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Five questions for start of Ravens organized team activities

Posted on 23 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens now holding their first week of organized team activities and opening up Thursday’s workout to the media, below are five questions surrounding John Harbaugh’s team in late May:

1. What will the offensive line look like?

Many have said the Ravens are returning to their roots with such an offseason focus on improving their defense, but the accompanying thoughts of relying on the running game have come without any high-profile additions to an offensive line that no longer sports above-average right tackle Rick Wagner or center Jeremy Zuttah. Is John Urschel or Ryan Jensen even as good as Zuttah, let alone better? Is there a real solution at right tackle in a motley crew of candidates that includes James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, De’Ondre Wesley, and Stephane Nembot? The biggest wild card could be where Alex Lewis ends up despite an internal belief at the end of last season that his best position was left guard. New senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris deserve the chance to leave their mark on this group, but you need a dominant offensive line to play ball-control football and the Ravens have a long way to go to prove they can have that kind of a group.

2. Are the front office and coaching staff really this confident in their wide receivers?

This offseason feels similar to 2013 when veteran Anquan Boldin was traded away for a sixth-round pick and nothing meaningful was done to replace him, leading to substantial problems for quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game. There is no shortage of speed with Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Moore, but who is going to be that short-to-intermediate receiver who moves the chains and makes tacklers miss like Steve Smith did over the last three seasons? With general manager Ozzie Newsome having not signed a free-agent wideout to this point and not taking one in last month’s draft, it’s become clear that the Ravens are counting on Perriman to live up to his first-round billing and Moore to emerge as another gem from last year’s impressive fourth-round haul. No matter how the likes of Perriman, Moore, and Michael Campanaro look practicing in shorts over the next few weeks, however, it remains almost inconceivable that the Ravens are again going down this path at this position.

3. How will new safety Tony Jefferson be used?

A four-year, $34 million contract is awfully rich for a traditional strong safety, so the bet here is that Jefferson will be deployed in a way unlike any other safety we’ve seen during defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ tenure. With the re-signing of veteran safety Lardarius Webb and the uncertainty at the weak-side inside linebacker spot due to the unfortunate retirement of Zach Orr, it makes sense for the Ravens to use the dime as their primary sub package with Jefferson essentially lining up as a hybrid linebacker in passing situations. His greatest strengths in Arizona were the ability to stop the run and to cover tight ends, which are critical responsibilities for a linebacker in a more conventional nickel alignment. Considering Webb played well in the second half of 2016 and will now be relegated to a part-time role, Jefferson needs to be a difference-making presence to justify the Ravens throwing him so much money that could have been used to address a below-average offense from a year ago.

4. Who steps into starting roles along the defensive line?

The Ravens have plenty of young options up front, but they will be replacing two starters in Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy who also served as useful interior rushers in passing situations. Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, and Willie Henry will be vying for the starting 3-technique defensive tackle job previously held by Jernigan while 2017 third-round pick Chris Wormley will compete with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for Guy’s old 5-technique defensive end spot. We’ve heard a lot about these names, but Pierce is the only one who saw extensive playing time a year ago and even he is only entering his second season. There isn’t a ton to take away from the non-contact nature of these spring practices, but it will be interesting to see who will be receiving the early reps with the first-team defense. The good news is that re-signed nose tackle Brandon Williams will be there to anchor the rest of a defensive line that will look quite different than it did in 2016.

5. Will Kamalei Correa begin living up to his second-round billing?

The Ravens passed on a few highly-touted prospects such as Myles Jack and Noah Spence to take Correa with the 42nd overall pick of the 2016 draft, making his rookie season that included only 48 defensive snaps that much more disappointing. With Orr having retired, the Ravens need someone to emerge as the starter in the base defense next to C.J. Mosley with Correa appearing to be the most logical candidate on paper. Outside opinions have been split on whether the Boise State product is better off playing inside or outside, but Newsome drafting edge defenders Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams last month signals where the Ravens stand in that debate. The coaching staff acknowledged that they may have put too much on Correa’s rookie plate by having him work at both inside and outside linebacker, but the Ravens need him to make a major leap in his second season or the groans from fans and media about another failed second-round pick will grow even louder. He has to at least begin looking the part this spring.

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Former Ravens first-round pick in trouble with law again

Posted on 22 May 2017 by Luke Jones

The fall of former Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam continued Monday as he was arrested in Florida for the second time in less than three months.

The free-agent safety was charged with battery and grand theft larceny of an amount between $300 and $5,000 by Delray Beach police, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records. He was being held on $4,500 bond.

According to TMZ, Elam was involved in a domestic incident with his girlfriend early Monday morning in which he took her cellphone. She told police that they had fallen to the floor while fighting over the phone, an altercation that left her with small cuts on her fingers and left foot. Elam told police he had asked her for money and took the phone when she refused.

After taking the phone and fleeing the scene, he was found at a nearby house by police a couple hours later.

The 32nd overall pick of the 2013 draft was arrested on drug charges on February 26 as the Ravens said in a statement later that day that he was not in their plans for the 2017 season. He appeared in nine games in 2016, making four tackles.

Elam, 25, played in 41 games over four seasons with Baltimore and lost his starting job during the 2014 season. This latest arrest leaves his NFL career in even greater jeopardy than it already was following his first arrest of the offseason.

The Ravens signed former Arizona safety Tony Jefferson to a four-year, $34 million contract in March to start next to veteran Eric Weddle in the secondary. Ironically, Jefferson went undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2013 and shows the skill set the Ravens thought they would be getting from Elam when they made him their first first-round pick after Super Bowl XLVII.

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Ravens finish signings for 2017 draft class

Posted on 18 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, the Ravens officially have all seven of their 2017 draft picks under contract.

The organization announced the signings of third-round defensive end Chris Wormley and third-round outside linebacker Tim Williams on Thursday, nearly two weeks after first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey and four other draft choices inked their contracts. Humphrey’s signing on May 5 was the earliest date the Ravens had signed a first-round draft choice in franchise history.

Wormley is expected to compete for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot previously held by veteran Lawrence Guy while Williams will be vying for a role as a situational pass rusher. The release of five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil leaves a huge opening in a pass-rush rotation that also included six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith, and 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon last season. Second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser will also factor heavily into the competition.

Having used their first four draft choices and virtually all of their free-agent resources on defensive players this offseason, the Ravens will be counting on their revamped defense to lead them back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

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Former Ravens receiver Michael Jackson killed in motorcycle crash

Posted on 12 May 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson was killed in a motorcycle crash in Louisiana early Friday morning.

The organization has confirmed the 48-year-old’s death, which was first reported by TMZ. According to Louisiana State Police, Jackson was killed in his hometown of Tangipahoa, where he served as mayor from 2009-13. Police say he was riding at a high rate of speed when his 2013 Kawasaki struck a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu backing into a road from a parking space, a collision that killed both drivers.

Jackson was one of the first standout performers for the Ravens when they arrived in Baltimore in 1996. In that inaugural season, the 6-foot-4 wideout caught 76 passes for 1,201 yards and 14 touchdowns, setting franchise single-season records in receiving yards and touchdown receptions that still stand today.

“Today, our hearts are saddened by the awful news involving Michael,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement released by the Ravens. “He was a vibrant person who became one of the first Ravens heroes and a popular player among Baltimore fans. Well known for his big smile and welcoming nature, it was easy to feel a special connection with Michael.”

In his three years with the Ravens, Jackson amassed 183 receptions for 2,596 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 1991 sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns retired from the NFL after his final season with Baltimore in 1998.

A Southern Mississippi product and a college teammate of Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, Jackson caught 353 passes for 5,393 yards and 46 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons.

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Ravens officially sign running back West, cut three others

Posted on 08 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the NFL draft over and most rookie free agents having already found destinations, the Ravens have already begun making changes to their 90-man roster.

On Monday, the organization waived three players: running back Stephen Houston, quarterback Zach Terrell, and defensive end Omarius Bryant. Terrell and Bryant had just signed as rookie free agents last week and took part in the rookie minicamp over the weekend, illustrating the fluidity of the roster this time of year.

In another move that was little more than a formality, restricted free-agent running back Terrance West officially signed his tender worth just under $1.8 million for the 2017 season. Though the Towson product and Baltimore native was eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team, the price tag of forfeiting a third-round pick to the Ravens in order to sign him undoubtedly made suitors shy away.

With second-year running back Kenneth Dixon suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and the Ravens not selecting a back in last month’s draft, West is expected to begin 2017 as the starter in the backfield. In his first full season with Baltimore, the 26-year-old rushed for 774 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.0 yards per carry.

The Ravens also re-sign signed cornerback Sheldon Price, leaving linebackers Patrick Onwuasor and Lamar Louis as their only exclusive-rights free agents not to have officially signed contracts.

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Ravens ink five 2017 draft choices, announce rookie free-agent signings

Posted on 05 May 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their rookie minicamp taking place this weekend, the Ravens announced the signing of first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and four other 2017 draft choices on Friday.

The Alabama cornerback becomes the earliest first-round signing in the 22-year history of the franchise, but it doesn’t come as a major shock considering how inconsequential draft-pick signings have become in recent years under the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The earliest first-round pick to sign had previously been wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who inked his rookie deal on May 11, 2015.

The Ravens also signed second-round linebacker Tyus Bowser, fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa, fifth-round offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, and sixth-round safety Chuck Clark. Their two third-round picks, defensive end Chris Wormley and outside linebacker Tim Williams, remained unsigned as of Friday afternoon, but both were participating in the weekend minicamp.

“Just seeing an NFL contract, a lot of it has paid off,” said Bowser about signing his rookie contract. “Being able to see that, it is so many great feelings, just knowing what you have been through and seeing that you have accomplished what your goal was.”

Baltimore also announced the signing of 16 rookie free agents on Friday: Michigan punter Kenny Allen, Arizona State wide receiver Tim White, Utah wide receiver Tim Patrick, Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell, Mississippi wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell, Mississippi cornerback Carlos Davis, New Mexico safety Daniel Henry, Oregon State fullback Ricky Ortiz, Pittsburgh linebacker Bam Bradley, Stetson linebacker Donald Payne, Georgia center Brandon Kublanow, Middle Tennessee guard Maurquice Shakir, Chattanooga wide receiver C.J. Board, Maine defensive end Patrick Ricard, and Western Kentucky defensive end Omarius Bryant.

After the Ravens chose not to take a wide receiver in last weekend’s draft, it’s worth noting that four of their 16 rookie free-agent signings play that position.

The organization also announced jersey numbers for the 23 rookies currently on the roster:

2017 draft class
CB Marlon Humphrey — 29
LB Tyus Bowser — 54
DE Chris Wormley — 93
LB Tim Williams — 56
G Nico Siragusa — 65
OL Jermaine Eluemunor — 71
S Chuck Clark — 36

2017 rookie free agents
P Kenny Allen — 3
WR Tim White — 6
WR Tim Patrick — 7
QB Zach Terrell — 8
WR Quincy Adeboyejo — 18
RB Taquan Mizzell — 33
CB Carlos Davis — 38
S Daniel Henry — 40
FB Ricky Ortiz — 44
LB Bam Bradley — 53
LB Donald Payne — 58
C Brandon Kublanow — 60
G Maurquice Shakir — 76
WR C.J. Board — 83
DE Patrick Ricard — 91
DE Omarius Bryant — 95

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Former Ravens running back Forsett announces retirement

Posted on 03 May 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens running back Justin Forsett is calling it a career.

The 2014 Pro Bowl selection announced his retirement on Wednesday after a nine-year career spent with seven different teams, but he will be remembered for his unexpected rise in Baltimore during a trying time for the organization both on and off the field. Signed only weeks after three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his future wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator in 2014, the career journeyman emerged as the starting running back on his way to a career-high 1,266 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Those contributions helped the Ravens to their only trip to the playoffs since Super Bowl XLVII.

Forsett also became a leader in the locker room and an active member of the community as the Ravens were trying to repair their image after the embarrassing mishandling of the Rice saga. Recognizing his value both on and off the field, general manager Ozzie Newsome signed Forsett to a three-year, $9 million deal on March 12, 2015.

Despite a respectable 2015 campaign cut short because of a broken arm, the 31-year-old would not play out his entire contract as he was released by the Ravens last fall when Terrance West emerged as the No. 1 back over the first month of the season. Also spending time with Detroit and Denver in 2016, Forsett rushed for 291 yards and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in nine games.

The 2008 seventh-round pick out of California ran for 3,890 yards and 19 touchdowns in his NFL career, but more than half of that production came in his three seasons with the Ravens.

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Heap family asks people to honor daughter’s memory this week

Posted on 02 May 2017 by Luke Jones

Holly Heap would have celebrated her fourth birthday on Wednesday.

That’s why the family of former Ravens tight end Todd Heap is asking people to honor his daughter’s memory this week. The family has started the website HugsFromHolly.com requesting people to wear pink, to spread love and joy through random acts of kindness, and to post pictures of those acts using the hashtag #HugsFromHollyDay on Wednesday.

“Holly was known to give the best hugs, and her love for everyone and everything in life was contagious,” the website reads. “Let’s spread this joy as we scatter sunshine in Holly’s honor on her birthday.”

Current and former members of the Ravens organization have used social media to share the website, which includes a link to donate to the Baltimore Community Fund in Holly’s memory.

Holly was tragically killed on April 14 when her father accidentally struck her with his truck in the driveway of the family’s home in suburban Phoenix.

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Perriman takes jersey number of former Ravens teammate

Posted on 01 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With more pressure apparently comes a new jersey number for Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman entering his third NFL season.

The 2015 first-round pick will wear No. 11 in 2017 after being assigned No. 18 for his first two seasons in Baltimore. Perriman donned his new jersey number in his final two seasons at Central Florida — he wore No. 81 as a freshman — but Kamar Aiken had worn No. 11 with the Ravens over the last few years before signing with Indianapolis in March.

With veteran Steve Smith retired and general manager Ozzie Newsome not doing anything to address the position so far this offseason, Perriman will be expected to fill a bigger role after catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns in his first healthy season last year. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver will need to show more consistent hands and better route-running ability to live up to expectations as the first wide receiver selected by the Ravens in the first round since 2005.

The 23-year-old missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn PCL in his right knee and missed most of training camp last year after sustaining a partial tear in his left ACL in the spring. However, he returned in time to play in all 16 games in 2016.

Of course, you could say that Perriman leaving No. 18 behind is a good idea considering it didn’t work out too well for this guy.

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What to expect from each of Ravens’ seven 2017 draft picks

Posted on 30 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2017 draft, so what can we now expect from the Ravens’ seven selections?

Below is the early look at how each rookie fits:

CB Marlon Humphrey
Drafted: First round (16th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: One of the youngest players in the draft, Humphrey will compete with Brandon Carr for the starting job opposite Jimmy Smith and will serve as needed outside corner depth at the very least.
Long-term view: Having left other highly-touted players on the board, the Ravens better feel that Humphrey will eventually become a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. He has the size and pedigree that you like to see in a corner, but his struggles with the deep ball are something to monitor in his development.

LB Tyus Bowser
Drafted: Second round (47th overall) from Houston
2017 projected role: With Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster and Albert McClellan the only established veteran behind Terrell Suggs, Bowser will compete for playing time at outside linebacker.
Long-term view: He is raw, but Bowser is a terrific athlete who has experience dropping into coverage, something the Ravens like in a starting “Sam” linebacker. His pass-rushing skills need further development, but his upside is very high for someone selected in the middle of the second round.

DE Chris Wormley
Drafted: Third round (74th overall) from Michigan
2017 projected role: Wormley will have every opportunity to compete with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot after Lawrence Guy’s free-agent departure.
Long-term view: The Ravens should have a good read on Wormley after he played for Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, and he has the skill set to become a dependable starter in the base defense. He would further enhance his value if he can become a productive interior rusher in passing situations.

OLB Tim Williams
Drafted: Third round (78th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: Williams has a long way to go to be considered an every-down player, but his pass-rushing ability off the edge should put him in the mix for situational snaps in sub packages.
Long-term view: His off-field concerns and limited experience playing the run caused his slide down the draft board, but Williams showed impressive explosiveness off the edge playing in the SEC. He may only be a one-trick pony in the NFL, but getting to the quarterback is a premium skill for any team.

G Nico Siragusa
Drafted: Fourth round (122nd overall) from San Diego State
2017 projected role: A three-year starter at left guard for the Aztecs, Siragusa has the size and power to compete for a starting job if the Ravens move Alex Lewis or even Marshal Yanda out to right tackle.
Long-term view: The Ravens have had recent success selecting Day 3 offensive linemen as both Lewis and former right tackle Rick Wagner blossomed into starters in a short period of time. Siragusa’s physicality is his strength, making him a logical fit for Greg Roman’s power running game schemes.

OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Drafted: Fifth round (159th overall) from Texas A&M
2017 projected role: Considering Eluemunor didn’t play football until high school and was only a one-year starter for the Aggies, expecting him to offer more than depth as a rookie would be ambitious.
Long-term view: The 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman lacks experience and needs developing, but his rapid improvement from junior college player to SEC starter bodes well for his ceiling. Eluemunor has a long way to go to become an NFL starter at tackle or guard, but his physical tools make it a possibility.

S Chuck Clark
Drafted: Sixth round (186th overall) from Virginia Tech
2017 projected role: With the high-profile names ahead of him on the depth chart, Clark will be competing for a spot on the 53-man roster as a special-teams player and developmental defensive back.
Long-term view: A three-year starter for the Hokies, Clark has good instincts and is a good tackler, but little about him screams future NFL starter. With Lardarius Webb serving as the current No. 3 safety, Clark figures to have a decent chance to stick around if he can shine as a special-teams player.

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