The Ravens front office went to work this Labor Day morning, reaching out to ex-Seahawks wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzaeh, signing the former Bengals receiver to a one year deal, worth roughly around 855,000 dollars.
“He’s another proven weapon on this offense,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, a big receiver with good hands and toughness.”
He does have a guaranteed contract in place, roughly worth around 7 million dollars, but that remaining 6.15 million is the Seahawks’ responsibility.
Houshmandzadeh, who was released last week by the Seahawks because new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the coaching staff felt like Houshmandzadeh not only didn’t fit in their system but could become a locker room cancer, will join the Ravens and immediately fill the void left by the injuries to third wide receiver candidates Mark Clayton and Donte Stallworth.
Houshmandzadeh will be in Baltimore Tuesday to take his physical, meet with the media, and get right into cramming before the Ravens opener Monday night against the Jets.
“T.J will definitely be ready to go Week 1,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’ll start working on the playbook tomorrow. He’s been in this system, before which is a plus.”
Houshmandzadeh caught 79 passes last year for 911 yards and three scores, his lowest touchdown numbers since his second year in the league.
Both Clayton and Stallworth’s injuries came in the Ravens third preseason game against the New York Giants, as Clayton suffered a concussion after a devastating hit from safety Antrel Rolle, while Stallworth broke his left foot running down the field on a route sometime during the game.
Both receivers survived cuts on Saturday, but with the Houshmandzedah signing today, one or both could be headed to IR or off the Ravens roster as a whole. Neither can be placed on the physically unable to perform list since both have practiced and played in preseason action.
Houshmandzadeh, who was drafted by the Bengals in the 7th round of the 2001 draft out of Oregon State, has caught 586 passes for 6,693 yards and has scored 41 TDs in his career.
He spent his first eight years of his career in Cinncinnati, where he formed a complementary 1-2 punch with former Beaver teammate Chad Johnson, now known as Chad Ocho Cinco. While Johnson was the premier deep-threat, Houshmandzadeh made his living in the slot and on underneath routes, which is a role that may suit him again here in Baltimore.
His best seasons came in 2006 and 2007, when he caught a combined 202 passes for 2,224 yards and 21 scores. Since he has seen significant playing time since 2004, he has caught no less than 73 balls in a year.
He is also familiar with this division very well playing for the Bengals for eight seasons in the AFC North, and was quite the Raven killer catching passes from Carson Palmer.
“We saw him more than we wanted making a lot of plays against us,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. “We had interest in him a year ago when he first became a free agent before he signed with Seattle.”
Now he is in purple, and should make one of the better receiving corps on paper even better, joining Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
Some would question the move because now, the Ravens have three wide receivers who literally all do the same thing well-run short routes but aren’t great at getting the deep ball.
Harbaugh shot down that mention to the media Monday.
“You know how you stretch the field? You run deep. They’ve got to cover you-especially when you have guys running down the field that can catch the ball. So, you run deep and you throw it to them.”
“If they don’t cover them, they’ll catch the ball and they’ll score…you put good players on the field and they’re threats.”
3:25- With the addition of Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens had to make a move to clear a spot on the roster for the ex Bengal and Seahawk. With Clayton falling down the depth chart with the additions of Houshmandzadeh and the Ravens not wanting to give up on the blazing speed Stallworth shows when healthy, this meant the end for Clayton in Baltimore.
The Ravens traded Mark Clayton to St. Louis Rams for “late-round considerations”. Signing his tender, Clayton was scheduled to make over 2 million dollars and while he showed some progress in the off-season, his injuries continued to mount up, as he suffered a concussion in the preseason victory over the Giants.
“Mark is a good person who did everything he could to help the Ravens on and off the field,” Newsome added. “In the end, we have to do what we think is best for the team, but letting Mark go hurts.”
“He was first class all the way, even when we met with him about the trade. This is the tough part of the business.”
The Rams were in the market for a wide receiver with their top wide out, Donnie Avery, out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee, and their other top receiver, Laurent Robinson, not catching on to the new offense.
And when it comes to Houshmandzadeh and Clayton, Harbaugh said it isn’t fair to Clayton to compare the two’s capabilities.
“It’s not a fair question… it’s a comparison,” Harbaugh noted. ”Both bring a lot to the table to anyone. For us right now, it’s a fresh start with a new guy in T.J. And he’s a big physical guy, and we appreciate that, but they’re both really good players.”
Clayton is re-united with a former Oklahoma Sooner in quarterback Sam Bradford, who was drafted first overall this year by the Rams, and will likely be the #1 option in St. Louis when healthy.
“I had the chance to spend a lot of time talking to the Rams about Mark today…and they’re very excited to have him. Mark was just one of the most special guys we’ve had here…one of our top leaders.”
Harbaugh made sure to wish Clayton all the luck in the world going to the Rams, the team the Ravens faced last Thursday in their preseason finale.
“I think its good for him to get a opportunity; a little bit of a fresh start there. He’s very talented, and I’m sure he’ll do really well.”
Clayton is the Ravens all-time leader in 100-yard games with nine, and was the Ravens first-round pick in 2005.
Clayton finished his career with the Ravens with 234 catches, 3,116 yards, and 12 TDs.
4:13- Four Ravens were taking snaps from center at the start of practice, including Flacco, Bulger(with a new number, #10 which replaces Troy Smith), Hunter Cantwell who will be on the practice squad, and receiver Anquan Boldin.
Cantwell, who was on the Panthers roster this preseason and saw action against the Ravens in the first preseason game of the year, was picked up by the Ravens over the weekend after being cut from Carolina.
He played his college ball at the University of Louisville.
Boldin, a former prep QB at Pahokee High School, would likely take snaps if something were to happen to both starting QB Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger if both were to fall to injury.
Hunter Cantwell is on the Ravens’ practice squad at this time but not on the active roster.
“I’m obviously disappointed to be cut in Carolina,” Cantwell said, “but my agents and the organization here worked out a deal for me to come on and be the practice squad quarterback and learn the system.”
Cantwell said that he is learning from two of the best in the business in Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger.
“Joe and Marc are great quarterbacks, and have a great reputation,” Cantwell continued. “So to come here and learn from them and be part of this organization, is something I’m excited about.”
4:28- Defensive end Paul Kruger was not on the practice field Monday, still suffering the effects of his injured shoulder suffered during the preseason finale against the Rams.
Willis McGahee, who was absent from practice on Friday, was seen walking out to practice when the media were allowed to view the session.
Both Josh Wilson, acquired over the weekend for a 5th round pick, and Bryan McCann, claimed off waivers after the final roster cuts, practiced.
Wilson was very excited to see a former teammate of his in Houshmandzadeh joining him in Baltimore.
“You get a great player like that, and it’s iciing on the cake,” Wilson said. “I’m happy we went out and got him, and we’ve got something great here. I just want to make sure I can add to that greatness.”
Wilson saw firsthand last year what kind of a player Houshmandzadeh was lining up against him in practice and also got to see what kind of player he was in the locker room.
“With what kind of player he is, he knows how to catch the ball,” Wilson said. “He knows how to get open and make plays. He’s not T.J. Whose-Your-Momma for no reason.”
“He’s a great person,” Wilson continued. “I loved hanging out with T.J. He’s one of your laid back guys who are going to have fun, and I’ve never had a problem with TJ.”
“I love that he’s going to be here. He’s one more person for me to laugh with, hang out with, talk trash with, and just have fun.”
5:53 Also on the field was tackle Oniel Cousins, who has not been cleared to play by the doctors after missing the last two preseason games with a concussion.
Cousins told the media in the locker room that he probably a day or two away from being given the thumbs up to practice.
“I thought I was cleared, but I think I’ve got to go to the doctors tomorrow to make sure everything is finalized and good.”
Cousins said the headaches are behind him.
“Overall, I feel pretty good. The past couple of days, we haven’t really been doing any contact, and practicing more in a conditional and mental thing. I feel pretty good.”
Two other notable injuries came up in conversation at practice, one being linebacker Sergio Kindle and the other being tackle Jared Gaither.
Harbaugh said he has talked to Kindle over the phone about his progression returning from a fractured skull he suffered days before the team reported to training camp.
“I know he’s really excited to get going, and we’ll just have to [wait]… it’s in the hands of the medical people, and we’ll just have to see how that turns out.”
And with Gaither-who is back to lifting weights and is slowly regaining weight-he personally addressed his back spasms, what is described as a thoracic disk ailment.
He has not practiced in full since August 5th.
“It’s really hard with this type of injury, as I’ve been told,” Gaither said.”As soon as it feels better, I want to go out and play. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens as we get closer and closer to Opening Night against the Jets! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!