Tag Archive | "NFL"

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Ravens looking to invite more fans to training camp

Posted on 23 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens haven’t held training camp at McDaniel College in five years, but the organization wants to bring the old Westminster feel to their Owings Mills facility in the coming summers.

Team president Dick Cass told reporters at the league meetings in Phoenix that the Ravens are exploring ways to accommodate more fans to attend training camp practices. The possibilities include buying land adjacent to the team’s training facility for additional parking.

After the Ravens accommodated a maximum of 500 fans at certain practices last summer, Cass told the team’s official website that they hope to bring 1,000 fans per day to camp workouts this summer and 3,000 spectators to individual practices by 2016, which would be more in line with the types of crowds they once saw in Westminster. The organization also plans to bring in more entertainment for fans at the training facility.

The Ravens held training camp in Westminster from 1996 through 2010, but the 2011 camp was moved to the training facility in Owings Mills due to the uncertainty that accompanied the offseason lockout. Baltimore officially decided a year later to keep summer workouts at their multimillion-dollar facility moving forward to better prepare for the regular season, but the move eliminated arguably the most intimate setting for fans to watch players and interact with them.

Cass said the Ravens will once again hold a training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium this summer, which is currently slated for Aug. 3. It remains unclear whether they will hold another practice at the Naval Academy in Annapolis this summer.

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Who could be this year’s Rick Wagner for the Ravens?

Posted on 21 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Nearly two weeks into free agency, the Ravens appear no closer to filling gaping holes at the wide receiver and tight end positions after losing Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels.

Viable options on the open market are dwindling and it would deviate from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s “best player available” philosophy to enter April’s draft with two starting positions to fill. Of course, a trade cannot be ruled out with Baltimore projected to have 10 or 11 draft picks — compensatory choices will be announced this week — and Newsome has acquired the likes of left tackle Eugene Monroe, center Jeremy Zuttah, and even former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin through trades in recent years.

But the lack of activity makes you wonder if the Ravens have more confidence in their current batch of wide receivers or tight ends — or both — than the outside world does.

It was only a year ago when many were discussing how desperately the Ravens needed a starting right tackle following the free-agent departure of the disappointing Michael Oher. Considered little more than an afterthought by most, 2013 fifth-round pick Rick Wagner became an instant upgrade and an above-average starter in his second NFL season after playing sparingly as a rookie.

Who might the Ravens view as this year’s Wagner?

At the wide receiver position, Marlon Brown is the most experienced receiver remaining behind veteran Steve Smith as he caught 24 passes for 255 yards in his second season after collecting 49 receptions for 524 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2013. Despite a slow start working in Gary Kubiak’s new offensive system, Brown became more involved as the 2014 season progressed with 16 of his 24 receptions going for first downs.

The other logical in-house candidate to emerge at the receiver position would be Kamar Aiken, who caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound receiver plays with a physical nature that the organization likes.

Of course, a deep draft class of wide receivers makes it feasible that the Ravens could find an immediate starter in the first round, but the lack of a veteran addition could signal that they likes their young receivers more than we think. Either way, the addition of a productive vertical threat is an absolute must for strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco by the start of the season.

Failing to do so would mean trouble for the Ravens offense in 2015.

Shifting focus to the tight end position, Crockett Gillmore is the strongest candidate of any player at any position to become this year’s version of Wagner. The 2014 third-round pick is currently the safest bet at his position on the offseason roster with veteran Dennis Pitta’s future remaining in doubt.

Gillmore caught just 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the regular season, but he caught a 21-yard touchdown in the wild-card win over Pittsburgh and the Ravens appeared more comfortable involving him in the passing game as the season progressed. If you’re looking for precedent with the Ravens handing over the starting tight end job to an inexperienced option, then-rookies Ed Dickson and Pitta had a total of 12 receptions for 153 yards behind veteran Todd Heap in 2010 before combining to make 94 catches for 933 yards and eight touchdowns a year later.

Do the Ravens need to add another tight end? Absolutely, but the lack of free-agent activity to this point — Baltimore reportedly had mild interest in veteran Scott Chandler before he signed with New England — and an underwhelming draft class make you wonder if Baltimore has a higher opinion of Gillmore than most observers. Barring a trade, finding a backup tight end would certainly appear more feasible than a starter at this point.

The discussion at either position could become moot at any point as Newsome has more than five months to shape the roster for the regular season. No one is suggesting the Ravens should — or will — stand pat at wide receiver or tight end, but few would have endorsed Wagner as the starting right tackle at this time a year ago.

It’s simply a possibility to keep in mind as the offseason continues and we inch closer to the draft with the Ravens’ two biggest needs yet to be addressed.

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Ravens have lost benefit of doubt in taking chances with character

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than a month ago, Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens “took a crash” last season with the Ray Rice saga and four other offseason arrests.

His comments were made in the midst of director of security Darren Sanders’ legals problems and a few weeks after the release of defensive tackle Terrence Cody (felony animal cruelty). Since Bisciotti suggested these kinds of off-field problems “come in waves,” cornerback Victor Hampton and running back Bernard Pierce were each arrested on driving under the influence charges and promptly released.

Any sliver of a benefit of the doubt that might have remained following a nightmarish 2014 calendar year is now gone, regardless of the extensive list of high-character individuals who do exist in the organization.

“In order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did,” Bisciotti said on Feb. 24. “Now, it’s about proving that it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case. Are we a little more aware? Yes, I think specifically if you go back to the Ray Rice thing, we certainly are more aware. We’ve been able to tap resources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity and our responsibility.”

There’s only so much that can be done to prevent current members of your organization from getting in trouble. You can look for gaps or needs in your player development program and try to monitor off-field behavior as much as you’d like, but they’re ultimately grown men who make their own choices.

The Ravens have followed through with Bisciotti’s mention of showing more responsibility by disposing of Cody, Hampton, and Pierce, even if they weren’t expected to be notable performers for the 2015 Ravens. It remains to be seen what would happen — and the Ravens hope they won’t be faced with the possibility — if a star performer were to be arrested.

But it would be even better if players — insignificant ones or not — weren’t finding trouble in the first place. Even after ridding themselves of the three players arrested this offseason, the stigma remains with the Ravens.

And that’s where the organization needs to be more proactive and vigilant with the player additions that they make, for reasons of both perception and reality. The Ravens have long taken pride in providing an environment for second chances, but they’re not in a position to do that right now.

“The one area we will definitely take a hard look – and it will be tough for us to bring a player to Baltimore – is someone who has domestic abuse in their background,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “Other than that, we’ll exhaust every character aspect of the player, but we believe in allowing the information to lead us to a decision when we deal with that. Our scouts do an unbelievable job of getting information when they are on the campuses.”

The standard needs to be higher with not only domestic violence concerns but in any matters that raise red flags away from the field. No breath can be wasted on draft prospects such as talent wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham or other outside additions with any inkling of past trouble.

It’s the current climate in which the organization is living in the wake of the last 13 months.

A few years ago, the Ravens enjoyed the benefit of the doubt in drafting a player with character concerns coming out of college like cornerback Jimmy Smith, but they’re no longer living in that world. While no one would have predicted what happened with Rice, let’s not pretend that Hampton and Pierce — the two most recently arrested — had spotless backgrounds.

Does staying away from questionable character narrow the talent pool? Yes, but not to the point where the Ravens won’t be able to compete given their ability to find good football players.

An isolated incident here or there is unavoidable, but eight player arrests in 13 months can’t be viewed as an aberration if you really care about your image.

The organization has a problem and must do better in bringing in players they can trust on and off the field.

Or the positive reputation the Ravens once enjoyed will be lost for good.

 

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Jacksonville claims ex-Raven Pierce off waivers

Posted on 19 March 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Jaguars were awarded fourth-year running back Bernard Pierce off waivers from Baltimore, the club announced today.

Pierce, 6-0, 230 pounds, has appeared in 45 career games with three starts and has rushed for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns on 353 carries (3.8 rush avg.) and 29 receptions for 164 yards. In 2014, Pierce had 93 carries for 366 yards (3.9 rush avg.) and two touchdowns. As a rookie in 2012, Pierce posted a career-high 532 rushing yards on 108 carries (4.9 rush avg.). Pierce has appeared in six career postseason games and was a member of the Ravens 2012 Super Bowl winning team.

A native of Ardmore, Penn., Pierce attended Temple University, where he started 27 of 34 career games and rushed 663 times for 3,570 yards and 53 touchdowns. His 54 total touchdowns, 53 rushing touchdowns and 324 points scored are all school records. He rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his three seasons with the Owls and was named ECAC Offensive Player of the Year and was a first-team All-MAC honoree in 2011.

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Ravens re-sign defensive end Guy to two-year deal

Posted on 18 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Hours after agreeing to a two-year deal to bring back veteran Chris Canty, the Ravens added further depth to their defensive line by re-signing defensive end Lawrence Guy to a two-year contract.

The 25-year-old was acquired off waivers from the San Diego Chargers early last season and appeared in 11 games, collecting 16 tackles, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. Guy surpassed DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart to emerge as the primary reserve behind Canty at the 5-technique spot in the second half of last season.

With young defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore both coming back from serious injuries, the Ravens now have plenty of veteran depth to act as insurance as they revamp a defensive line that no longer includes five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata.

In his NFL career, the 6-foot-4, 318-pound Guy has totaled 54 tackles, one sack, five pass breakups, and one fumble recovery in 35 games split among Baltimore, San Diego, and Indianapolis.

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Ravens bring back veteran defensive end Canty on two-year deal

Posted on 18 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than three weeks after releasing Chris Canty, the Ravens re-signed the veteran defensive end on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old was cut on February 27 to save $2.66 million in salary cap space, but general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the time that the Ravens wouldn’t close the door on a potential reunion. Canty was scheduled to visit the Seattle Seahawks this week before agreeing to a two-year deal that reportedly includes a team option for the 2016 season.

“We talked weeks ago about the possibility of Chris coming back,” Newsome said in a team release, “and we are happy he is.”

His new deal is worth a total of $4.65 million and includes a $1.5 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary for the 2015 season, according to The Sun. This would create a $1.75 million cap figure for this season.

Canty spent the last two seasons with the Ravens and appeared in 26 games, collecting 63 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. Though Canty didn’t make a huge impact on the field, Baltimore will welcome back his veteran leadership on a young defensive line after five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was traded to the Detroit Lions last week.

With veteran Lawrence Guy currently an unrestricted free agent, the Ravens would have been leaning heavily on the returns of injured defensive linemen Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore at the 5-technique defensive end spot with neither having taken an NFL snap in their respective careers. Second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is expected to step into Ngata’s spot on the starting defensive line.

Canty missed five games during the 2014 season while recovering from a staph infection in his wrist in October and an ankle injury at the end of the regular season. In his 10-year career, he has also played for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, serving as a member of the Super Bowl XLVI championship team.

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Ravens release running back Bernard Pierce after DUI arrest

Posted on 18 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens running back Bernard Pierce was arrested early Wednesday morning for driving under the influence of alcohol.

He was released by the organization less than 24 hours later.

Pierce was stopped by a Baltimore County police officer after he was allegedly driving 55 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone on Dulaney Valley Road. The 24-year-old was reportedly cooperative with police but was arrested after failing field sobriety tests.

According to the police report, Pierce predicted his demise with the Ravens after being arrested.

“Do you know what happened the last time a Ravens player got a DUI?” he allegedly said while riding to the precinct. “I’m getting cut tomorrow, not like you care.”

The 2012 third-round pick is the third Ravens player to be arrested this offseason, joining defensive tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Victor Hampton. All three players were released promptly after their legal troubles came to light.

Baltimore is sending a clear message that off-field misconduct will not be tolerated, but Cody was already unlikely to be back as a free agent, Hampton was a long shot to make the roster, and Pierce had fallen to third on the depth chart by the end of last season. The Ravens hope they won’t need to face another arrest, but the real test would come if a star player finds himself in trouble with the law.

Pierce entered the 2014 season as the starting running back in place of the suspended and eventually-released Ray Rice, but poor play resulted in him falling behind veteran Justin Forsett and even rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro at times. The Temple product averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season after gaining a career-worst 2.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2013.

Once considered the potential running back of the future in Baltimore, Pierce hadn’t come close to matching his impressive numbers as a rookie in 2012 when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and rushed for 532 yards as Rice’s understudy. His struggles over the last two seasons had led many to wonder if he’d even make the 53-man roster in 2015.

The Ravens issued a simple statement saying they were aware of the situation Wednesday morning before announcing Pierce’s release in the afternoon.

At the end of the 2012 season, Rice and Pierce appeared to be forming one of the better running back duos in the NFL, but both are gone less than three years later. Pierce’s departure increases the likelihood of the Ravens taking a running back at some point during this spring’s draft.

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Webb reportedly restructures deal with Ravens

Posted on 17 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A week after the Ravens traded one of the best players in franchise history because of a negotiating impasse, veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb is reportedly staying put.

According to CBS Sports, the sides agreed to renegotiate what remains of a six-year, $50 million contract signed in 2012. Originally scheduled to make $8 million in base salary in 2015, Webb will instead receive $6 million, which would appear to lower his cap figure from $12 million to $10 million for the coming season if no other maneuvering was done.

Armed with less than $8 million in cap space before the signing of veteran safety Kendrick Lewis to a three-year deal, the Ravens knew they would need to clear more cap room to make further additions this offseason. Webb can now make roughly $18 million over the final three years of his deal if playing-time incentives are reached, according to The Sun. This would indicate Webb’s scheduled base salaries of $8 million in 2016 and $8.5 million in 2017 were also reduced.

The restructuring appears to be a reasonable compromise after the sides had been negotiating for weeks. Coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign even by his own admission, Webb will still receive a $6 million base salary, which would currently be the 13th-highest in the NFL for 2015. However, a look at the bloated contracts a number of cornerbacks have received in free agency indicated there would have been a good market for Webb despite his underwhelming play.

Had the Ravens cut Webb, they would have received only $2 million in cap savings, which is what they’ll pick up with the adjusted contract while still retaining the 29-year-old defensive back’s services. A release with a post-June 1 designation would have saved the Ravens $8 million in space, but those resources would not have been available until long after most free agents of any substance had already found homes.

General manager Ozzie Newsome traded five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions last week after the sides failed to agree to a contract extension to reduce a $16 million cap hit for the 2015 season.

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Ravens announce deals for long snapper Cox, defensive tackle Bilukidi

Posted on 17 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens announced a pair of re-signings on Tuesday, coming to terms with long snapper Morgan Cox and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi.

General manager Ozzie Newsome reportedly struck a deal with Bilukidi a couple weeks ago, but the signing had yet to be announced. The defensive tackle had been scheduled to become a restricted free agent.

Cox has served as the Baltimore long snapper for the last five seasons, but the second anterior cruciate ligament tear of his career limited him to just seven games in 2014. It was unclear whether the Ravens would re-sign the unrestricted free agent after tendering a contract to exclusive-rights free agent Patrick Scales.

Because the 28-year-old suffered the season-ending knee injury in Week 7 of last season and has already been rehabbing for several months, he will likely be ready for training camp, but the presence of Scales does provide insurance as well as competition while Cox works his way back to 100 percent.

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Old college teammate Oher sold Kendrick Lewis on Ravens

Posted on 17 March 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Free-agent safety Kendrick Lewis knew all about the Ravens’ tradition of defensive excellence, but it was an old college teammate and former Ravens offensive player who sold him on coming to Baltimore.

Reaching out to the man who hosted him on his first college visit to the University of Mississippi years ago, Lewis said it was former Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher who convinced him he was making the right decision. It was quite an endorsement from the 2009 first-round pick, who left the Ravens as a free agent last offseason after an up-and-down five-year run.

The two played together for three seasons at Ole Miss with Oher being drafted a year earlier than the 2010 fifth-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“He was just upfront. He poured his heart out in all the great things he had to say about this organization to make my decision what it was,” Lewis said. “With my nature and the type of person I am and how Michael Oher described this place to me, I feel like it’s the best decision I made.”

The Ravens hope Lewis’ five years of starting experience in Kansas City and Houston will bring stability to the safety position that saw five different players receive meaningful snaps in 2014. Finishing 23rd in the NFL in pass defense, Baltimore hopes Lewis will bring stability next to the 25-year-old Will Hill, who emerged as a consistent starter in the second half of last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks posted a 69.3 passer rating against Lewis in coverage, completing 20 of 33 passes for 252 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in 2014.

Lewis cited his pride in preparation and watching film as a strong asset in addition to his ball skills at the safety position. He has collected nine interceptions and 28 pass breakups in his five NFL seasons.

“He’s a guy that’s going to come here and solidify our defense, especially on the back end,” new defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt said. “He’s a guy that we’d looked for. We needed a veteran presence back there. He’s a guy that has been starting in this league ever since he has been here.”

Former Ravens safety Darian Stewart — who signed a two-year deal with Denver last week — and rookie Terrence Brooks struggled in deep coverage last season, giving up big plays at inopportune times. Lewis was most successful in Kansas City when playing away from the line of scrimmage and protecting against the deep pass.

His role changed in his one season with the Texans where he frequently played closer to the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees prefers being able to use his safeties interchangeably, shying away from the traditional roles of free safety and strong safety.

That will be just fine with Lewis, who enjoyed being able to show off his versatility in Houston.

“I don’t want to just put myself in a box and say I’m just a center fielder,” said Lewis, noting how he led the Texans in tackles last season. “I’m an all-around player. I’m here to do whatever the coaching staff allows me to do or wants me to do.”

Lewis is familiar with 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam after the two worked out together in Florida a couple offseasons ago. With a few more years of experience than Elam, Lewis could find himself in a mentoring role for the draft pick whose first two seasons have been a disappointment.

The Ravens could still look to add more safety depth over the course of the offseason, but Lewis will be expected to step into a leadership role at a position that featured plenty of inexperience in 2014. The 6-foot, 198-pound simply hopes to make what he already viewed as a good defense even better.

“When you see the Baltimore Ravens, you see their philosophy,” Lewis said. “You see their team was made up on defense. Me being a defensive guy, me being a safety, that’s what I wanted to be a part of.”

 

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