Another team signing West to an offer sheet would be forced to surrender its third-round pick to the Ravens if they elected not to match the offer, making it very likely that the former Towson University star will be staying put for 2017.

Signing Campanaro would require a seventh-round pick since that was the round in which he was drafted by the Ravens in 2014. Huff was originally a fourth-round pick of Tennessee and mostly saw action on special teams this past season, but Baltimore’s lack of depth at the safety position likely contributed to him receiving a tender.

Despite his well-documented struggles when pressed into starting duty over his first three seasons, Hurst does provide some depth at right tackle with starter Rick Wagner appearing likely to depart via free agency. Hurst was originally an undrafted free agent, meaning the Ravens only own a right of first refusal and would not receive compensation if they elected not to match an outside offer sheet.

Jensen was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft and started three games in 2016 before falling down the depth chart in the second half of the season.

It’s worth noting that restricted tenders are not guaranteed contracts as the Ravens could cut any of these players without consequence to the 2017 salary cap. Last March, Baltimore surprisingly gave the low tender to tight end Chase Ford — who never played a down with the Ravens — before cutting him only a month later. Such a scenario could play out with a player like Hurst or Huff if the Ravens added depth at their positions in the coming weeks.

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