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Who’s left on wide receiver market for Ravens?

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A week after watching Torrey Smith depart to sign a five-year, $40 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens appear no closer to filling the gaping hole left behind at the wide receiver position.

With the only players remaining on the roster with more than 24 receptions last season being the soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith and starting running back Justin Forsett, it would be quite a risk for the Ravens to count solely on this spring’s draft to find help at the wide receiver position. Of course, limited salary cap space has prohibited Baltimore from pursuing more expensive options such as Andre Johnson over the last week.

Below is a look at seven veteran receivers who remain on the open market:

Dwayne Bowe
Age: 30
2014 stats: 60 caches, 754 yards, zero touchdowns
Skinny: Bowe has most recently visited with the Cleveland Browns and would appear to be one of the better options remaining on the market, but he’s also eclipsed the 800-yard receiving mark just once in the last three years. Working with Joe Flacco as opposed to Alex Smith would certainly help his cause, but the Ravens may not want to deal with questions about his work ethic and off-field trouble.

Greg Jennings
Age: 31
2014 stats: 59 catches, 742 yards, six touchdowns
Skinny: Jennings isn’t the deep threat that he was in his early days with the Green Bay Packers, but an unsettled quarterback situation was likely the biggest variable explaining his numbers dipping in Minnesota over the last two years. Considering he wouldn’t count against the compensatory pick formula since he was released, Jennings would make sense for the Ravens at the right price. 

Michael Crabtree
Age: 27
2014 stats: 68 catches, 698 yards, four touchdowns
Skinny: The market has been unusually quiet for the 2009 first-round pick, making you wonder if his asking price is too high coming off a disappointing final year with San Francisco. Never considered a speedster, Crabtree is less than two years removed from a torn Achilles tendon, which makes you wonder if his 2014 season was his new ceiling or only a stepping stone in regaining his pre-injury form.

Stevie Johnson
Age: 28
2014 stats: 35 catches, 435 yards, three touchdowns
Skinny: There is debate over how much the 6-foot-2 Johnson has left, but he proved to be productive when given opportunities in the San Francisco passing game last season. He had a reputation for being a knucklehead in Buffalo, but Johnson had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Bills and New England and San Diego have shown strong interest in him in recent days.

Denarius Moore
Age: 26
2014 stats: 12 catches, 115 yards, zero touchdowns
Skinny: The ultimate buy-low candidate, Moore showed promise as a vertical threat in the Oakland offense in his first three years, but the speedster was a non-factor for the Raiders last season. If you’re looking to take a flier on a receiver who could stretch the field after the Ravens parted ways with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, Moore wouldn’t be the worst addition to add to the mix.

Nate Washington
Age: 31
2014 stats: 40 catches, 647 yards, two touchdowns
Skinny: Washington has quietly put together a decent NFL career as a complementary receiver, and he has still averaged at least 15.8 yards per catch in each of the last three seasons with Tennessee despite messy quarterback play. He’s no Torrey Smith, but he still has some ability to be a factor in the vertical passing game as a role player.

Hakeem Nicks
Age: 27
2014 stats: 38 catches, 405 yards, four touchdowns
Skinny: Consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the New York Giants must feel like a long time ago for Nicks, who had underwhelming numbers while playing with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis this past season. He’s still young enough to turn around a career that’s trending in the wrong direction, but his disappointing numbers in 2014 will be hard for Nicks to sell to potential suitors.

 

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Ngata bids farewell to Ravens fans with full-page ad

Posted on 15 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata capped a wild week by bidding farewell to the city of Baltimore on Sunday.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection took out a full-page ad in The Baltimore Sun in which he thanked fans as well as the Ravens organization after nine years together. On Tuesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome traded Ngata to the Detroit Lions in exchange for fourth-round and fifth-round selections in this spring’s draft after the sides were unable to work out a contract extension to lower his $16 million salary cap figure for the 2015 season.

With several days to reflect on the 31-year-old’s career in Baltimore, where would you rank Ngata among the greatest players in franchise history? You could probably make a decent argument to list him as high as fourth behind the slam-dunk trio of Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, but others such as Terrell Suggs, Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, and Joe Flacco are very much in the argument to be ranked just behind those first three.

Feel free to make your argument in the comments section for where Ngata should rank.

Below is what the 2006 first-round pick wrote in Sunday’s full-page ad:

Dear Baltimore,

Although my playing days have come to an end here in Baltimore, my family and I want to say an enormous thank you to the great people in this city and the members of Ravens Nation everywhere. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to play for the Baltimore Ravens for the last nine years and to hear you passionately cheering us on each and every week.

I want you to know how much I appreciate the way you welcomed me in and made me a part of the Baltimore community. When I came to Baltimore as a rookie, I did not know anyone in Maryland. And, yet, for nearly a decade, you provided the perfect place for me to develop as a player, grow as a man, start a life with my wife, raise my three boys, make friendships that will last a lifetime, and have experiences I will treasure forever.

I would like to thank the Modell family for their everlasting support; Mr. Steve Bisciotti for his great leadership in the Ravens’ organization; Mr. Ozzie Newsome for drafting me and bringing me to the Ravens; coach Brian Billick for coaching me during my early years; and coach John Harbaugh for teaching us to “Play Like a Raven” and coaching us to the ultimate goal: Super Bowl XLVII champions! To each coach and each staff member at the Ravens’ facility, past and present: thank you. I could not have had the career I did in Baltimore without your help.

I also need to thank my brothers-in-arms. I have played with the best teammates any athlete could ask for. Thank you for pushing me to become the best player I could be. The things we have accomplished together as Baltimore Ravens will link us together forever with a bond that cannot be broken.

Last, I want to give a public shoutout to my brothers and sister. Thank you for your undying love and support. Mom and Dad are proud when they look down on us from above.

I am looking forward to the experiences that await my family and me in the future, but please know that I will carry a part of Ravens Nation with me in my heart wherever I go for the rest of my life.

Ofa Lahi Atu,
Haloti Ngata, #92

 

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Former Ravens safety Stewart finds home in Denver

Posted on 13 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ free-agent exodus continued Friday with safety Darian Stewart becoming the latest to depart by signing a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos.

Stewart started 14 of 16 games last season after signing a one-year, $1.3 million contract with Baltimore last season. The 26-year-old was drawn to the Ravens because of his relationship with former secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who worked with Stewart when he was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

Stewart collected 53 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups during the regular season and secured an interception and a key pass breakup in the wild-card win over Pittsburgh. He joins defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Detroit), wide receiver Torrey Smith (San Francisco), linebacker Pernell McPhee (Chicago), tight end Owen Daniels (Denver), and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo) as Ravens players to depart this past week.

Though considered one of the more reliable in a group of safeties that saw playing time in 2014, Stewart’s loss isn’t considered a major one with the Ravens needing to improve at the position next to starter Will Hill. The problem will be finding that upgrade as this year’s draft class is not impressive beyond Alabama safety Landon Collins, who most expect to long be off the board by the time the Ravens pick 26th overall in the first round.

Free-agent safeties remaining on the board include Ron Parker of Kansas City, Louis Delmas of Miami, and Seattle’s Jeron Johnson.

With the Broncos losing free-agent safety Rahim Moore to Houston, head coach Gary Kubiak targeted Stewart after watching him play in Baltimore this past season.

In other free agency news from Friday, former Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler elected to sign a contract with the New England Patriots despite some interest from the Ravens.

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Ravens, Pro Bowl running back Forsett reach three-year deal

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Luke Jones

After numerous flings in his seven-year NFL career, Justin Forsett is finally out of the “friend zone.”

The Pro Bowl running back agreed to a three-year deal worth a reported $9 million with the Ravens on Thursday, which ensures a continuation of the best story of the 2014 season. After signing a one-year, $730,000 deal with Baltimore last April, Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the league’s eighth-ranked rushing offense.

The 2008 seventh-round pick from Cal had repeatedly expressed a desire to remain with the Ravens after he took over the starting job from the disgraced Ray Rice, who saw his contract terminated the day after the 2014 season opener. Displaying good patience and vision, Forsett led all NFL running backs with a 5.4 yards per carry average and 17 runs of 20 or more yards, which also set the single-season franchise record.

“I’m as hungry as ever at this point,” Forsett said. “Throughout my whole career, people have been telling me what I can’t do, even from Pop Warner to high school to college and now in the pros, even in free agency. Throughout my whole career they have been saying, ‘OK, you’re too short, you’re too slow, you’re too small.’ Now, throughout free agency I would hear, ‘He’s a little too old.’ There’s always something.

“I’m hungry to go out and show that I’m only going to get better with time.”

Those numbers earned the longtime NFL journeyman his first career trip to the Pro Bowl after previous stops in Seattle (twice), Indianapolis, Houston, and Jacksonville.

General manager Ozzie Newsome cited a lack of “wear and tear” and a reputation for mentoring a number of young running backs at the “State of the Ravens” press conference last month as reasons why the organization would try to re-sign Forsett. The move comes after a disappointing start to free agency for the Ravens with wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Pernell McPhee signing elsewhere and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being traded to Detroit.

Forsett acknowledged there were times during the process when he was uncertain whether a return to the Ravens was in the fold, but the veteran back ultimately wound up where he was “most comfortable” and said the decision was a “pretty easy call” in the end.

“He fits well into what we do on offense, and he handles all parts of the job effectively, including blocking and receiving,” Newsome said in a statement. “Justin is a tremendous leader by example and willing to step up as both a leader and mentor. He is truly a success story, and we’re happy he’ll continue that with us. He earned his new contract.”

His contract is also much more affordable than the five-year, $42 million deal with $21 million guaranteed that Philadelphia awarded former Dallas running back DeMarco Murray on Thursday. Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry last year to Forsett’s 5.4 yards per carry clip for Baltimore.

Forsett’s re-signing doesn’t prohibit the Ravens from exploring young running backs in this year’s draft, but they now know they can count on the veteran to lead a group that includes 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, veteran Bernard Pierce, and former practice-squad member Fitz Toussaint.

Nearly a year to the day that he was released by Jacksonville and pondered whether his career might be over, Forsett has finally found the stability and commitment from the Ravens that he’s long been searching for throughout his career. With a key piece now in place, Newsome can turn to building the rest of a roster that’s sustained a number of key losses this week.

“I just think back on where I was this point last year. It’s just a blessing,” Forsett said. “I thank God every day for this opportunity to come out and do what I love to do, then be able to find a home, be able to play somewhere where they want me, appreciate me, and [I am] just excited.”

 

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Ravens backup quarterback Taylor off to Buffalo

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will have a new quarterback backing up starter Joe Flacco in 2015 after Tyrod Taylor agreed to a deal with the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.

His departure was not unexpected after head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged last offseason that the Ravens wanted to see better play from Taylor. The 2011 six-round pick out of Virginia Tech has never started an NFL game playing behind the durable Flacco and did not even attempt a pass last season.

In four seasons with the Ravens, Taylor completed 19 of 35 passes for 199 yards and two interceptions and rushed 27 times for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Baltimore is expected to bring in a veteran to compete with 2014 sixth-round choice Keith Wenning, who spent the entire 2014 season on the practice squad. The Ravens have shown over the last four years with Taylor that they don’t want to spend significant money on a backup for Flacco, who’s never missed a game in his seven-year career.

During the 2014 preseason, Wenning completed 10 of 17 passes for 140 yards. The 6-foot-3 Ball State product doesn’t have a big-time arm, but he completed 63 percent of his passes during his collegiate career.

Veteran quarterbacks currently on the open market include Jason Campbell, Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Christian Ponder, and Michael Vick.

 

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Could former Bills tight end Chandler be match for Ravens?

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens need to address the tight end position following the departure of Owen Daniels, but few appealing options exist on the open market and even in this year’s draft, making the release of Buffalo Bills veteran Scott Chandler something to monitor.

The 29-year-old is far from a superstar, but he caught 43 or more passes in each of his last three seasons in Buffalo and would likely command a price that’s suitable with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s limited amount of cap space to address multiple needs. The Bills cut the 2007 fourth-round pick Wednesday to clear more cap space for their full-court press to sign free-agent tight end Charles Clay, who received the transition tag from Miami before the start of free agency. Because Chandler was released, his signing would not count against the compensatory pick formula, which is typically a major plus for the Ravens.

In 2014, Chandler caught 47 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games. Daniels made 48 receptions for 527 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games for the Ravens this past season.

Chandler was scheduled to make $1.95 million in base salary in 2015. Considered a strong receiver, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end is not regarded as a particularly strong blocker. If the Ravens need any help in recruiting him, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was a teammate of Chandler’s at the University of Iowa and were part of the same draft class.

The Ravens’ top two healthy tight ends on their current offseason roster are 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw. The status of veteran Dennis Pitta remains in doubt for 2015 and beyond after he suffered two serious right hip injuries in a 14-month period.

Based on many pundits’ opinions, there aren’t a slew of talented tight ends in this year’s draft, making it clear that the Ravens should add a veteran to help replace Daniels’ production if they want to feel better about the position going into training camp.

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Ngata trade puts Ravens in enviable 2015 draft position

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Moving beyond the initial disappointment of trading one of the greatest players in franchise history, the Ravens should feel good about the return they received in trading defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions.

Baltimore’s salary cap issues were no secret to anyone, so general manager Ozzie Newsome fetching fourth-round and fifth-round choices in this year’s draft for a 31-year-old entering the final year of a contract paying him $8.5 million this season is a strong haul, especially when most expected Ngata to be released if the Ravens couldn’t sign him to an extension. Mid-round picks shouldn’t be dismissed for an organization that’s seen two recent fifth-round choices — Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee — receive big deals in free agency in the last two offseasons after strong runs in Baltimore.

The Ravens are now projected to have no fewer than 10 selections in this year’s draft as they currently hold seven picks and are expected to be rewarded at least three compensatory picks later this month. Newsome has his original draft choices in the first four rounds, the two picks from the Lions, and a sixth-round selection acquired from the Dallas Cowboys in last summer’s Rolando McClain trade.

Newsome dealt his original 2015 fifth-round pick to Tampa Bay for center Jeremy Zuttah last year and his 2015 sixth-round pick to Cleveland in order to draft wide receiver Michael Campanaro last year. The Ravens also traded a seventh-round choice to Detroit as part of the Ngata trade.

With obvious needs at wide receiver, tight end, running back, and in the secondary and just under $10 million in cap space to address them, Newsome and the Ravens will need to seize their opportunities in the draft beginning on April 30.

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Ravens reportedly re-sign cornerback Levine to two-year deal

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Luke Jones

After electing not to tender restricted free agent Anthony Levine ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, the Ravens have reportedly re-signed the cornerback and special-teams standout.

The sides received an agreement on a two-year deal, according to The Sun. After serving strictly in a special-teams capacity in his first two seasons with the Ravens, Levine was thrown into the secondary mix after a plethora of injuries at the cornerback position last season.

The 27-year-old appeared in all 16 games including three starts and finished the season as Baltimore’s No. 3 cornerback behind Lardarius Webb and Rashaan Melvin. He collected 29 tackles and four pass breakups while also finishing third on the team with six special-teams tackles.

The deal is reportedly worth $2.4 million, which includes a $400,000 signing bonus and incentives, which averages out to a lower annual salary than the lowest tender of $1.542 million for restricted free agents. This continues the Ravens’ pattern of awarding more affordable two-year deals to certain restricted free agents such as defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi, linebacker Albert McClellan, and long snapper Morgan Cox in recent years.

Baltimore gave a second-round tender ($2.356 million) to restricted free agent kicker Justin Tucker and the low tender to safety Will Hill earlier this week.

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Torrey Smith joins ex-Raven Boldin in San Francisco

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

After teaming together to beat San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, former Ravens wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin have reunited as members of the 49ers.

As expected, the 26-year-old Smith agreed to a reported five-year, $40 million contract that includes $22 million guaranteed after announcing Sunday that he would not be returning to the Ravens. Apparently, it was his former teammate who helped recruit Smith to San Francisco as the pair remained friends after Boldin was traded to the 49ers two years ago. Smith also has a relationship with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, a fellow University of Maryland alum.

After reportedly turning down a five-year, $35 million offer from the Ravens before the 2014 campaign, Smith made out well in free agency despite a down season in which he caught only 49 passes for 767 yards. It remains unclear whether a similar offer from the Ravens was still on the table considering the organization’s significant salary cap problems stemming in part from the release of Ray Rice last September.

Smith will provide the 49ers the deep threat in the passing game they’ve sorely lacked for a number of years.

Meanwhile, the Ravens will need to replace their biggest draft success at the wide receiver position in franchise history after selecting Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft. He finished his run in Baltimore ranking second in franchise history in touchdown receptions and third in receiving yards.

Baltimore is scheduled to visit Smith, Boldin, and the 49ers during the 2015 regular season.

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Veteran tight end Daniels follows Kubiak to Denver

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens tight end Owen Daniels will reunite again with Gary Kubiak again after agreeing to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old veteran followed Kubiak to Baltimore last year after they had spent eight years together in Houston and will now catch passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The deal is worth a total of $12 million, according to The Denver Post.

Daniels’ departure leaves the Ravens lacking at the tight end position with their only healthy options with experience on the current roster being 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw. The status of Dennis Pitta has yet to be determined for the 2015 season after he suffered a second serious hip injury in 14 months last September, but the Ravens cannot count on his availability.

In 15 games last season, Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns while serving as a reliable option for quarterback Joe Flacco. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed hope last month that Daniels would return to the Ravens.

“We’ve talked to Owen, and Owen says he wants to come back,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure that he and his agent will talk about what’s best for them financially, and every other way, but he’s very interested in coming back here.”

Of course, with the Ravens’ limited salary cap space and Daniels’ history with Kubiak, Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, and Broncos tight end coach Brian Pariani, Denver was the natural landing spot for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The Ravens will see Daniels in 2015 as they visit Denver during the regular season.

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