Tag Archive | "ozzie newsome"

Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

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Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

Posted on 27 June 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made no secrets about their desire to sign the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, and Jimmy Smith to long-term contracts, but Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker has been added to that list.

In an interview with the team’s official website, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens would like to sign the third-year kicker to a new deal as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. An undrafted free agent from the University of Texas, Tucker signed a three-year, $1.44 million contract in 2012 and is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after the season.

Tucker was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013 after going 30-for-33 on field goal attempts, including a 6-for-6 effort and a franchise record 61-yard field goal to win the Week 15 game against the Detroit Lions. He also made 33 consecutive field goals at one point during the season, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

Newsome confirmed the Ravens are also trying to extend two fourth-year players, cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith, who have both expressed a desire to remain with the team that drafted them in 2011.

“We’re trying to get these done,” Newsome said, “but we haven’t yet.”

Newsome also reiterated a desire to sign Ngata to an extension as he is signed through the 2015 season but carries a $16 million salary cap figure in each of the final two years of his deal, leaving many to ponder his future beyond this year.

The Ravens were able to sign fellow veteran Terrell Suggs earlier in the offseason to a four-year extension that runs through the 2018 season, lowering his 2014 cap number from $12.4 million to $7.8 million in the process.

“We wanted two things from these contracts,” Newsome told the team’s official website. “The first is to create some cap room and the other is to try and make sure these two players remained Ravens forever. We got ‘Sizzle’ done, and we’re still hopeful with Haloti.”

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice was never going to win when he finally broke his silence on Friday.

Making his first public comments since a domestic incident in an Atlantic City casino in February forever changed his life, the Ravens running back wasn’t going to find words to brighten the opinions of the many who are justifiably angry and he may never improve the feelings of some. The parameters of declining to answer questions and scheduling the session on a Friday afternoon entering a holiday weekend created skepticism before Rice and his wife, Janay, ever stepped in front of cameras at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills.

The missteps have already been picked apart, ranging from Rice fumbling with his phone to look at notes and offering an ill-suited analogy of getting up after being knocked down to his wife taking some responsibility for what happened — a public relations nightmare for a domestic violence incident — and the couple appearing distant with one another throughout the proceedings. What may have been a respectable desire to speak from the heart instead of reading a prepared statement was poorly executed as Rice has been known to occasionally ramble and speak in circles in his press conferences over the years.

But it was what he failed to say from the very beginning that ultimately doomed his first attempt to begin rebuilding his public image.

Oversight or not, Rice failed to directly and publicly apologize to his wife — the woman who sat next to him and in front of the entire world on Friday — while he expressed sorrow to others and spoke of his relationship with her growing stronger since the events of February 15. That’s not to assume the 27-year-old hasn’t apologized profusely to his wife in private, but if the goal of Friday’s event was to show his remorse and begin rehabilitating his image in the public eye, it needed to start with a direct appeal to the person impacted most by what happened at the Revel Casino.

Before apologizing to owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, or anyone else, Rice needed to show the world how much he loved the woman sitting next to him and how deeply sorry he was to her. Perhaps the intent was to present a strong and composed partnership between the two, but his lack of an immediate and personal apology to his wife at the beginning made the rest of his words ring hollow.

“As me and Janay wish we could take back 30 seconds of our life,” Rice said, “we definitely sit here today and tell you that we are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout the situation. And as our families sit here today, we want to just thank you for encouraging us.”

Even with the harsh criticism over what transpired Friday, Rice is fully capable of rehabilitating his image, but that won’t happen overnight. His actions over time and how they impact his wife, family, and others close to him will be the deciding factor while his words on Friday — awkward as they were — carry little weight in the big picture.

Some may eventually forgive him and others will not, but Rice has the ability to make things right in his own life by simply following through on his vows of being a better husband, father, and role model. If he does that in the coming years, lingering criticism from the outside world won’t really matter.

The image of Rice dragging what appeared to be his unconscious fiancée from an elevator will never disappear — reports swirled on Friday afternoon that the seventh-year running back is expected to receive a multi-game suspension from the NFL — but the details about what preceded the events in that disturbing video may never fully come to light.

“There were a lot of tears shed, but me and Janay can truly say that we’re in a better place,” Rice said. “Hopefully, one day, I’ll gain back everyone’s trust to let you all know that we’re still the same people, and I’m still the same person. I really treat my job as a very special job, and I failed miserably. But I wouldn’t call myself a failure, because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice only needs to look to former teammate and close friend Ray Lewis as a notable example of rebuilding one’s image and regaining that trust.

It can be done, but his first attempt to begin that process on Friday was an obvious setback.

The other missteps were always going to be picked apart, but his failure to publicly and directly apologize to his wife from the very beginning was the colossal gaffe that will be difficult to forget.

 

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

Posted on 11 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Assessing the Ravens’ 2014 draft now is akin to judging a gift based solely on its wrapping paper.

Only time will tell how many of their nine selections will pay dividends in 2014 and beyond. Even assistant general manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged recently that the evaluation process is as much art as it is science — and luck — with a number of variables ranging from talent and intelligence to health and work ethic determining how successful a player will be.

But the initial reaction to what the Ravens accomplished over the weekend and how it specifically relates to the 2014 season? Underwhelming and redundant.

It has little to do with questioning the quality of players they selected as much as it felt like a repeat of the 2013 draft with an overwhelming emphasis on defense — at the same positions — for a second consecutive year. After selecting a safety (Matt Elam), an inside linebacker (Arthur Brown), and a defensive tackle (Brandon Williams) with their first three picks last year, general manager Ozzie Newsome grabbed an inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley), a defensive tackle (Timmy Jernigan), and another safety (Terrence Brooks) with his first three selections over the weekend.

“You never know what kind of shape the draft is going to take,” DeCosta said Saturday evening. “We go into it blind, and this just ended up being really a draft about substance. We got guys that we think are going to be here for a long time and are going to help us win games. They’re guys in the fourth quarter that should be big-time players for us over time.”

It would be unfair to strongly doubt the talents of Mosley or Jernigan — two players viewed as top 20 talents by more than a few draft pundits — or the potential of Brooks to become defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ starting free safety as early as this coming season. But it is reasonable to question what the selections of Mosley and Jernigan mean for Brown and Williams, two players many expected to step into starting roles this season.

Of course, the Ravens would privately tell you they’ve found the eventual successors for veterans Daryl Smith, Haloti Ngata, and even Chris Canty after grabbing 5-technique defensive end Brent Urban with their first choice on Day 3 of the draft. But that doesn’t sound like dramatic improvement for this season as the Ravens try to bounce back from an 8-8 record and the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

While no one would confuse the league’s 12th-ranked defense with the 2000 Ravens a year ago, it was the offense that was the biggest culprit that needed major reconstructive surgery this offseason.

It’s true that the Ravens have already worked to address the league’s 29th-ranked offense with the hiring of new coordinator Gary Kubiak, the free-agent additions of 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith and 31-year-old tight end Owen Daniels, and the trade for Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, but the need for a right tackle and the desire for another impact pass-catcher virtually went untouched this weekend. Yes, the Ravens will always take the best talent available, but the fact that they’ve taken only one offensive player in the first three rounds in the last two years — out of a total of seven choices — is concerning for that side of the football.

Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore has encouraging upside, but many consider him more of a developmental prospect than someone ready to contribute this year behind Dennis Pitta and Daniels. And while the organization thinks fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro could be one of the steals of the entire draft, the 230-pound back will need to prove his accomplishments at FCS school Coastal Carolina will translate to the next level.

Are those additions enough to not just improve but dramatically improve what was an abysmal offense a year ago?

“We’re all laughing because the whole board was stacked toward the offense,” said Newsome at the conclusion of the third round. “But Eric has made the comment several times that we’re being contrary — everybody else in this league is drafting offensive players and we’ve been drafting defensive players. But it was stacked more toward the offensive side, but the way it fell for us, it’s been the defensive players.”

Truth be told, the Ravens are higher on second-year linemen Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen than most assume as the former is currently projected to be the starting right tackle with the season just under four months away. But considering the albatross that was the offensive line for a franchise-worst running game a year ago, Penn State guard John Urschel being the lone lineman selected by Newsome — in the fifth round — understandably raises eyebrows.

And even after their other defensive additions, the Ravens’ decision not to draft a cornerback after the free-agent departure of Corey Graham will also put more pressure on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as they compete for the No. 3 corner spot.

That’s plenty of dependence on former late-round draft picks who’ve made little impact in their time with the Ravens.

“We need to give these young guys a chance,” Newsome said. “I think guys should fail on the field, so we’re going to give these guys the opportunity to fail on the field. That way we know whether they can [play] or not. But we feel real good about them. And the other aspect of that, bringing in a new set of coaches, and they’re getting a chance to put their eyes on them, and they feel good about the young guys that we drafted last year.”

That message sounds contradictory to how some now view the 2013 selections of Brown and Williams after Mosley and Jernigan were picked in this year’s draft. There’s no shame in acknowledging Mosley and Jernigan as superior prospects on their board, but it’s only natural to wonder if the Ravens feel they whiffed on last year’s class more than they lead on.

Make no mistake, the draft should always be about the long run, but that doesn’t prohibit a team from immediately improving its prospects for this season, which leaves this weekend with questions still unanswered.

The truth is the Ravens won a Super Bowl based largely on offense two years ago but have been more committed to improving the defensive side of the ball ever since. And though the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens’ tireless dedication to defense doesn’t appear to mesh with what the league has become as DeCosta even pointed out over the weekend.

“We’ve added a nice influx of young defensive talent,” DeCosta said. “We’ve always been known as a team that has prided itself on defense. This is a blue-collar community, and I think they’re going to enjoy watching these guys play.”

Maybe so, but fans will also continue to hold their breath about the offense until the Ravens prove otherwise.

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C.J. Mosley’s great, but Ravens’ draft class will be defined by who they take next

Posted on 09 May 2014 by johngallo

It’s a great start. But one player rarely makes for a great draft class.

It’s not surprising the Ravens took C.J. Mosley, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound inside linebacker out of the University of Ozzie Newsome, I mean Alabama.

What’s not to like: He runs a 4.63 40-yard dash and can jump 35 inches. He was one of the best linebackers available in the draft – one so good the Ravens would have picked him as high as No. 10, if you believe Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome, the general manager, said.

Mosley won The Butkus Award in 2013, given to the nation’s top college linebacker, after posting 108 tackles, forcing a fumble and defending five passes for the Crimson Tide.

“He’s the one guy that you can’t find anyone to say anything bad about him – how reliable, accountable and dependable he is on and off the field,” Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said.

Coach John Harbaugh agreed.

“You’re going to love him,” he said. “You’re going to love his work ethic. You’re going to love his personality. He’s going to be in here Monday ready to go to work.”

Mosley is the sixth inside linebacker on the roster, but he was simply too good to ignore.

“We know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays,” Newsome said.

Yes, Baltimore should be better with Mosley, but whether the Ravens can transform from a mediocre, 8-8 team to one that makes the playoffs will be determined by who they add with their final seven picks.

The Ravens have the Nos. 48 (second round), 79, 99 (third rounds), 134, 138 (fourth rounds), 175 (fifth round) and 194 (sixth round) picks, so they have plenty of chances to fill glaring weaknesses.

Here are three areas the Ravens must address:

Offensive line: If the season started tomorrow, who would start at right tackle? Raise your hand if you had Ricky Wagner, a fifth-round pick who played in all 16 games with two starts as a rookie last year. Upgrading an offensive line that was terrible in protecting Flacco and just as bad in creating holes for Ray Rice is critical if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs. The Ravens have been superb at picking offensive linemen in the first round. Ogden (1996) played in 11 Pro Bowls and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, while Ben Grubbs (2007) made one. The odd man out: Oher, who never lived up to his lofty expectations and signed with the Titans during the offseason.

Options:

Rounds: 2-4: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA, 6-4, 307; Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama, 6-7, 332; Morgan Moses, West Virginia, 6-6, 312; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State, 6-6, 309; Antonio Richardson, Tennessee, 6-6, 236; Cameron Fleming, Stanford, 6-5, 323; Billy Turner, North Dakota State, 6-5, 315; Michael Schofield, Michigan, 6-7, 301.

Rounds 5-6: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill, 6-5, 298; Justin Britt, Missouri, 6-6, 325; Seantrel Henderson, Miami, 6-7, 331; Matt Patchan, Boston College, 6-6, 302.

My pick: Richardson.

Safety: The Ravens’ bolstered the position by signing former St. Louis Ram Darian Stewart in free agency. Stewart played in 13 games (six starts) last season, when the 5-foot-11, 216-pounder made 36 tackles. The Ravens need someone to replace James Ihedigbo, who signed with Detroit during the offseason. The Ravens drafted Matt Elam in the first round last year as they try to find the next Ed Reed, a future Hall of Famer and former defensive player of the year who made eight Pro Bowls.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Brock Vereen, Minnesota, 6-0, 199; Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin, 6-0, 211.

Rounds 5-6: Craig Loston, LSU, 6-1, 217; Vinnie Sunseri (recovering from torn ACL), Alabama, 5-11, 210; Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, 6-0, 212; Tre Boston, North Carolina, 6-0, 204.

My pick: Loston.

Running back: Rice, Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott – that’s the Ravens’ depth chart at the position right now. If the Ravens enter the season with that Holy Trinity of Mediocrity, Flacco might have to throw until his arm falls off if the Ravens are to make a deep run in the playoffs. Rice, Pearce and Scott combined for 373 carries for 1,110 yards – an average of 2.9 yards per carry – and six touchdowns. If that happens this season, the Ravens will have a really high draft pick in 2015.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 6-0, 230; Bishop Sankey, Washington, 5-10, 209; Tre Mason, Auburn, 5-9, 207; Jeremy Hill, LSU, 6-1, 233; Andre Williams, Boston College, 5-11, 230; Terrance West, Towson, 5-9, 225; Devonta Freeman, Florida State, 5-8, 206; Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona, 5-9, 207.

Rounds 5-6: Charles Sims, West Virginia, 6-0, 214; Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, 5-10, 201; Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern, 5-9, 209; James White, Wisconsin, 5-9, 204; De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 5-9, 174

My pick: Thomas.

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Ravens select Alabama linebacker Mosley with 17th overall pick

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Ravens select Alabama linebacker Mosley with 17th overall pick

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued a trend of drafting Alabama players in recent years with the selection of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley as the 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft Thursday night.

Despite rumors of possibly trading back and obvious needs at free safety and right tackle, general manager Ozzie Newsome tabbed Mosley as the first inside linebacker the Ravens have taken in the first round since future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in 1996. The 2013 Butkus Award winner and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year is the second Alabama linebacker drafted by the Ravens in the last three years, joining outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

“It was a great vibe from the Alabama connection that I have [with] the Ravens,” Mosley said in a conference call. “Visiting there, talking to all the coaches, visiting staff, it was nothing but good vibes. I’m pretty sure that helped them make their choice a little bit easier. I’m just excited to get there now.”

Mosley led the Crimson Tide in tackles in each of the last two seasons and was praised by the Ravens’ brass Thursday night for his athleticism and leadership qualities as he served as a team captain. The biggest question mark about Mosley has been durability, but the Ravens felt comfortable that previous shoulder, hip, and elbow injuries were no longer issues with their medical staff.

In his final season with Alabama, Mosley collected 108 tackles — nine of them going for losses — as well as five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

“Very smart, relentless player, fast, always involved,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He can play the run, can play the pass [and] should be a great special-teams guy for us if we need him to do that. [He’s] just a relentless, smart, tough football player.”

Newsome said the Ravens received some calls about moving back in the first round, but they didn’t receive any value significant enough to strongly consider trading their 17th pick. When asked how Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stacked up against Mosley on the Ravens’ board when they were on the clock, Newsome described the linebacker as their “clear-cut” choice among all available players.

Many projected Mosley to be off the board before the Ravens would pick in the middle of the first round, but the Alabama linebacker was on their radar as they met during the pre-draft process. He figures to be a logical fit to play the weak-side inside linebacker position in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 base alignment.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome said. “The day he gets here on Monday, he’ll be ready to go out there and start to prepare himself to get ready for our first game against Cincinnati.”

Mosley joins what appears to be a crowded group of inside linebackers after the Ravens re-signed veteran Daryl Smith earlier this offseason and drafted Arthur Brown in the second round of the 2013 draft. The Alabama linebacker’s talent is clear, but his selection isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Brown, who was limited to duties in the nickel package and special teams in his rookie season.

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Mosley told the Baltimore media in a conference call that he grew up idolizing Lewis and an opportunity to finally meet him was something he was able to cross off his bucket list. Of course, Mosley being drafted in the first round by Baltimore will draw inevitable comparisons to his boyhood idol.

“I’m not trying to go in there and be the next [No.] 52 or anything like that,” Mosley said. “I’m going in there to be C.J. Mosley and help the team win.”

The Ravens selected Mosley a spot after coveted offensive tackle Zack Martin was selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Earlier this offseason, Baltimore lost a coin flip to Dallas to determine which team would receive the 16th selection.

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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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