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Ravens scheduled to pick 17th overall as 2014 NFL Draft gets underway

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Ravens scheduled to pick 17th overall as 2014 NFL Draft gets underway

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Slated to pick higher than they have in any draft since 2006, the Ravens enter another critical phase of the offseason with eight selections in the 2014 draft.

With clear needs at right tackle and free safety as well as the desire to improve their depth at cornerback, running back, and the defensive line, general manager Ozzie Newsome will anxiously await how the first 16 picks of the first round play out with uncertainty surrounding a group of quarterbacks with mixed reviews. The Ravens hope to see a run of signal-callers early to improve their chances of the likes of offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin as well as Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix being available when they’re on the clock with the 17th overall choice in the first round.

Newsome confirmed at last week’s pre-draft press conference that the Ravens have already fielded calls from teams looking to move up in the first round, and the longtime general manager has a reputation for being willing to move back to accumulate more picks. Baltimore has traded its original first-round choice for later selections in two of the last four drafts.

While most of the Ravens’ brain trust remains in Owings Mills, each of the 32 NFL clubs have representatives in New York who are responsible for delivering the selected names to league officials. Player personnel assistants Kenny Sanders and Matt Jansen are representing Baltimore in New York.

In addition to four original draft choices in this year’s draft, the Ravens were awarded four compensatory picks earlier this offseason. Compensatory picks are prohibited from being traded.

Ravens’ 2014 draft choices
Round 1 – 17th overall pick
Round 2 – 48th overall pick
Round 3 – 79th overall pick
Round 3 – 99th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 4 – 134th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 4 – 138th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 5 – 175th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 6 – 194th overall pick

Follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis from Owings Mills throughout the weekend.

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Even with position holes, Ravens need game changer in this year’s draft

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Even with position holes, Ravens need game changer in this year’s draft

Posted on 07 May 2014 by Luke Jones

The 2014 NFL draft is nearly upon us and the Ravens’ positional needs have been discussed ad nauseam over the better part of the last four months, but it’s still anyone’s guess how the first round will play out on Thursday night.

A list of quarterback prospects with mixed reviews threatens to turn the first round upside down if quarterback-needy teams jump the gun early, but signal-callers falling down the board could cause other positional talent to dry up quickly by the time the Ravens are on the clock with the 17th overall pick.

With Baltimore’s biggest needs clearly being right tackle and safety — followed by cornerback, running back, and the defensive line in no particular order — general manager Ozzie Newsome can only hope a tackle prospect such as Michigan’s Taylor Lewan or Notre Dame’s Zack Martin or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix slides just enough for the Ravens to pounce. But even with months of preparation and years of experience maximizing pick value, you’re ultimately at the mercy of the teams who pick in front of you.

“I think there is a lot of luck with the draft. That’s why we value picks as much as we do,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “The more picks you have, the more chance you have of getting lucky on a guy. Our whole mindset is to get as many picks as you can and then just pick the best available players. We try to make it a science. In the end, it’s probably more art than science.”

It’s for that very reason that many pundits anticipate the Ravens moving back in the first round, particularly if a player at a need position isn’t at the top of their board or they feel they have a number of available players rated evenly when they’re scheduled to be on the clock. The Ravens have traded back from their original first-round pick twice in the last four years.

Newsome has already all but ruled out the possibility of moving up in the first round due to the Ravens only having four tradeable picks in this year’s draft unless they want to consider the risky proposition of dealing future selections.

The practice of moving back to collect more picks sounds good in theory, but that art to which DeCosta was referring hasn’t provided lucrative returns in recent years. That’s not to say Newsome hasn’t added quality players as cornerback Jimmy Smith, wide receiver Torrey Smith, left guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Courtney Upshaw, and safety Matt Elam were taken over the last three years, but the game-changing discoveries have been few and far between in recent years.

Consider for a moment that the Ravens selected at least one player who would make it to a Pro Bowl as a member of the organization in 10 of the first 13 drafts in Baltimore, but not a single Pro Bowl player has been chosen since 2008 when running back Ray Rice was taken in the second round. Of course, a run of five straight playoff appearances that came to an end last season also meant the Ravens were picking somewhere in the 20s or later in contrast to the many top-10 picks they used to pluck future stars.

“When you pick higher in the draft, you have a greater chance of hitting a home run,” DeCosta said. “When you’re picking lower, you’re going to hit a lot of singles and doubles. A lot of our top picks were the fourth pick in the draft, the sixth pick in the draft. You don’t want to pick up there. The challenge is when you do, you have to nail it. You have to find one of those impact guys. We want guys that come in, they contribute, they’re good citizens, they play right away. We don’t care about Pro Bowls; we care about Super Bowls.”

DeCosta’s point is a fair one, but a simple question illustrates the need for the Ravens to find some good fortune and strike it big with their highest selection since 2008.

How many great players — not good or solid ones — do the Ravens currently have?

For years, they reaped the annual benefits of Hall of Fame talent like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed, but they’re long gone. Perennial Pro Bowl choices Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata still own strong reputations, but are they really elite talents at this stage? Was last season an aberration or only the start of a dramatic decline for three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice?

Quarterback Joe Flacco has proven that he can be great as he was in the 2012 postseason, but last year showed he needs far better players around him to maximize his talent. Right guard Marshal Yanda is a great one at his position, but his impact isn’t going to be felt as dramatically playing as an interior lineman.

Trading back for more picks and filling needs with solid players are sound practices, but the Ravens’ best hope of quickly bouncing back from a disappointing 8-8 season a year ago is striking it rich with a game-changing talent or two. Of course, that’s easier said than done as no one really knows exactly what they’re getting in a player when they hand in their card and commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium with the announcement.

Wednesday offered a reminder of supreme talent not always being snatched up in the first 10 picks as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman became the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL three years after he was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

If a unique talent — North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron comes to mind in the first round — falls into their laps at any stage, positional needs must take a backseat as Newsome and the front office will figure it out at certain spots if required.

“Part of my job is to not only look at 2014, but I’ve got to be looking at 2015 and 2016 and 2017 and how the roster is going to shape itself,” Newsome said. “And you add into that our salary cap and guys that we’ve got the opportunity to retain or not retain. So, a lot of times we’ll make a pick based on two years from now, because we know we won’t be able to keep a certain player based on our salary cap.”

The Ravens not only need a strong draft this weekend, but more draft picks from recent years such as Elam, Upshaw, linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, and running back Bernard Pierce must emerge as major contributors and look more like triples or home runs than the singles they’ve been to this point.

It’s not an indictment on the Ravens’ draft preparation as much as it is a feeling that they’re overdue to hit one out of the park when you take a look at their history.

With their earliest choice in six years and trying to bounce back from the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens need to find a game changer or two — regardless of what position that talent might play.

It’s about time they get lucky again.

“We try to look at statistics and different things [like] analytics,” DeCosta said. “In the end, it comes down to players — the motivation of the players, the passion of the players, how they fit your scheme. Injuries are a big factor, football intelligence is a big factor, toughness is a big factor. Those are intangibles; those are hard to measure.”

Hard to measure, indeed, but the Ravens once found those gems on a near-annual basis.

 

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An important #WNSTSweet16 during an important week for the Ravens

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An important #WNSTSweet16 during an important week for the Ravens

Posted on 06 May 2014 by Luke Jones

After taking a look at the rare not-so-great draft moments in the history of the Baltimore Ravens a week ago, this week’s #WNSTSweet16 recognizes an abundance of riches in ranking the most important draft picks in franchise history.

Though recent years have produced more singles and doubles than triples and home runs as they relate to the work of general manager Ozzie Newsome and his talented front office, the Ravens’ immense success over the first 18 years of their existence should be attributed first and foremost to the draft and an ability to recognize talent to fit their vision of a winning franchise. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said last week that luck is a significant factor in finding impact talent year after year, but a simple look at this week’s list shows that 11 of the 16 choices came in the first round, a reflection of just how rarely the Ravens have missed early in the draft.

It’s important to reiterate this week’s list covers the most important — not necessarily the best — draft picks as certain selections came at critical junctures for a franchise that already boasts two Super Bowl championships in its young history. A simple question to ask in determining a draft pick’s importance was, “How critical was this player to winning a championship or at least enjoying an extended run of success?”

Cracking the top five is no easy task as the Ravens already claim one Hall of Fame player selected with their first ever draft pick while two other first-round choices are slam dunks for Canton in the not-so-distant future.

Without further ado, I present the #WNSTSweet16 Most Important Draft Picks in Ravens History:

Continue to next page for No. 16

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B&B Big Story Banter: All-Time Ravens Draft Team

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B&B Big Story Banter: All-Time Ravens Draft Team

Posted on 02 May 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen

As the NFL Draft is nearly upon us, we decided to take a look back at the history of the Ravens during this event.  Many believe general manager Ozzie Newsome to be one of the greatest draft manipulators in the history of the game.  But how good has he really been? The only stipulation for our picks was to only look at the players tenure while in Baltimore.  Barry took care of the offensive picks, while Brett handled the defensive side of things.

Take a look at our All-Time Baltimore Ravens Draft Team

LT: Jonathan Ogden (1996)- 1st round (4th overall)
 
LG: Ben Grubbs (2007)- 1 (29th)
 
C: Jeff Mitchell (1997)- 5 (134th)
 
RG: Marshal Yanda (2007)- 3 (86th)
 
RT: Michael Oher  (2009)- 1 (23th)
 
QB: Joe Flacco (2008)- 1 (18th)
 
RB: Jamal Lewis (2000)- 1 (5th)
 
FB: Le’Ron McClain (2007)- 4 (137th) 
 
TE: Todd Heap (2001)- 1 (31st) 
 
WR: Torrey Smith (2011)- 2 (58th) 
 
WR: Brandon Stokley (1999)- 4 (105th) 
 

BK: There were plenty of easy decisions when creating this offense. Jonathan Ogden was this biggest no-brainer of them all; the first pick in franchise history was an 11-time Pro Bowler who would get much more attention if it wasn’t for Ray Lewis.  As a whole, creating this offensive line was much easier than I expected. The Pro Bowl appearances for Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda made the guard position an easy decision, while the only real debate I had was deciding between Casey Rabach, Jason Brown, and Mitchell to play center. When push came to shove, for multiple positions. I went with the guy who won a Super Bowl.

Running back and wide receiver were the two positions that gave me the hardest time. I went with Jamal Lewis over Ray Rice, the position that has meant so much to this franchise since its inception. Lewis was a phenomenal power back that struck fear into divisional opponents, and he averaged 1,300 yards rushing in his six seasons in Baltimore. Some people will take Rice’s versatility over Lewis’ power, but Jamal never had a bad season with the Ravens. The same cannot be said for Mr. Rice. At wide receiver, I struggled with who would play opposite Torrey Smith. Wide receiver is the one position that the Ravens have constantly struggled with, so the talent pool was quite small. My theory on picking the Super Bowl winner prevailed, as Brandon Stokley earned the other spot, beating out the likes of Mark Clayton and Jermaine Lewis (known mainly for his return skills).

What strikes me about this offense is just how many first round picks there are. When I think of the “Wizard of Oz” never missing in the first round, my mind immediately think defense; Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed…you get the idea. But my All-Time offense has six first round picks, three of those being offensive lineman. The genius of Ozzie Newsome, Phil Savage, and Eric DeCosta over the years has been finding great players, no matter where they draft. Whether it was Jamal Lewis 5th overall, or Todd Heap with the last pick in the first round, the Ravens have always found quality players early in the draft.

 Here is the All-Time Draft Defense, presented by Brett Dickinson:

DL: Dwan Edwards (2004)- 2nd round (51st overall)

DT: Haloti Ngata (2006)- 1 (12th)

DL: Arthur Jones (2010)- 5 (157th)

OLB: Peter Boulware (1997)- 1 (4th)

MLB: Ray Lewis (1996)- 1 (26th)

MLB: Jaimie Sharper (1997)- 2 (34th)

OLB: Terrell Suggs (2003)- 1 (10th)

CB: Chris McAlister (1999)- 1 (10th)

CB: Duane Starks (1998)- 1 (10th)

FS: Ed Reed (2002)- 1 (24th)

SS: Dawan Landry (2006)- 5 (146th)

BD: Though the Ravens seem to take a defensive lineman almost every year, they do not have the best track record. Besides selecting Haloti Ngata in the first round, no one else has made a Pro Bowl from that position. While on the other hand, they have obviously hit the mark taking linebackers, as this list includes four pro bowlers, two defensvie players of the year (Lewis, Suggs) and a future Hall of Famer in Lewis (along with being one of the best players in the history of the game).

The toughest decision was at the second cornerback slot, after Chris McAlister. Though Jimmy Smith or Lardarius Webb could surpass Starks in the future, his four straight seasons with at least 4 INTs is still best in franchise history. Add in making a crucial interception to essentially seal a Super Bowl victory and he was the obvious choice.

Overall the Ravens have dominated the first round, when it comes to selecting defensive talent, but surprisingly have not done much else beyond that. Selecting two players in Lewis and Reed (that could be the greatest at their position), late in the first round, certainly makes Ozzie look better than what his track record would lead you to believe.

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Rice uncertainty won’t impact Ravens’ draft plans at running back

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Rice uncertainty won’t impact Ravens’ draft plans at running back

Posted on 30 April 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The 2014 NFL draft may only be a week away, but the Ravens’ intentions at the running back position were clear long before running back Ray Rice got into trouble in Atlantic City back in February.

The 27-year-old is scheduled to be arraigned for third-degree aggravated assault in New Jersey on Thursday, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh knew several weeks before the incident between Rice and future wife Janay Palmer allegedly took place that the Ravens would be looking for help at the running back position. With Rice’s legal situation unresolved and the NFL possibly levying a suspension, Baltimore is almost certain to make a significant addition at the position between now and the start of the season.

But that decision had more to do with Baltimore’s 30th-ranked running game and league-worst 3.1 yards per carry average than Rice’s status for the start of the 2014 season.

“We’ll deal with Ray when that time comes,” Newsome said. “But, in talking with John all the way back to when we went to Jupiter to spend time with [owner Steve Bisciotti], we’ve been talking about adding one, maybe two running backs to our team. And this was before the incident that happened in Atlantic City. We felt like we needed to add some depth at that position coming out of the 2013 season.”

The Ravens signed veteran Justin Forsett earlier this month, but a running back will likely be a target on either the second or third day of next week’s draft. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta was complimentary of Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Auburn’s Tre Mason, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, and Jeremy Hill of LSU, who are all projected to go in the second or third round. Baltimore has also met with Hyde, Boston College’s Andre Williams, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, and Towson’s Terrance West.

With new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak implementing a new system, the Ravens will be looking for a natural fit to thrive in a zone blocking scheme.

“You’ve got guys in that second round, third-round area. You’ve got some good later-round picks, too,” DeCosta said. “I think the draft is such at that position where you can get a guy in any round – second through seventh – that can help you play some good football.”

Ravens trading back in first round?

Many pundits have labeled this year’s draft class as one of the deepest in years, and the Ravens seem to support that sentiment as DeCosta claimed they have roughly 180 players they consider to be “draftable,” which is up from the typical 140 to 150 they have on their board in a given year.

With so many talented players available, many have wondered if the Ravens would consider moving back from the 17th overall pick if the right deal comes along, and Newsome confirmed Wednesday that he’s already received calls to do just that.

“If we move back four, five or six spots, we might still have the opportunity to get one or two of those players and get the additional pick,” Newsome said. “That’s how we look at it. Can we pick at 17? We’ll be prepared to pick at 17, but also we’ll be entertaining trades to be able to move back if we have to, if we want to.”

Newsome admitted it would be difficult for the Ravens to move up to draft a player in the first round since they only have four picks they’re permitted to trade. Baltimore dealt its fourth- and fifth-round choices to Jacksonville last fall to acquire left tackle Eugene Monroe and traded its seventh-round selection to Indianapolis for offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley last spring.

The Ravens have a total of four compensatory picks — a third, two fourths, and a fifth — but those selections cannot be traded.

“I could probably say if one or two players start getting really close to us, we’d be clamoring trying to go up and get them,” Newsome said. “I can just say, I know John, I know Eric and I know [director of college scouting Joe Hortiz], and we’ll be telling Steve that we need to go get this player because we feel like he can impact us that much.”

2007 trade that wasn’t to be

Newsome confirmed a report that surfaced earlier this week about the Ravens nearly pulling off a trade in 2007 to select quarterback Brady Quinn from Notre Dame before the Cleveland Browns ultimately made a deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Ravens held the 29th overall pick and began discussing the quarterback as he fell in the first round, even calling Quinn and his agent Tom Condon to gather information. However, the Browns were willing to pony up their second-round pick and 2008 first-round choice for the 22nd pick while the Ravens simply stayed put and settled for left guard Ben Grubbs, a five-year starter and one-time Pro Bowl selection in Baltimore.

“What happened is we were in the midst of making a trade – a trade with the team that ended up making the trade to Cleveland – and Cleveland offered more than we did, which was [then-general manager Phil Savage],” Newsome said. “Phil offered more than we did. And so, they ended up drafting Brady Quinn, and we did not get him, because what Dallas and Jerry [Jones] wanted in the trade from the other team, we did not feel like we should go up to that level.”

While no one knows how Quinn might have fared had he landed in Baltimore, the Fighting Irish product and Ohio native was a flop in Cleveland where he made only 12 starts and threw 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Quinn said in an interview with AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday that he’d never spoken to the Ravens during the pre-draft process but often thinks how his career might have turned out differently had they pulled off the trade instead of the Browns.

Ravens fans can only breathe a sigh of relief seven years later as the organization selected quarterback Joe Flacco a year later.

Looking at cornerbacks

Most attention has gone to obvious needs at the right tackle and free safety positions in the early rounds, but the Ravens have yet to add a cornerback to fill the void of veteran Corey Graham departing via free agency.

Newsome and Harbaugh have both complimented the potential of young cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson, but neither has extensive experience. Hortiz estimated that as many as 12 cornerbacks will be drafted in the first three rounds with Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, and Texas Christian’s Jason Verrett among the candidates to go in the first round.

“We’ve always felt you can’t have enough corners,” Newsome said, “especially when you’re in a league now where it’s a passing league with people putting three or four receivers in the games. You don’t have too many corners.”

Auburn guy sticks up for Alabama

In the wake of Rolando McClain’s latest retirement and left tackle prospect Cyrus Kouandjio’s medical concerns at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, the University of Alabama has received plenty of scrutiny in terms of how reliable their players are at the NFL level, a sentiment that doesn’t sit well with Newsome.

Ironically, it was Hortiz, an Auburn alum, who defended Newsome’s alma mater during Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference.

“These guys, they may fail physicals or be question marks, but they are tough players,” Hortiz said. “They play through injuries, and they play in the NFL. Last year, the running back in Green Bay (Eddie Lacy) failed physicals, and he was rookie of the year. These Alabama guys, they get beat up; they play through it. [Ravens linebacker] Courtney Upshaw had a bad shoulder, and he’s a rugged, tough guy.

“I hate to hear the Alabama guys get beat up [in the media] so much – and I’m an Auburn guy – because all they do is play through pain, and they have such a mental and physical toughness. They get in the NFL and they do the same thing. Sorry to strike a nerve, but I’ve just been hearing it so much.”

 

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B&B Big Story Banter: McClain & Ngata

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B&B Big Story Banter: McClain & Ngata

Posted on 18 April 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By; Brett Dickinson & Barry Kamen

BD: Barry, its been an interesting week for “Ravens” middle linebacker Rolando McClain.  After showing up a hour late for his team workout, he didn’t have a good outing.  McClain struggled the entire time on the field, being winded and could not even finish.  But the Ravens still activated him off the “retired” list. What do you make of the Rolando McClain situation and how will the team handle him?

BK: The case of Rolando McClain is a curious one indeed. A starter for a BCS National Championship team during his time at Alabama. A top 10 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Four arrests, including one not long after signing with the Ravens. Retirement from the NFL at age 24. Now, a potential comeback seems more like a dream than reality for McClain following this week’s workout with the team.

Seth Wickersham’s piece on Rolando McClain is a must-read for all interested Ravens fans. Written last October, it appeared that McClain’s retreat to Tuscaloosa helped clear his mind of things that were bothering him as an NFL player. The Alabama connection cannot be ignored; Rolando is a cousin of former Ravens fullback Le’Ron McClain, and general manager Ozzie Newsome loves getting players from his alma mater. With the news that the team activated him off of the retired/reserved list, it appears that the Ravens are committed to having McClain as a part of their team for the summer.

What bothers me most about the situation is McClain showing up late to his workout. This is the National Football League; be punctual. If an opportunity to play for the Baltimore Ravens does not mean enough to you to show up early, or even on time, you are in the wrong profession. With the NFL Draft approaching in the next couple weeks, there will be plenty of inside linebacker prospects who were not blessed with the talent of McClain, but will be working furiously to make an NFL team. Any expectations for McClain to see the field with the Ravens seem far-fetched. The Ravens should treat him as an undrafted free agent prospect, only giving him repetitions with the third-team players in drills, to see if it lights a fire. I have my doubts that there was any passion for the game in the first.

Haloti NgataIn another curious case, it was reported earlier in the week by NFL.com’s Albert Breer  that the Ravens offered defensive tackle Haloti Ngata a long-term extension to help alleviate Ngata’s large cap number. However, the offer was turned down by Ngata’s camp. Brett, your thoughts on the Ravens making this kind of offer to Ngata, and why would Ngata turn it down?

 

BD: This whole situation would have me pulling out my hair, if only I had any (I guess I can tug on my beard for a while).  First off, the idea of extending Ngata by the team is simply ridiculous.  We already went through this once, when the team re-upped with Terrell Suggs earlier this off season.  It seems like a mistake to just push off cap issues by keeping around a player on the decline; no matter what they have done for the organization in the past.

The NFL has been progressively becoming a young man’s game, with 30-something players becoming expendable because of wear and tear and high salary demands.  Ngata has not been the dominant player he once was for years, but still can be productive in the NFL for a couple of seasons.  The problem is what does it cost against the team’s salary cap?

Ozzie NewsomeThe Ravens have been pretty masterful of working around financial restrictions, but it will catch up to them sooner than later.  Player loyalty is nice to see, but is a dieing breed in the NFL.  Ozzie might have to catch up on this to keep the Ravens at a consistently high level of competition in the near future.

As far as Ngata turning down the deal, I believe the deal may have had an “out clause” where the team could cut him in a year or two.  We obviously do not have the figures, but it could have cost him money in the long term, as he is already due a large sum the next couple years.  In the end who am I to talk ill of Ozzie Newsome? But we may be seeing some faults in his approach. The team and the player may be better that this deal did not work out.

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Echoing the sentiments offered by head coach John Harbaugh and general Ozzie Newsome in recent weeks, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti offered his support to running back Ray Rice and reiterated that he will be part of the team in 2014.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun as the league meetings commenced in Orlando on Monday, Bisciotti described the incident as “disappointing” and one that the running back will live with for the rest of his life, but Rice’s future with the organization — at least for the upcoming season — isn’t in jeopardy regardless of how the legal situation is resolved. Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence in mid-February after the two allegedly struck one another with their hands.

“Ray will be here,” Bisciotti said. “This is a singular moment six years after we drafted him. It’s embarrassing for him and his fiancée. It is especially hard to see somebody that is proud of his reputation have to take this kind of public-relations hit.”

Atlantic City police referred the case to the county prosecutor’s office for review, but there’s been no update if any additional or different charges have been filed.

NOTES: The Ravens awarded Harbaugh with an extra year on his current contract, extending him through the 2017 season. Bisciotti said he offered an extra year to his head coach as a show of support that nothing has changed in his mind despite Baltimore missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2007. … Bisciotti also confirmed the Ravens will honor future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis with a statue planned to be unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium before the start of the 2014 season. The likeness of Lewis will stand in Unitas Plaza.

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What’s still out there for the Ravens in free agency?

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What’s still out there for the Ravens in free agency?

Posted on 17 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Almost a week into free agency, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been busy retaining his own free agents while also enticing veteran wide receiver Steve Smith to bring his impressive pedigree to the league’s 29th-ranked offense from a year ago.

Needs remain along the offensive line and at free safety, but the options are dwindling as is the team’s salary cap space with roughly $9 million available. That’s not to say those resources can’t be helpful to further augment the roster as preparations continue for the start of the NFL draft on May 8, but this is when teams often look for the best value in not only identifying players who truly represent upgrades from what they already have but signing them for the right price.

Secondary needs to the offensive line and free safety include a No. 3 cornerback, a blocking tight end, and another running back, but those are all areas in which the Ravens can likely use the draft to find quality depth.

Here’s a sampling of the better remaining options to address their needs:

S Ryan Clark
Skinny: The 34-year-old safety has played the last eight seasons in Pittsburgh, which would make his potential defection to Baltimore compelling if he has anything left on the field. In addition to the Ravens, Washington and the New York Jets are reportedly interested in Clark, who would give 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam a mentor in the defensive backfield. A 2011 Pro Bowl selection, Clark is nearing the end of his career and struggled in 2013 but isn’t that far removed from playing at a high level. The hard-hitting veteran doesn’t really fit the profile of the ball-hawking safety Newsome described at the start of the offseason, but he’s generally been strong in coverge in his career and collected 104 tackles and two interceptions last year.

S Thomas DeCoud
Skinny: The 28-year-old started all but two games for Atlanta over the last five seasons but has been plagued with inconsistency and is coming off a poor 2013 campaign in which he recorded 65 tackles, no interceptions, and only two pass breakups. The 2012 Pro Bowl safety had 14 interceptions from 2009 through 2012 but probably reminds Newsome and the front office too much of Michael Huff, who was one of the biggest free-agent busts in franchise history last year. DeCoud was cut by the Falcons earlier this month, meaning he wouldn’t count against the compensatory pick formula if the Ravens were to sign him.

S Chris Clemons
Skinny: Starting 32 games for the Miami Dolphins over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old has been solid but unspectacular in his five-year career. Clemons made 93 tackles and intercepted one pass last season with many observers wondering if the Dolphins downgraded in deciding to sign Louis Delmas to replace Clemons earlier this month. Much like Clark and DeCoud, Clemons doesn’t fit the part of what Newsome described in January, but the Ravens are unlikely to find a playmaking safety unless they draft one such as Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor of Louisville.

C Kyle Cook
Skinny: Cook started 66 games for the Bengals over the last five years and would represent a solid veteran option to compete with incumbent starter Gino Gradkowski and 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen at the center position this summer. The 30-year-old was the 24th-ranked center in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, but he was released by the Bengals at the start of free agency and wouldn’t cost the Ravens a compensatory pick. His experience in the AFC North is also something that could be of value in the front office’s eyes.

C Brian de la Puente
Skinny: Though New Orleans reportedly remains interested in re-signing the starting center, the 28-year-old would be more appealing than Cook and would likely find a similar market to Evan Dietrich-Smith, who signed a four-year, $14.25 million contract with Tampa Bay last week. Pro Football Focus graded De la Puente as the 16th-ranked center in the league last year, but he graded second in 2012 and would represent a clear upgrade to Gradkowski in the starting lineup. The Ravens have yet to be linked to de la Puente, but the New York Giants reportedly showed interest last week.

G Travelle Wharton
Skinny: He’ll be 33 in May, but Wharton graded out as the fifth-best guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus this past season after missing the entire 2012 campaign with a knee injury. Entering his 11th season, Wharton played with Steve Smith in Carolina for nearly a decade, so it will be interesting to see if the Ravens ask their new wide receiver what he thinks of his former teammate, who recently reiterated that he has no intentions of retiring. Should the Ravens sign the left guard, they could move Kelechi Osemele to right tackle to address the departure of Michael Oher.

RT Eric Winston
Skinny: The 30-year-old spent six years with Gary Kubiak in Houston, which would make him an enticing fit if not for the fact that he didn’t play well in Arizona this past season. Winston was the 69th-ranked tackle this season, which was one spot below Oher in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Still, his experience with the zone blocking scheme in Kubiak’s offense would be very attractive at the right price. The acquisition of a right tackle would also allow the Ravens to keep Osemele at left guard, the position where some think he can blossom into a Pro Bowl player if he proves to be healthy after last year’s back surgery.

TE Owen Daniels
Skinny: He doesn’t really fit the mold of what the Ravens are looking for in terms of a blocking-minded tight end, but his close relationship with Kubiak is too much to overlook in wondering if the 31-year-old would be an attractive addition to the passing game. Daniels was limited to five games last year but knows the intricacies of Kubiak’s system and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who has caught 54 or more passes four times in his career. With so many remaining needs, the Ravens would need to get excellent value in terms of price to make Daniels worth it and there hasn’t appeared to be much concrete interest beyond the initial reaction when he was released by the Texans last week.

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Ravens re-sign linebacker Daryl Smith to four-year contract

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Ravens re-sign linebacker Daryl Smith to four-year contract

Posted on 14 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Linebacker Daryl Smith received quite the present on his 32nd birthday in the form of a new four-year contract to remain with the Ravens.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 32-year-old agreed to a deal worth $16.1 million to remain with the same defense he led in tackles last season while taking over the position occupied by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.

Smith signed a one-year deal, $1.125 million deal that included an additional $1 million in playing-time incentives after he was limited to just two games in his ninth and final season in Jacksonville where he started his career. An early-June addition to the roster, the veteran went on to collect 123 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions to lead a defense that finished 12th in total yards and points allowed in 2013.

“I knew it was a one-year deal, but I was hoping I could come in and prove I could still play and I could still do this for a while,” Smith said in a team statement. “You really don’t know at the time. But as the season progressed, I felt better with the team and how I played, and I definitely wanted to be back.”

The sides had remained in negotiations for a couple weeks but struggled to close the gap as other veteran inside linebackers such as the 30-year-old D’Qwell Jackson and Karlos Dansby, 32, found deals averaging in the neighborhood of $5.5 million to $6 million per season. However, the market seemed to dry up inside linebackers as Smith elected to remain in Baltimore.

Smith becomes the fourth key player the Ravens have re-signed over the last two weeks, joining tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones. The Ravens also were hosting veteran wide receiver Steve Smith on a free-agent visit on Friday, adding to the excitement of the day.

“There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from Daryl Smith to stay a Raven,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a released statement. “He fills a need for us at a high level. Just look at his production last season, plus he gave us leadership and maturity. He’s tough, he’s consistent, he’s intelligent, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day.”

Stronger in pass coverage than against the run last year, Smith is expected to be paired with 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense with Josh Bynes serving as the primary backup. Smith and Brown should be a formidable duo in pass coverage, but questions will remain about their ability against the run as the veteran struggled to shed blocks last season and the 23-year-old Brown is trying to gain upper-body strength after being listed at a light 235 pounds during his rookie year.

The 6-2, 248-pound linebacker was one of only three NFL defensive players — the others being Lavonte David and Karlos Dansby — to post at least 100 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions in 2013. Smith has tallied 100 tackles in eight of his 10 professional seasons.

Smith was originally a second-round pick from Georgia Tech in the 2004 NFL draft.

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Weekend negotiating window doesn’t amount to much in NFL free agency

Posted on 08 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Though most attention remains on the official start of free agency at 4 p.m. Tuesday, NFL teams were allowed to begin contacting and entering into negotiations with the agents of pending outside free agents at noon on Saturday.

The NFL has made it clear that a contract cannot be executed with a new team prior to the start of the new league year on Tuesday afternoon in fear of leaks to the media occurring over the weekend, but all this three-day window really does is provide a ceremonial tampering period that’s already existed for the last several weeks.

During this negotiating window, prospective free agents may not visit a club at its permanent facility — or any other location — and may not have any direct contact with an employee or representative of the organization. Only certified agents are officially permitted to communicate with outside teams, but the truth is these discussions have been ongoing, with last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis long considered a haven for free-agent tampering.

How else do you explain a number of blockbuster deals being announced in the first hour — or opening minutes — of free agency in past years?

In reality, outside teams have already inquired about the likes of upper-tier free agents such as Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive tackle Arthur Jones just like general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore front office have slyly looked into outside free agents that could be a good fit for their 2014 roster. The three-day window set up by the league is merely a perception mechanism to help explain why a top free agent potentially has a new contract and a new team by 4:01 p.m. on Tuesday.

The negotiating window is only designed for unrestricted free agents and does not allow teams to reach out to franchise or transition tag players, restricted free agents, and exclusive-rights free agents. Of course, any free agents who were released earlier this offseason such as linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach are already free to sign with other teams.

Here is the press release that was published by the NFL regarding free agency earlier this week:

Q. When does the 2014 free agency signing period begin?

A. At 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11.

Q. What is permitted during the three-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency?

A. Beginning at 12:00 noon ET on Saturday, March 8 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 11, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2013 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

During this negotiation period, a prospective unrestricted free agent cannot visit a club (other than the player’s current club) at its permanent facility or at any other location, and no direct contact is permitted between the player and any employee or representative of a club (other than the player’s current club). If a player is self-represented, clubs are prohibited from discussions with the player during the negotiating period.

Clubs (other than the player’s current club) may not discuss or make any travel arrangements with prospective unrestricted free agent players, their certified agents, or anyone else associated with the player until the expiration of those players’ 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

The three-day negotiating period applies only to potential unrestricted free agents; it does not apply to players who are potential Exclusive Rights Players or Restricted Free Agents, or to players who have been designated as Franchise Players or Transition Players.

Q. What are the categories of free agency?

A. Players are either “Restricted Free Agents” or “Unrestricted Free Agents.” A Restricted Free Agent may be subject to a qualifying offer. A Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agent may be designated by his prior club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?

A. For Restricted Free Agents, from March 11 to May 2. For Unrestricted Free Agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior club, from March 11 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For Franchise Players, from March 11 until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, November 11. For Transition Players, from March 11 until July 22. If the above-listed players do not sign by November 11, they must sit out the season.

Q. What is the difference between a Restricted Free Agent and an Unrestricted Free Agent?

A. In the 2014 League Year, players with three accrued seasons become Restricted Free Agents when their contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013 League Year. Unrestricted Free Agents have completed four or more accrued seasons. An Unrestricted Free Agent is free to sign with any club with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.

Q. What constitutes an “Accrued Season”?

A. Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Q. What could restrict the ability of a Restricted Free Agent to sign with a new club?

A. If he has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through May 2. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed on or before May 2, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player. No Restricted Free Agents were designated as Franchise or Transition players this year.

Q. What determines an Unrestricted Free Agent?

A. A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, his negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club if by June 1 the old club tendered the player a one-year contract for 110 percent of his prior year’s salary. His old club then has until the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (November 11) to sign him. If he does not sign by that date, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

Q. What determines a Franchise Player?

A. The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.

An “exclusive” Franchise Player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period on May 2; or (ii) the amount of the required tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.

Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the required tender for such a player:

The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years . . . ; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year . . . (the “Cap Percentage Average”) . . . ; or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater . . . .

If a club extends a required tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.

Q. How many Franchise Players and Transition Players can a team designate each season?

A. A club can designate one “Franchise” Player or one “Transition” Player among its potential restricted or unrestricted free agents.

Q. Can a club decide to withdraw its Franchise or Transition designations on a player?

A. Yes. A club can withdraw its Franchise or Transition designation, and the player then automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent, either immediately or when his contract expires.

Q. What is the salary cap for 2014?

A. The salary cap is $133,000,000 per club.

Q. When must teams be in compliance with the cap?

A. At the start of the 2014 League Year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 11.

Q. If a team is under the salary cap at the end of a given season, can the team carry over room to the next season?

A. Yes. A team may “carry over” room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice to the NFL prior to 4:00 p.m. ET on the day before the team’s final regular-season game indicating the maximum amount of room that the club wishes to carry over.

Q. What is the maximum amount of room that a club can carry over?

A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

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