Posted on 21 February 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 21 February 2014 by Luke Jones
Head coach John Harbaugh broke his silence Friday on the arrest of Ray Rice by saying he expects the troubled running back to remain with the Ravens.
Speaking to reporters gathered at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Harbaugh was asked if there was a scenario in which he envisioned the 27-year-old not remaining with the organization this season.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Harbaugh said. “I haven’t seen anything that would remotely make me think that. … The facts will determine the consequences, always. That’s always the case. It’s a process.”
Rice and fiancée Janay Palmer were both arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after an alleged physical altercation at an Atlantic City casino last weekend. Despite video surfacing of Rice appearing to drag an unconscious Palmer from an elevator and the court summons saying he struck her and rendered her unconscious, the pair were released and allowed to return home together.
Harbaugh confirmed that he spoke with Rice about the incident over the telephone earlier this week.
“The two people obviously have a couple issues that they have to work through, and they’re both committed to doing that.,” Harbaugh said. “That was the main takeaway for me from the conversation. They understand their own issues. They’re getting a lot of counseling and those kinds of things, so I think that’s really positive. That was the main takeaway.”
Of course, the Ravens remain in information-gathering mode as general manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday at a press conference to announce a contract extension for linebacker Terrell Suggs.
It was surprising for the head coach to speak so openly regarding Rice’s status considering how negatively the charge has been met publicly, but Harbaugh reminded everyone that much remains unknown about the case.
“There are a lot of facts and a process that has to be worked through in anything like this,” Harbaugh said. “There are a lot of question marks. But Ray’s character, you guys know his character, so you start with that.”
Posted on 21 February 2014 by Nick Dorsey
The NFL season is over and now the long off-season takes flight. Fans of every team now have reason for optimism as we head into the next few months. Free Agency brings excitement, but nothing creates more buzz and discussion than the NFL draft.
The draft is the most crucial part of building a consistent winning franchise, not free agency. If you think differently, look no further than the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks.
The combine is days upon us, so now it is time for my pre-combine mock draft. For the record, it is extremely too early to begin these discussions, but we do them anyway. It is hard to predict what teams will pick whom without seeing how free agency unfolds. So now its time for the way too early mock draft:
1. Houston Texans- Johnny Manziel
This is the most college player that has entered the draft since Tim Tebow. Manziel has a unique skill set, but his size makes him a difficult prospect to judge. Russell Wilson is a huge reason why the door is now open for Manziel to potentially be the number one overall pick. His ability to extend the play makes him an attractive prospect. This is Johnny Manziel’s best place of opportunity at being a successful NFL QB to me.
2. St Louis Rams- Greg Robinson
St Louis has this second pick thanks to the Washington Redskins for the RG3 pick just a few short years ago. The Rams have other needs, but they do hold the 13th pick as well. So with the second pick, they will draft the top left tackle prospect of their choice. Jake Long went down with an ACL tear, so they will need a replacement until he is once again healthy. Greg Robinson is SEC battle tested and his presence was hard to miss when watching the national championship game.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jadeveon Clowney
The Jaguars are in need of a QB also, but this team has been amongst the worst in pass rush for years. Gus Bradley enters year two and he is a defensive minded head coach. He was there to see how Seattle rebuilt their defense through the draft and he will mimic that exact process. They drafted a safety at the start of round two last draft, so now its time to build the front of the defense. Clowney would be a home run pick for the Jags at the third spot. He has all the potential in the world to be a top 5 defensive player in the league. His motor is at times question, but we will see his motivation at full force once he hits the field.
4. Cleveland Browns- Teddy Bridgewater
Many draft experts will put Blake Bortles as this selection, but the hire of Kyle Shanahan makes this my clear-cut choice. It’s no secret that the Browns need a franchise QB. This would be a good situation for Bridgewater because there are weapons in Cleveland. They have Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon and a good offensive line. I like this situation for Bridgewater.
5. Oakland Raiders- Blake Bortles
Another top QB prospect goes off the board here in Oakland. Pryor did not look all that bad in limited situations last season, but as Dennis Allen heads into a make it or break it year, a QB selection could be the risk taken here. Bortles has the prototypical size and look of a franchise QB. Oakland is in need of other weapons to help a QB out, so a Sammy Watkins selection remains a possibility.
6. Atlanta Falcons- Jake Matthews
The Falcons had a horrific season last year after entering it as a potential super bowl contender. Nobody could have predicted Atlanta’s downfall, but it could be a blessing in disguise. It will not take them long to get back into the NFC south race, but they need to fix the offensive line and defense. Protecting their franchise QB is priority number one, so the next best left tackle is the selection here. As the draft gets closer, it would not surprise me to see Atlanta try and trade up to the second selection to make a play for Clowney.
7. Tampa Bay- Anthony Barr
Barr is one of my favorite prospects in the NFL draft. He is a polished pass rusher and the Bucs need to add more of those types of players. Their defensive front is solid, but their linebacker corps needs work. Barr would be a perfect fit for this situation. Lovie Smith is now head coach so defense will be the selection here. It is between Barr and Mack, but I see Smith taking a chance on the big school player.
8. Minnesota Vikings- Khalil Mack
Mack is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft. He made his name at the start of the college football season by having a monster game against Ohio State. Mack is a versatile linebacker and there’s not a better situation for him than going to a team led by coach Zimmer. Zimmer was a genius in Cincinnati when working with defense. Mack’s raw ability in combination with a great coach like Zimmer makes this a tremendous selection. Last season the Vikings selected Floyd and Rhodes to the defense, they now address the middle with this selection.
9. Buffalo Bills- Eric Ebron
This is one of my to die for NFL prospects in this years draft. Ebron has great size, but also incredible athleticism to go with it. Ebron was a force for North Carolina all season. Tight ends have become so important in today’s game and the Bills don’t have a stud tight end. There is talk about Watkins here, but they drafted Woods and Goodwin last draft. They are still without a stellar tight end to assist their young QB, so I feel they will go star tight end over receiver here.
10. Detroit Lions- Darqueze Dennard
The Lions need to repair their secondary fast. Their defensive line is amongst the best in the league, but the back end of the defense continues to fail them. In a division that features Aaron Rodger and Jay Cutler, the secondary needs to be up to par. Dennard is the local Michigan St product and the top CB in the draft, so this would be the best selection for Detroit.
11. Tennessee Titans- Sammy Watkins
The Titans have several different holes on both sides of the ball. Ken Wisenhunt comes in as head coach, so you know he will try and reboot the offense. Tennessee needs a receiver to compliment Kendall Wright and Watkins would be the perfect piece to go along with Wright. Delanie Walker was also a solid tight end last season, so with Watkins being added to the mix they have a good foundation.
12. New York Giants- Taylor Lewan
The Giants were horrific on offense last season all around. Eli Manning had a turnover-crazed year and the run game was non-existent. They addressed the offensive line last season with the selection of Justin Pugh, but they are going to need more than just him. Lewan is one of the best tackles in the draft and would help Eli feel more protected. Maybe with better protection, Eli wont be throwing so many interceptions. Linebacker is a possibility here too such as Mosley from Bama.
13. St. Louis Rams- Mike Evans
Mike Evans was Manziel’s go to man at Texas A&M and his size is ridiculous. He is reminiscent of Vincent Jackson and his size is needed in the Rams receiver rotation. The Rams have solid weapons, but all of them are on the smaller end. Evans would give the Rams the size they need and his presence would help free up Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears- Timmy Jernigan
Jernigan is the top defensive line prospect and even one of the best defenders in the entire job. He was a big part of a physical Florida state defense that helped them win the national championship. The Bears need to repair the defense because they do have a high powered offense. The defense at one point suffered the loss of seven defensive starters. They need to begin to fix the defense so what better way to start with the defensive line. Jernigan’s strength is being a force in the run game, but he also is versatile. Soldier Field would be a great fit for Jernigan.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers- CJ Mosley
The Steelers have holes on the offensive line and could deal with that here, but their defense needs help as well. It is in need of a spark of youth on the interior of the line backing corps. Jarvis Jones was the outside pick in the last draft and he will get better with time. The Steelers could use help on the interior defensive line, but with Mosley dropping here it is tough to pass on this kind of hard-nosed playmaker.
16. Dallas Cowboys- Ha Ha Clinton Dix
It is time for the Cowboys to finally draft a safety. There was speculation that they would select Vaccaro last year, but were unable to. The Dallas defense was one of the worst defenses in the league, especially in the back end. It is time for Dallas to add another defensive playmaker to the secondary along with Morris Claiborne. The defensive front could be in play here too, keep in mind Louis Nix III and Aaron Donald.
17. Baltimore Ravens- Cyrus Kouandjio
There is speculation that wide receiver and tight end are needs here, but offensive line right now is the bigger issue in Baltimore. The Ravens could not run the ball last season if their lives depended on it and Joe Flacco was constantly on his back. The Ravens can deal with their needs at receiver and tight end later in the draft. The receiving class is deep and Baltimore only needs a second tight end. Dennis Pitta will be retained, but it is uncertain what will happen with both the tackles. Cyrus gives Baltimore a great left tackle prospect and drafting from Alabama is a common occurrence with Ozzie Newsome.
18. New York Jets- Marqise Lee
The Jets defense was so good it helped lead them to an improbable eight win season. Geno Smith was a roller coaster ride in his rookie season, but ended the last quarter on a high note. There is no talent surrounding Geno Smith, so adding weapons around him is a necessity. Stephen Hill has been a disappointment and Santonio Holmes is found more on milk cartons in New York then on the field. Cumberland ended up being Smith’s most reliable target and that needs to be fixed. Lee gives Smith a reliable playmaker who can also get down the field. New York should not be thinking any other position of need with this pick.
19. Miami Dolphins- Morgan Moses
Moses is a tackle prospect that will rise as May comes closer. He has great size, but he is slightly raw. Just look at last years draft and you will see this is not a reach. Offensive line draft selections were at a premium last year and teams were selecting players higher than they were supposed to go. Moses fixes an obvious need for Miami with the ongoing bullying scandal. Zach Martin is an obvious choice here for most draft experts because of his versatility. While this is true, don’t overlook ties that Moses has with Miami. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was the head coach at Virginia that recruited Moses to play there.
20. Arizona Cardinals- Zach Martin
The Cardinals continue to build on the offensive line to help protect Carson Palmer. Cooper was unable to play last season because of a season ending injury in the preseason. Adding Martin to the mix along with a healthy Cooper would boost their overall offensive play right away. Martin is in question whether he can be a left tackle or not. The safe thing with drafting him is his versatility. He has the potential to be an all-pro guard, similar to a Marshall Yanda.
21. Green Bay- Aaron Donald
This is one of my top 5 favorite players in the draft. Donald’s only concern is his size, but I am not worried about that at all. This guy is the definition of a football player. If you watch the Pitt film, disruptive is all that you see. Donald is an absolute monster and pairing him with BJ Raji would be incredible. The Packers need to revamp the defense and this would be a fantastic start. While secondary is a need, it is going to be hard to pass on a guy like Donald.
22. Philadelphia Eagles- Calvin Pryor
The Eagles offense was high powered in Chip Kelley’s coaching debut. That does not need any work, but the defense does. Having Pryor slip to their laps at 22 would be hard for Philly to pass on. They need more playmakers in the secondary. A defensive pass rusher could be of interest here, but is there a pass rusher higher rated than Pryor at this spot?
23. Kansas City Chiefs- Odell Beckham Jr.
The Chiefs defense for the most part of last season was great, especially when healthy. The offense needs more to it than just Charles carrying the load. To help take the pressure off, Alex Smith needs another weapon on the outside that is dependable. Dwayne Bowe is your bigger style of receiver, so I don’t see Benjamin as the pick here. Beckham is that dependable and physical type of receiver KC needs.
24. Cincinnati Bengals- Justin Gilbert
Leon Hall was hurt last season and Terrence Newman is way past his prime. Having the second rated Corner slip to 24 here would be great for the Bengals. Their front seven is already in place, so the secondary will be the part of the defense that needs repair. Gilbert at 24 would be a steal.
25. San Diego Chargers- LaMarcus Joyner
You could argue that Joyner would be the number one corner in the draft if it weren’t for his short stature. His ball instincts are the best of any corner in this year’s class. San Diego needs to continue to add to their secondary, especially when facing Denver twice a season. Pass rusher could be another position of interest here, but Joyner would be a great defensive playmaker from day one.
26. Cleveland Browns- Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson is the best receiver out of the Big 10 and possesses great size at 6’3. His speed is in question, but the Browns already have a speedy Josh Gordon to stretch the field. Robinson will be a late riser as the draft gets closer. It doesn’t hurt the Browns to add more weapons to the mix, especially if they draft Bridgewater at 4. Running back could also be a pick here. The day of running backs going in the first round are just about over, but at least the Browns have a previous first rounder in this draft to play with.
27. New Orleans Saints- Antonio Richardson
The Saints played Terron Armstead last season, the rookie from Arkansas Pine-Bluff, he did decent. The Saints found success in the post season running the football, so they would like to continue that trend. Adding a tackle like Richardson would boost the run game and it would help protect Bree’s even more than he already is. Richardson would be a good value pick here.
28. Carolina Panthers- Kelvin Benjamin
I am a huge fan of Benjamin as a prospect. To me, he is the second best receiver in the draft, but his inconsistent hands make it hard for people to rank him that high. He has all the size and athleticism that make him a man child and man amongst boys. If Carolina is lucky enough to draft him, the NFC south better watch out. Cam Newton needs more weapons than just the aged Steve Smith on the outside. Adding Benjamin to this offense would be lethal and if this pick does indeed happen, I’m ready to make an offensive rookie of the year pick.
29. New England Patriots- Austin Seferian-Jenkins
It is no question that the Patriots want to get back to their two tight end offense they liked to run with Gronk and Hernandez. Jenkins gives the Patriots an athletic tight end with great size. His playmaking ability in the red zone makes him attractive here and would help keep the pressure off the injured Gronkowski. They could look at receiver, but they had several rookies last year that have another year to grow. Tight end is the more glaring need.
30. San Francisco 49ers- Louis Nix III
The 49ers often take chances on injured players because they already have great depth and can afford to take those risks. Nix III is a hefty gap clogger and would be a great fit to the defensive front rotation in San Francisco. He is considered one of the top defensive tackles of the draft, but his late season injury helps slip him down here to me. This would be one of the best value picks of round one for a consistent Super Bowl contender.
31. Denver Broncos- Marcus Roberson
The Broncos playoff run put on full display of their dire need. Champ Bailey is not getting younger and Chris Harris suffered a devastating injury in the post season. So corner back is the obvious need for Denver here and they should look no further than that. Roberson is the next best guy off the board or they could go with Roby from Ohio State.
32. Seattle Seahawks- Jarvis Landry
The Hawks don’t have a need at defense whatsoever, so offense will be the side of the ball to add to. With both receivers entering free agency and Percy Harvin never being consistently healthy, Landry would be the good choice here. Jace Amaro the tight end from Texas Tech could be another name to remember. I just feel receiver is the biggest need because you figure Seattle will lose at least one starter to free agency.
Posted on 21 February 2014 by Luke Jones
The latest information to surface in the Ray Rice saga isn’t as shocking as it is startling while expanding on what we already knew about the circumstances that led to the Ravens running back’s arrest in Atlantic City last weekend.
Police said Sunday there was video surveillance of Rice and fiancée Janay Palmer striking one another with their hands — leading to both being charged with simple assault-domestic violence — but that footage shows him knocking her unconscious, according to Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated. This comes after the court summons released to media outlets on Wednesday said Rice struck Palmer with his hand, “rendering her unconscious.”
This revelation shouldn’t be surprising considering the heavy surveillance used in Atlantic City casinos, but — if true — it could be a fatal blow to Rice’s public perception after a court date scheduled for next Tuesday was postponed while the county prosecutor reviews the case “to ensure all appropriate charges are considered.” A video released to TMZ earlier this week showed Rice dragging what appears to be an unconscious Palmer from an elevator in the aftermath of the physical altercation.
General manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday that Rice remained in the Ravens’ plans for the 2014 season but that the organization would continue to gather information. If such a graphic video exists and surfaces publicly, the organization would seemingly have no choice but to — at the very least — reevaluate their position in terms of the 27-year-old’s employment.
On Saturday morning, Newsome is scheduled to meet with the media at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Putting aside the public relations ramifications of whether to continue to employ Rice, the Ravens would face difficult salary-cap ramifications should they decide to part ways with the three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Posted on 20 February 2014 by Luke Jones
The questions keep coming regarding running back Ray Rice and what actions the Ravens can potentially take in response to his troubling legal situation, but the realities are clear in terms of his contract and the salary cap.
At least for now.
This isn’t about debating whether the Ravens should release Rice as you’ve likely already formulated your position on the alleged domestic altercation between him and fiancée Janay Palmer based on what’s known to this point. General manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this week that Rice remained in the team’s plans for 2014 and while the organization is taking the situation very seriously, there remains no indication that they plan to cut the 27-year-old as of now.
The Ravens have a history of staying the course with players dealing with legal problems, and there’s no reason to believe this incident would be any different despite their obvious concerns and displeasure with their starting running back.
But if more damning evidence surfaces that’s worse than the troubling video released by TMZ on Wednesday and the Ravens would determine they simply cannot proceed with Rice as a member of the organization, the salary cap won’t do them any favors as was discussed at the start of the offseason when his career-worst 3.1 yards per carry average in 2013 appeared to be his biggest problem.
Rice carries an $8.75 million cap number for the 2014 season, which includes a $4 million base salary and a $4.75 million figure that’s the prorated portion of the signing bonus and option bonus paid in the first two years of his contract. The decision to cut Rice would excuse the Ravens from paying his $4 million base salary, but the hit in dead money would be devastating to their cap.
Because Rice’s contract runs through the 2016 season, releasing him now would cause the $14.25 million in prorated bonus hits over the next three years to count entirely against this year’s cap. In other words, instead of counting for $8.75 million against the cap should he remain on the roster, Rice’s exit would eat up an additional $5.5 million in cap space for a total of $14.25 million on the 2014 cap, making him more costly to jettison than to keep.
That proposition does become a little more palatable with Thursday’s news of the 2014 salary cap increasing to $130 million — currently leaving the Ravens with just under $20 million in room — but it would still be a crippling blow for a team needing to address multiple positions this offseason. If they felt they had no choice but to cut Rice, a post-June 1 designation would clear $4 million in cap space (his scheduled base salary) from his current 2014 number of $8.75 million, but those savings wouldn’t arrive until the summer when the offseason is essentially over and would leave a whopping $9.5 million in dead money on the 2015 salary cap.
There’s just no positive outcome to cutting Rice this offseason from a salary-cap standpoint.
Some have posed the idea of the Ravens trying to void his contract due to a morals clause, but that only provides the grounds for cutting a player due to bad behavior, which only means they wouldn’t have to pay his base salary. The ramifications of the signing bonus would remain on the books, which is the more critical piece at work in the discussion.
For context, it’s worth noting that the New England Patriots remain on the hook for a $7.5 million cap hit in 2014 for former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was released by the organization and charged with first-degree murder last June.
The only course of action that could result in the Ravens receiving some financial forgiveness in terms of the signing bonus would be to keep Rice for the 2014 season and await the possibility of him missing games due to jail time or a suspension from the league. Not only would the Ravens receive cap credit for the prorated portion of his base salary that meets the number of games missed, but the organization would have the right to recover a portion of his signing bonus coinciding with the length of the suspension.
Teams have the same option to try to recover bonus money if a player abruptly retires or holds out, which would also qualify as what’s known as a “forfeitable breach,” a term that became commonplace during the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation last summer. The Ravens could have elected to use the same language in trying to recover money from linebacker Terrell Suggs two offseasons ago when he tore his Achilles tendon because of a non-football activity, but they likely elected not to do so because of the long-term fallout it often creates in the working relationship.
These factors point to there being little chance of the Ravens parting ways with Rice this offseason unless what’s already been a troubling story grows uglier in the coming weeks and the organization concludes that it has no choice but to terminate their relationship with the three-time Pro Bowl running back.
For now, the Ravens appears to have few choices but to sit back and hope for the best for all involved parties.
Posted on 20 February 2014 by Luke Jones
With Thursday’s news that the NFL will raise its salary cap to $130 million for the 2014 league year, the Ravens now find themselves in even better position financially with the start of free agency less than three weeks away.
The signing of linebacker Terrell Suggs to a long-term extension Monday left the Ravens with an additional $4.6 million in cap space and just under $16 million total with the initially-projected cap of $126.3 million for 2014, but the league has elected to elevate the cap by over five percent from $123 million last year to $130 million, according to multiple outlets. Such an increase leaves Baltimore just under $20 million beneath the cap at the moment, but that’s not counting the cost of exclusive-rights free agents or restricted free agents.
The extra $3.7 million in space could alter general manager Ozzie Newsome’s outlook on several potential cap casualties such as linebacker Jameel McClain, punter Sam Koch, and fullback Vonta Leach as well as provide more wiggle room to re-sign unrestricted free agents such as tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe, and linebacker Daryl Smith and pursue other possible free-agent targets. Of course, players and agents are very much aware of the news of a higher cap, which will subsequently drive up the cost of open-market free agents in theory.
It’s important to remember that a higher cap will also mean slightly-higher restricted tenders and franchise tag amounts, so the news is relative with all 32 teams benefiting in terms of additional space. If the Ravens plan to use the tag on Pitta, they would now have to fork over an estimated $6.89 million for the tight end franchise tag compared to the previous projection of $6.7 million discussed this offseason.
Of course, whether Pitta would qualify for the tight end tender is a different story entirely.
Teams have until March 3 to decide whether to use the franchise tag on a player and the free-agency signing period begins on March 11 at 4 p.m.
Posted on 19 February 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 19 February 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 19 February 2014 by WNST Audio