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Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis added to Ravens’ defensive line depth

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally addressed their defense in the third round with the selection of Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis with the 90th overall pick.

And it’s clear the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman is out to prove to other teams that he shouldn’t have lasted so long on the board with some pundits previously projecting him to go as early as the end of the first round. Despite not having much contact with Davis during the evaluation process, the Ravens felt fortunate to have him fall into their laps.

“I feel like I’m one of the best defensive tackles in this year’s draft,” said Davis, who didn’t think he was on the Ravens’ radar. “I saw a lot of guys that got picked ahead of me, and that puts a chip on my shoulder. I feel like, especially when I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, there’s nobody that can stop me. I feel like I’m that much of a dominant player.”

In his senior season with the Hawkeyes, Davis was named second-team all-Big Ten after collecting 36 tackles (nine of them for a loss) and two sacks.

Davis is considered a strong run-stopping lineman who will help fill the void of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The Ravens will likely count on 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan to step into the 3-techinique spot, but his slighter build could be replaced by Davis in short-yardage situations next to nose tackle Brandon Williams. Davis expressed confidence that he’ll be able to play all over the defensive line, which is a valuable asset with defensive coordinator Dean Pees preferring versatility in the rotation.

The Ravens were impressed with Davis’ dominating performance at the Senior Bowl and were even more surprised to find his combination of size and speed available late in the third round. The defensive line faces a tall order in replacing Ngata’s production, but Davis sounded more than willing to embrace the challenge as the Ravens have now taken a defensive tackle in the second or third round in each of the last three drafts.

“Somebody has to carry the fire, somebody has to make the tradition go on, and why not be me?” Davis said. “I know they’ve got other guys up there [like] Jernigan. Those are terrific players. I plan on learning from those guys that have already been there and know and played next to Haloti. He’s a great player, but he’s human just like we both are. And if he can do it, I feel like I can do it.”

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perriman

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Ravens swing for fences with speedy wideout Perriman

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens swung for the fences with their first-round selection of Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman on Thursday night.

Less than two months after watching speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith depart via free agency, general manager Ozzie Newsome came away with a bigger and faster version of the 2011 second-round pick who will immediately give the passing game a much-needed vertical threat. Of course, the Ravens’ struggles in developing talent at the position are no secret as Perriman became the first receiver drafted by the organization in the first round since Mark Clayton in 2005, making you wonder if it will finally be different this time around.

Clayton? Disappointing.

Their 2000 first-round receiver Travis Taylor? A flop.

No, we can’t forget the laundry list of disappointing names, even after Smith served as the exception to the rule over the last four years.

Baltimore hopes the son of former 10-year NFL receiver Brett Perriman becomes their greatest success story at the position yet after Smith left the franchise ranked second in all-time touchdown receptions and third in career receiving yards. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Perriman is easily the most physically-gifted receiver the Ravens have drafted in their 20-year history after he ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.3 seconds at his pro day.

With the Ravens in desperate need of a receiver to blow the top off opposing defenses, the selection looks good on paper.

“I saw a big, fast, physical stallion,” said assistant general manager Eric DeCosta about his impressions watching Perriman’s game tape at Newsome’s urging in February. “A younger player; he’s going to get better. We’re very excited about him. He complements our group of guys extremely well. I think he’s a great kid, and I think he makes us a better football team.”

Perriman doesn’t come without questions as his highlight-reel plays and 20.8 yards per catch average at UCF the last two years were too often offset by inconsistent hands resulting in “concentration drops” as Newsome described them. Primarily used in the vertical passing game, the 21-year-old will need to prove he can run the entire route tree, something that prohibited Smith from becoming a bona fide No. 1 receiver in his time with Baltimore.

At the very least, the Ravens will break even if Perriman can be as good as Smith was over his first four years. The University of Maryland product may have only been a second-round pick compared to Perriman being a first-rounder, but the Ravens will pay the latter a fraction of the $40 million contract Smith signed with San Francisco in March.

Ultimately, Perriman’s selection represents the Ravens’ best attempt to find 30-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco a true No. 1 receiver. It doesn’t need to happen immediately with veteran Steve Smith still present to lead a young group of wideouts, but the Ravens haven’t aimed this high at the position at any point during Flacco’s career.

After Perriman caught 115 passes for 2,243 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three collegiate seasons — two of them playing with current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles — it’s clear the Ravens envision much more after he declared for the draft as a junior.

“This is a developmental receiver who has gotten a lot better in the last two years,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He really played well in the last five or six games of this past season. We think he’s on the rise. He rose for a reason in the draft as far as in the past couple months in the draft process, and we are really excited about him as a coaching staff.”

The Ravens have found productive veterans over age 30 (Steve Smith, Derrick Mason, and Anquan Boldin) over the years and taken fliers on late-round picks such as Tommy Streeter, Aaron Mellette, and Michael Campanaro over the year, but drafting Perriman is their strongest attempt yet to find a top-flight receiver after using a second-round pick on Smith four years ago. His upside is easy to see, but receivers with his skill set are difficult to project as his hands could ultimately be his undoing despite such impressive physical gifts.

Perriman’s selection might ultimately prove to be a whiff, but Newsome hopes his speed, size, and football pedigree make for a winning combination while also maximizing Flacco’s ability in the prime of his career.

Selecting a receiver like Perriman is a risk, but it’s worth it if the Ravens can take their offense to the next level.

Sometimes you just have to try to knock one out of the park.

“I feel I had my best visit that I had by far [with the Ravens],” Perriman said. “That was actually the team that I was wishing to go to. I know it’s a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to get there.”

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Ravens with six remaining picks in 2015 NFL draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2 p.m. Saturday)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have six remaining picks in this year’s NFL draft.

With a clear need remaining at cornerback and other positional wants such as running back, edge pass rusher, safety, interior offensive lineman, and kick returner, the Ravens will be busy continuing to build a 2015 roster capable of making the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight years. Of course, general manager Ozzie Newsome will stay true to his draft board with a sterling record of success overly nearly two decades in Baltimore.

While player personnel assistants Corey Krawiec and Patrick McDonough will represent the Ravens at the draft in Chicago, Newsome and the rest of the Ravens brass will be working hard at their Owings Mills headquarters. Teams have 10 minutes to select a player in the first round, seven minutes in the second round, and five minutes in each of the remaining rounds.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are currently scheduled to pick:

Round 1 (26th overall): Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman
Round 2 (55th overall): Minnesota TE Maxx Williams
Round 3 (90th overall): Iowa DT Carl Davis
Round 4 (122nd overall): Kentucky DE Za’Darius Smith
Round 4 (125th overall): USC RB Buck Allen
Round 4 (136th overall – compensatory): Texas Southern CB Tray Walker
Round 5 (171st overall – compensatory): Delaware TE Nick Boyle
Round 5 (175th overall – compensatory): Tennessee State G Robert Myers
Round 6 (203rd overall): Georgia Tech WR Darren Waller

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newsome

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With many needs, Newsome, Ravens need to strike gold in 2015 draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

I’m intrigued and, frankly, surprised as the Ravens are only hours away from the 2015 draft.

No one should doubt the ability of general manager Ozzie Newsome to find talent in this year’s draft class — especially with 10 scheduled selections — but can you recall a year in recent memory in which the Ravens have had so many needs?

Wide receiver and tight end are the positions most glaring, but Baltimore also can’t afford to make the same mistake two years in a row by failing to add a No. 3 cornerback behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, two players with injury history. That’s not counting the list of wants that includes a running back, an edge pass rusher, a safety, a run-stopping defensive tackle, and an interior offensive lineman.

A lot of holes to fill, no matter how well you evaluate talent.

As you’d expect, the Ravens will stay true to their draft board, creating an abundance of possibilities as they’re not scheduled to pick until 26th overall in the first round.

“We’ll value the board,” Newsome said earlier this month. “We’ll watch it very closely, and as we get close to our pick if there’s somebody that we really covet, then we’ll [move up] and get him. If not, we’ll just value all the guys that are available to us.”

All along, I expected the Ravens to swap a pick or two for a veteran player as they did last spring with the acquisition of starting center Jeremy Zuttah and two years ago with the in-season acquisition of starting left tackle Eugene Monroe. Of course, a move of that sort could still be in the works during the draft or even in the days after with the Ravens once again projected to net multiple compensatory picks next year.

But the Ravens appear too vulnerable at more than one spot, which is not a position you want to be in if you truly want to draft the best player available while minimizing the number of holes on your roster entering training camp.

“It would be really helpful for us to do that,” said head coach John Harbaugh last month about the desire to make more additions before the draft. “Obviously, the more you can add before the draft, it takes pressure off of the draft to chase a position need. The more we can do that, obviously, the better off we’ll be.”

The Ravens have signed safety Kendrick Lewis and backup quarterback Matt Schaub as their only notable additions of the offseason while they’ve lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart, and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Wednesday’s ESPN report of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett being on the trading block creates natural speculation that the Ravens could be in the mix. New Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is obviously familiar with the 28-year-old, who had the best seasons of his NFL career playing under the former Bears head coach.

Armed with more than $10 million in cap space and needing a tight end, the Ravens might be willing and able to give Bennett the new contract he reportedly desires if they can pull off a trade. If possible, it would be wise to eliminate one of their biggest needs, especially at a position that’s thin in this year’s draft.

Otherwise, Newsome will need to be at his best — while having the board really cooperate — to address the Ravens’ biggest needs while also satisfying a few wants over the next three days.

 

 

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jimmysmith

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Ravens reach contract extension with cornerback Jimmy Smith

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A little over a week away from the NFL draft, the Ravens have reached a contract extension with one of their best draft picks in recent years by coming to terms with cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Originally scheduled to earn $6.898 million in the fifth-year team option of his rookie contract this season, Smith will now make up to $48 million over the next five years with $21 million fully guaranteed, according to Pro Football Talk. The extension includes a $13 million signing bonus, a guaranteed $1 million base salary for 2015, and a $7 million guaranteed base salary next season, per multiple outlets.

The 2011 first-round pick was in the midst of the best season of his career when he suffered a season-ending foot injury last October. Graded by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-best cornerback in the NFL through the first seven weeks of 2014, Smith suffered a Lisfranc injury against Cincinnati on Oct. 26 that eventually required season-ending surgery on his left foot.

“For me, it was never truly about being the highest-paid corner,” Smith said. “I know I couldn’t be that on this team and be here just because of the talent already spread around. You have to pay other people. I knew that going into this [that it] would be that with the injury and all that. All those things came to mind, but it worked out.”

Smith had collected 28 tackles, an interception, and six pass breakups prior to the injury. The 6-foot-2 corner has secured five interceptions in his career.

After two disappointing and injury-riddled seasons to begin his NFL career, Smith is a good example of exercising patience with draft picks who don’t immediately blossom into starters. To show how far the Colorado product has come in two years, he began the 2012 postseason as the No. 4 cornerback behind even Chykie Brown on the depth chart before eventually making key plays on the final defensive series to protect a 34-31 win over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.

General manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear this offseason that keeping Smith in Baltimore beyond the 2015 season would be a priority. The Ravens would also like to sign guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and kicker Justin Tucker to long-term deals as they enter the final year of their current contracts.

“I think that his best football is still ahead of him,” Newsome said. “If he doesn’t get hurt in the Cincinnati game last year, I don’t know where he could have ended up as a player, but he was definitely trending up. I just want to thank Jimmy for committing five more years of football to us, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The deal does not come without some risk, however, as Smith has battled a number of injuries throughout his career and missed 17 games in his first four seasons.

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mosley

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Separating wants from needs as Ravens approach NFL draft

Posted on 16 April 2015 by Luke Jones

In football and in life, wants and needs are relative terms often used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be.

As we’re finally two weeks away from the NFL draft, the line between those wants and needs has been blurred by the saturation of too many mock drafts as well as the attempt to decipher the truths, half-truths, and outright lies told by executives around the league.

We all know the Ravens will take the “best player available” and will “stay true to the board” over the three-day event, but it’s difficult to recall a time in recent years when they’ve had this many apparent needs going into the draft. With all significant free-agent activity over, below is a look at which positions remain real needs and which ones are merely wants.

Wide receiver — NEED
Skinny: I’d be more inclined to buy into the hype about Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro if this weren’t the same organization that thought it could find a starting receiver among Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, and Tandon Doss two years ago. The trio of young receivers do show promise, but a team with Super Bowl aspirations can’t count on two former undrafted free agents and a 2014 seventh-round selection to be enough opposite veteran Steve Smith. The Ravens have done too good a job trying to convince everyone that they don’t need a receiver for them not to take one early, whether it’s a Jaelen Strong or Breshad Perriman in the first round or coming away with a wideout like Devin Smith or Devin Funchess in the second round.

Pass rusher — WANT
Skinny: Make no mistake, this one likely tops their list of wants, but the Ravens aren’t doomed if they don’t find a replacement for Pernell McPhee, who was a unique talent but not always consistent in his four years in Baltimore. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are still a formidable duo while Timmy Jernigan looks like a perfect candidate to help pick up the slack with some of the inside pressure that McPhee was so good at applying. The Ravens hope defensive end Brent Urban can also be part of that pass-rush equation, but he will need to prove he’s healthy. Perhaps outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw finally seizes the opportunity to rush the quarterback more often, but he’s never shown a consistent ability to do it at the NFL level.

Tight end — NEED
Skinny: Even if Dennis Pitta returns to football or Crockett Gillmore is ready to become a starter, another tight end is needed if the offense is serious about continuing to use the same system installed by former coordinator Gary Kubiak last season. The problem will be trying to find one as Minnesota’s Maxx Williams or Miami’s Clive Walford would be a reach at 26th overall, but both could be gone by the time the Ravens’ second-round pick rolls around. There are a few other decent mid-round options such as Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman, Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, or even Penn State’s Jesse James, but none of the aforementioned prospects scream immediate starter, which will put substantial pressure on Gillmore going into the 2015 season if the Ravens don’t add another veteran.

Running back — WANT
Skinny: There’s been plenty of conjecture about the Ravens selecting Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley in the first round, but you’ll have a tough time convincing me there’s enough value there unless either rapidly becomes one of the top four or five backs in the NFL. The release of Bernard Pierce shouldn’t faze anyone considering he was a major disappointment over the last two years anyway. The combination of Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro is enough with such a formidable offensive line in front of them. With an eye toward the future, the Ravens will still have a good chance to grab a solid back in the middle rounds such as Northern Iowa’s David Johnson, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, but it’s not the pressing need some have made it out to be.

Cornerback — NEED
Skinny: There’s validity to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s assessment that the position will be in better shape with the return of Jimmy Smith, but let’s not pretend the pass defense was playing that well before his injury last year. Rashaan Melvin showed promise as a solid depth corner, but neither he nor Asa Jackson — who will be coming off a knee injury and wasn’t very good when he played in 2014 anyway — should be penciled in as a No. 3-caliber corner. With Smith having a history of injuries and Lardarius Webb turning 30 this season, the Ravens are again begging for trouble if they put too much confidence in their current cast of corners. If it’s not a first-round talent such as Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters, a second-round corner such as Quinten Rollins or Ronald Darby would be quite desirable.

Interior offensive lineman — WANT
Skinny: Center Jeremy Zuttah had offseason hip surgery and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are scheduled to become free agents next winter, making it a slam dunk that the Ravens would like to add another interior lineman to go with 2014 fifth-round choice John Urschel. It isn’t a necessity for 2015, but Newsome could find himself in a tough spot a year from now if the Ravens don’t pick up a lineman in the middle-to-late rounds this year.

Defensive tackle — WANT
Skinny: Even if Timmy Jernigan is ready to step into the gigantic shoes left behind by Haloti Ngata, the Ravens lack an obvious backup to swing between the 3-technique and Brandon Williams’ nose tackle spot, which could be an issue if they don’t add a bulky defensive lineman. A mid-to-late-round talent with upside such as Ellis McCarthy of UCLA would make a lot of sense to give the defensive line a boost in short-yardage situations.

Safety — WANT
Skinny: Not that the combination of Will Hill and the newly-signed Kendrick Lewis will make anyone forget about Ed Reed, but there just aren’t any safeties in this draft beyond Landon Collins of Alabama who represent a clear upgrade over what the Ravens already have. The return of 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks from the knee injury he suffered late last year will be an improvement over anything else they would likely come away with in this draft.

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Ravens host red-flag prospects Peters, Green-Beckham for visits

Posted on 08 April 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With cornerback and wide receiver being two of their biggest needs, the Ravens are apparently exploring two of the most talented but troubled prospects in this year’s draft.

On Wednesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome revealed the Ravens have hosted Washington cornerback Marcus Peters and Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham for pre-draft visits at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills. Peters and Green-Beckham were both dismissed from programs during their collegiate careers.

“We’ve been able to do additional work,” Newsome said. “We will spend next week with basically our third set of meetings with the scouts, and coming out of those meetings we will have a better idea of where players will rank as far as our board is concerned. But, they both have been in the building.”

Considered a first-round talent and arguably the most-talented cornerback in the draft, Peters has seen his character come under question after he clashed with the Huskies coaching staff on more than one occasion, leading to his dismissal from the team last November. The 6-foot corner allowed just over 38 percent of targets against him to be completed and had 24 pass breakups and eight interceptions in his final two seasons at Washington.

There are even more serious questions about Green-Beckham, who has been charged twice for marijuana possession and was dismissed from Missouri after allegedly pushing a woman down several stairs. The 6-foot-5 receiver wasn’t charged in the incident, but the Ravens’ history with former running back Ray Rice would make Green-Beckham a very difficult sell from a public relations standpoint.

He transferred to Oklahoma last year but did not play for the Sooners due to NCAA transfer restrictions. From an ability standpoint, Green-Beckham is considered a top-10 talent by many evaluators, but his off-field issues are a serious concern.

Of course, pre-draft visits shouldn’t be taken as a definitive sign that Baltimore would be willing to draft either player. Newsome said in late February that it would very difficult to add a player with a history of domestic violence in wake of the Rice saga.

“We don’t treat anybody exactly the same,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We consider all the different situations and circumstances, and we make a decision. And we’re not there yet. We have a lot more work to do. We have meetings next week. We have a set of meetings after that, the last week before the draft. We’ll talk about every situation that occurs and make decisions based on that.”

The Ravens have also reportedly met with two other troubled prospects: Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams and Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory. Williams was arrested for driving under the influence earlier this month while Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine in February.

How the organization has evaluated character has understandably come under scrutiny with eight players being arrested since Feb. 2014. No matter how diligent a team might be in doing its homework, even the “safest” prospects with no red flags are no guarantee to stay out of trouble over the next few years.

Which is all the more reason for the Ravens to stay away from the ones with a not-so-flattering track record if they’re truly concerned about repairing their image over the next year or two.

“We will do any and everything that we can to make sure the 10, 11 or six, seven, or eight players who we bring into Baltimore will hopefully stay out of trouble,” Newsome said. “We’ll probably do the extra work on that. But there’s not a guarantee that it’s going to happen. It’s just impossible for us to guarantee that.”

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Is paralysis by analysis hurting Ravens at receiver?

Posted on 07 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A month after watching starting wide receiver Torrey Smith depart via free agency, the Ravens have expressed a strong sentiment this offseason.

They’re not panicking at the wide receiver position. Of course, a tight salary cap left them on the outside looking in with the top options available on the free-agent market, but the Ravens have given no clear indications that they’ve actively been trying to add a solid veteran to a mix that includes a soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith and no other receiver who registered more than 24 catches last season.

Instead, the organization has talked up its current group of young receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro — while attempting to throw cold water on the notion that they’re desperate for a starter. Last week, owner Steve Bisciotti spent more time discussing the need for a pass rusher and another tight end rather than a wide receiver in a conference call with season-ticket holders.

Of course, it’s the season of smokescreens around the NFL, so anything said at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. But you can count on general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz offering the same synopsis of the wide receiver position that they typically do.

“The wide receiver draft class is deep,” Harbaugh said at the league meetings in Arizona last month. “I think there are options for the Ravens in rounds one through seven. It’s always hard. Every position is different. We’ve done studies on that as far as the success rate in different rounds at different positions.

“Receiver is a little bit of a crapshoot in the first round. It turns out, it’s a crapshoot in every round. A lot of receivers, they’ve been seventh-round picks, fifth-round picks, third-round pick receivers that have turned out to be Hall of Fame-type players. Then, you’ve got first-round picks that have never really done anything. Obviously, your chances are higher the higher you pick a guy. But it’s hard to predict.”

Harbaugh’s right on both accounts. This year’s draft class of wide receivers is one of the best in recent memory with many analysts projecting upwards of five or six being taken in the first round with plenty of quality depth available in subsequent rounds.

Drafting a wide receiver is a tricky proposition with the results all over the map around the league. The Ravens have certainly had a slew of misses with first-round disappointments Travis Taylor (2000) and Mark Clayton (2005) as well as a number of other failed picks before finally hitting on Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft.

But the expression of being able to take a receiver in any of the seven rounds will remind observers of the Ravens’ recent years in which they haven’t drafted a wideout outside the sixth or seventh round since 2011. It’s fair to wonder if some paralysis by analysis exists with the Ravens not taking even a moderate risk at the position in any of the last three drafts when wide receiver was at least a consensus area to improve.

The run began in 2012 with the sixth-round selection of Tommy Streeter, who never played a regular-season snap in Baltimore.

“Really the whole draft, there are guys in each round that can help us,” Hortiz said prior to the 2013 draft when the Ravens needed a receiver after trading Anquan Boldin. “There is a really solid core group of guys in the middle rounds that I think will go in the second or third round that will be solid, dependable starters in the NFL.”

The Ravens came away with only Aaron Mellette in the seventh round that year and struggled in the passing game on their way to missing the playoffs for the only time in the Harbaugh era. Mellette never played a snap for the Ravens, but the organization deserves credit for signing Brown as an undrafted free agent that year and he’s exceeded expectations in his first two seasons.

Last year when Torrey Smith was entering the final season of his rookie contract and newcomer Steve Smith was entering his 14th NFL season, Newsome repeated a familiar assessment about another class of wide receivers held in high regard.

“I would say that’s a position where you could probably draft a player in any of the seven rounds, and I think our board stacks that way,” Newsome said. “If there is an opportunity for us to add another receiver, we will definitely do it based on the way our board is stacked right now.”

The Ravens did take Campanaro in the seventh round, and the 5-foot-9 Wake Forset product shows some promise to be a contributor if he can remain healthy. But he was unable to do that last year as he dealt with two different hamstring injuries and a rib injury. As Harbaugh has suggested, Campanaro can’t be counted on until he proves he can stay on the field.

The lack of movement to add a veteran through free agency or trade over the last month only raises the need to add a wide receiver in the draft. And even though the consensus top three receivers in the draft — West Virginia’s Kevin White, Alabama’s Amari Cooper, and Louisville’s DeVante Parker — are expected to be gone by the time the Ravens pick 26th in the first round, a number of intriguing options should be available over the first two days.

Yes, it’s the one position in the draft in which the otherwise-shrewd Newsome has struggled, but the Ravens can’t focus so much on risk aversion that they’re caught standing on the sideline while receivers come off the board in the first few rounds.

A repeat of two years ago cannot happen if the Ravens want to be back in championship contention for 2015.

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Ravens awarded three compensatory picks in 2015 draft

Posted on 23 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The annual sting of free-agent losses brought its reward Monday as the Ravens were awarded three compensatory picks in this spring’s NFL draft.

At the league meetings in Phoenix, the NFL announced that the Ravens would receive three compensatory selections with one coming in the fourth and two in the fifth. This marks the third straight year in which Baltimore has received at least three or the maximum of four compensatory picks.

The Ravens are now scheduled to have 10 selections in the 2015 draft. They own one first, one second, one third, three fourths, three fifths, and a sixth-round pick.

After losing free agents Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee, Owen Daniels, Darian Stewart, and Tyrod Taylor earlier this month, the Ravens learned they would officially receive the reward of three extra selections from last winter’s exodus that included defensive tackle Arthur Jones, offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Corey Graham, and safety James Ihedigbo. General manager Ozzie Newsome signed only one unrestricted free agent, safety Darian Stewart, last offseason.

Though the detailed formula has never been paid public, compensatory pick determinations are based on the salary, playing time, and postseason honors earned by unrestricted free agents who left their teams in the previous offseason. Because the Ravens lost four notable unrestricted free agents and signed only one, they received three picks.

The Ravens could have received a fourth compensatory pick for the departure of tight end Ed Dickson, but it fell outside the cap of 32 total picks awarded to teams.

Teams are not allowed to trade compensatory picks, but they serve as collateral when looking to deal regular picks to either move up the draft board or to acquire veteran players. The Ravens have used regular draft picks to acquire two starting offensive linemen — left tackle Eugene Monroe and center Jeremy Zuttah — in the last two years.

Since the program was introduced in 1994, the Ravens have led the NFL in receiving 44 compensatory picks as the organization has often refrained from signing many unrestricted free agents over the years while losing many of their own. Green Bay is a distant second with 35 compensatory picks over that period of time.

In recent years, Newsome has used compensatory choices on the likes of former Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee, current starting fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and current right tackle Rick Wagner. In the 2014 draft, the Ravens selected tight end Crockett Gillmore, defensive end Brent Urban, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, and guard John Urschel with compensatory picks.

Below is a history of the Ravens’ compensatory picks since 1996 with the round in which the player was selected noted in parentheses:

1996: none
1997: LB Cornell Brown (sixth), QB Wally Richardson (seventh), S Ralph Staten (seventh), DT Leland Taylor (seventh)
1998: TE Cam Qualey (seventh)
1999: G Edwin Mulitalo (fourth)
2000: none
2001: none
2002: WR Javin Hunter (sixth), RB Chester Taylor (sixth), S Chad Williams (sixth)
2003: FB Ovie Mughelli (fourth), OT Tony Pashos (fifth), C Mike Mabry (seventh), S Antwoine Sanders (seventh)
2004: WR Clarence Moore (sixth), WR Derek Abney (seventh), G Brian Rimpf (seventh)
2005: QB Derek Anderson (sixth)
2006: RB P.J. Daniels (fourth), TE Quinn Sypniewski (fifth), P Sam Koch (sixth), CB Derrick Martin (sixth)
2007: LB Antwan Barnes (fourth), FB Le’Ron McClain (fourth), QB Troy Smith (fifth), LB Prescott Burgess (sixth)
2008: OL Oniel Cousins (third), OL David Hale (fourth), S Haruki Nakamura (sixth), RB Allen Patrick (seventh)
2009: none
2010: none
2011: CB Chykie Brown (fifth), DE Pernell McPhee (fifth)
2012: S Christian Thompson (fourth), CB Asa Jackson (fifth)
2013: FB Kyle Juszczyk (fourth), OT Rick Wagner (fifth), OL Ryan Jensen (sixth), CB Marc Anthony (seventh)
2014: TE Crockett Gillmore (third), DE Brent Urban (fourth), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth), G John Urschel (fifth)

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Ravens have lost benefit of doubt in taking chances with character

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than a month ago, Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens “took a crash” last season with the Ray Rice saga and four other offseason arrests.

His comments were made in the midst of director of security Darren Sanders’ legals problems and a few weeks after the release of defensive tackle Terrence Cody (felony animal cruelty). Since Bisciotti suggested these kinds of off-field problems “come in waves,” cornerback Victor Hampton and running back Bernard Pierce were each arrested on driving under the influence charges and promptly released.

Any sliver of a benefit of the doubt that might have remained following a nightmarish 2014 calendar year is now gone, regardless of the extensive list of high-character individuals who do exist in the organization.

“In order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did,” Bisciotti said on Feb. 24. “Now, it’s about proving that it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case. Are we a little more aware? Yes, I think specifically if you go back to the Ray Rice thing, we certainly are more aware. We’ve been able to tap resources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity and our responsibility.”

There’s only so much that can be done to prevent current members of your organization from getting in trouble. You can look for gaps or needs in your player development program and try to monitor off-field behavior as much as you’d like, but they’re ultimately grown men who make their own choices.

The Ravens have followed through with Bisciotti’s mention of showing more responsibility by disposing of Cody, Hampton, and Pierce, even if they weren’t expected to be notable performers for the 2015 Ravens. It remains to be seen what would happen — and the Ravens hope they won’t be faced with the possibility — if a star performer were to be arrested.

But it would be even better if players — insignificant ones or not — weren’t finding trouble in the first place. Even after ridding themselves of the three players arrested this offseason, the stigma remains with the Ravens.

And that’s where the organization needs to be more proactive and vigilant with the player additions that they make, for reasons of both perception and reality. The Ravens have long taken pride in providing an environment for second chances, but they’re not in a position to do that right now.

“The one area we will definitely take a hard look – and it will be tough for us to bring a player to Baltimore – is someone who has domestic abuse in their background,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “Other than that, we’ll exhaust every character aspect of the player, but we believe in allowing the information to lead us to a decision when we deal with that. Our scouts do an unbelievable job of getting information when they are on the campuses.”

The standard needs to be higher with not only domestic violence concerns but in any matters that raise red flags away from the field. No breath can be wasted on draft prospects such as talent wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham or other outside additions with any inkling of past trouble.

It’s the current climate in which the organization is living in the wake of the last 13 months.

A few years ago, the Ravens enjoyed the benefit of the doubt in drafting a player with character concerns coming out of college like cornerback Jimmy Smith, but they’re no longer living in that world. While no one would have predicted what happened with Rice, let’s not pretend that Hampton and Pierce — the two most recently arrested — had spotless backgrounds.

Does staying away from questionable character narrow the talent pool? Yes, but not to the point where the Ravens won’t be able to compete given their ability to find good football players.

An isolated incident here or there is unavoidable, but eight player arrests in 13 months can’t be viewed as an aberration if you really care about your image.

The organization has a problem and must do better in bringing in players they can trust on and off the field.

Or the positive reputation the Ravens once enjoyed will be lost for good.

 

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