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It’s unwise to count out and easy to root for Steve Smith

Posted on 18 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Steve Smith did it all in his first day back at practice for the Ravens.

On the field, he made a touchdown catch and spun the football in the end zone, adding his trademark flavor to what was an otherwise bland walk-through session. Displaying his veteran leadership and his willingness to learn despite being in his 16th NFL season, Smith talked at length with rookie — and roster long shot — Darius White and said he even picked up a new route-release technique from former CFL wideout Dobson Collins, another player unlikely to make the 53-man roster.

Speaking to local reporters for the first time since mid-June, he got choked up explaining why he had decided to return, chastised media “jackasses” for doubting his 2016 prospects, and warned defensive backs that their vacation was over with the “bully” back on the field. Smith wouldn’t say directly whether this will be his final season, only acknowledging it was his last year “contractually” and that he’s only focused on playing this season.

The veteran then spent time posing for pictures and signing autographs with young Ravens fans and military personnel attending practice. He did make a point to say he’s going to smile more and have fun in what most assume to be his final season.

We know that conventional thinking says a 37-year-old can’t and won’t be the same player after a ruptured Achilles tendon, but what has ever been that conventional about Steve Smith?

A wide receiver standing 5-foot-9 and hailing from the University of Utah isn’t supposed to rank 15th on the NFL’s career receptions list, but he is one of the all-time greats when it comes to surprising people. Guys in their mid-30s aren’t supposed to play like a top 10 receiver, but that’s exactly what he was doing last year before the injury, catching 46 passes for 670 yards and three touchdowns in only seven games.

Of course, these feats aren’t surprising to Smith, who thrives on — arguably even obsesses over — proving his critics wrong. He was asked Thursday about the possibility of having more left in the tank than even he can imagine right now.

“Than I imagine?” Smith replied. “I’ve been rehabbing for nine months. I know exactly what’s left.”

It’s never been easier to doubt Smith than it is right now, but doing so feels no less unwise if you’ve paid attention to his career. General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens made contingency plans by signing veteran Mike Wallace and drafting Chris Moore in the fourth round to fortify their wide receiver group that also includes Kamar Aiken and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but they’re not viewing Smith’s return solely through the lens of nostalgia, either.

The Ravens demanding him to be an 1,000-yard receiver this season would be unfair, but no one should be shocked if he turns out to be. It would be just like Smith to spike the ball and laugh in the face of Father Time once more before finally calling it a career.

Such a competitor is easy to root for and impossible not to respect.

“All I’m going to do is play ball,” Smith said. “You all worry about all of the wrong things, and all the good things that happen, you glance over. We’re going to have a good time. We’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to make some plays.

“Oh yeah, and I happen to be 37 years old while I’m doing it.”

It was anything but an easy rehabilitation process for Smith, who acknowledged there were a few different points along the way when he thought he might be done. We don’t have a clear picture of what he will do against younger opponents — some of whom were in kindergarten when he was a rookie with Carolina in 2001 — but Smith made it clear that this isn’t just a feel-good farewell tour.

As he so eloquently worded it, he still plans to rip his opponents to shreds.

Who are we to say he won’t?

If nothing else, it will be a blast watching him try to prove us “jackasses” wrong again.

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Sizing up the 2016 Ravens roster before the second preseason game

Posted on 17 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against Carolina now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to project the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

My current look at the roster suggests 45 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 22 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying extensive talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of keeping a balanced number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their respective offensive or defensive positions.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Aug. 30 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 3.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Josh Johnson, Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: Mallett hasn’t had a sharp training camp, but he remains entrenched as the backup quarterback with a similar style of play to Flacco. Josh Johnson is having a decent summer, but Flacco not missing a single practice rep to this point speaks to how little the Ravens need a No. 3 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West
BUBBLE: Lorenzo Taliaferro
LONG SHOT: Stephen Houston
Skinny: No one has done more to solidify his roster standing this summer than West, who is making a strong push for an extensive role in the Baltimore rushing attack. Taliaferro’s best bet might be to start the year on the physically unable to perform list where the Ravens can reassess his status after Week 6.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Chuck Jacobs, Dobson Collins, Darius White
Skinny: On ability alone, Campanaro would be a lock, but the Ravens would probably hate to lose a solid option like Butler while the former has shown little ability to stay on the field to this point in his career. With Perriman still not practicing, the reserve PUP list becomes a greater possibility.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
Skinny: Pitta has missed over two weeks with a finger injury, but he showed in the spring and the early days of camp that he is still good enough to contribute if healthy. Waller has shown potential at his new position and would have made for a difficult decision if not for his pending four-game suspension.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis
BUBBLE: Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, De’Ondre Wesley, James Hurst
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Nembot
Skinny: The Ravens probably wouldn’t mind adding a veteran tackle to back up Stanley and Wagner, but Lewis is considered a future starter and handled left tackle well in the first preseason game. Hurst appears to be the odd man out as he has flipped between tackle and guard all summer.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley
INJURED RESERVE: Bronson Kaufusi
Skinny: The Ravens have enough depth to survive the season-ending loss of the third-round rookie Kaufusi, but Urban needs to show more as the primary backup to Guy. There might be one roster spot for Lewis-Moore or Pierce, and the latter is built similarly to Williams at the nose tackle spot.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Kavell Conner, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Correa initially looked like he was the early favorite to start next to Mosley, but Orr has seized control of the job over the last week or so. The ability of other players on the roster such as Albert McClellan and Anthony Levine to shift to inside linebacker leaves Brown in serious trouble.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
BUBBLE: Chris Carter, Victor Ochi
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: Carter excelled against Carolina and can play outside and inside, making him an interesting bubble player. Meanwhile, Ochi, a rookie free agent from Stony Brook, has flashed potential in practices and appears to be a player the Ravens might try to hide and sneak onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: Davis has looked healthier and quicker over the last couple practices after a slow start to the summer, but depth is again a concern with even Wright and Powers struggling in the preseason opener. Price, Canady, and Arrington have dealt with recent injuries to further cloud the competition.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb
BUBBLE: Anthony Levine, Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: This might be the toughest position group to gauge as Lewis is a favorite of the coaches while Elam and Brooks have had solid camp performances. Levine is a very good special-teams player and has worked extensively as a hybrid linebacker this spring and summer.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here with Lutz merely easing the workload of Tucker and Koch.

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Ravens, Tucker strike four-year deal ahead of Friday deadline

Posted on 15 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Despite reportedly feeling “disillusioned” with negotiations a day earlier, kicker Justin Tucker came to a new four-year agreement with the Ravens less than an hour before Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline to sign franchise players.

According to ESPN, the sides agreed to a four-year, $16.8 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus and a total of $10.8 million guaranteed, the highest guaranteed amount awarded to a kicker in NFL history. The total money falls just short of the four-year, $17.2 million deal signed by New England’s Stephen Gostkowski last summer, the contract many viewed all along as the framework for a Tucker contract.

“Justin has become a cornerstone for our team, and we are happy to get this contract completed,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement released by the team on Friday afternoon. “What is good for the Ravens right now is that we have our Pro Bowl special teams group — Sam [Koch], Morgan [Cox], and Justin — signed through the next three seasons.”

Tucker had been scheduled to play under the kicker franchise tag amount of $4.572 million, but his agent, Robert Roche, told ESPN that his client would not negotiate with the Ravens after the 2016 season if he did not get a long-term deal by Friday. Baltimore would have had the option of again using the franchise tag on Tucker next offseason under such a scenario.

Asked about his feelings over the last couple days, Tucker downplayed there being any animosity moving forward.

“It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster; there’s no other way to put it,” Tucker said in a conference call with local media. “You do everything you can to try to compartmentalize your feelings and realize that whatever happens off the field, business is just business. The nature of my position is one that I put everything I have mentally, and emotionally, and spiritually into every single kick that I go out there and attempt during the football season.”

The second-most accurate kicker in NFL history among those with 100 attempts (87.8 percent) and the fastest kicker to both 100 field goals and 500 career points in league history, Tucker missed just one field goal try under 50 yards last season and has never missed an extra point in his career. However, his seven field goal misses in 2015 were a career worst, and Tucker has gone 8-for-19 on tries from 50 yards or more over the last two seasons.

Tucker converted “walk-off” field goals in three of Baltimore’s five wins last season and is considered one of the best clutch kickers in the NFL with 10 game-winning field goals in his first four seasons. He proved his great worth as an undrafted rookie from the University of Texas when he hit the game-winning 47-yarder in double overtime to beat Denver in the 2012 divisional round, one of the defining moments in the Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl XLVII title.

His 2013 season in which he converted 38 of 41 field goal tries resulted in him being voted the team MVP by local media and receiving an invitation to the Pro Bowl.

“It does me no good as a football player to look in the past and to celebrate my own accomplishments,” said Tucker when asked if the record contract has prompted him to reflect on his success. “I can’t ever think about it like that. I’ll have plenty of time to do that when I retire; hopefully, that is a long way away. All I’m focusing on is remaining and becoming, all at the same time, the best player that I can be.”

Newsome has now successfully signed the last five players on which he’s used the franchise tag to long-term contracts as Tucker joins running back Ray Rice (2012), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), linebacker Terrell Suggs (2009), and cornerback Chris McAlister (2004).

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Tucker reportedly won’t re-sign with Ravens if no deal by Friday

Posted on 14 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Less than 24 hours prior to the deadline to sign franchise players to long-term contracts, negotiations have apparently turned ugly between kicker Justin Tucker and the Ravens.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 26-year-old says he will not entertain the possibility of signing a long-term deal with Baltimore after the 2016 season if an agreement is not reached by Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Tucker has repeatedly expressed optimism about signing a long-term contract, but his agent, Robert Roche, painted a different picture on Thursday.

“Justin’s disillusioned with the process right now and the Ravens position with him on his contract,” Roche told ESPN. “If we don’t get a long-term deal done by Friday, Justin will not entertain offers from the Ravens after the season.”

The report claims that Baltimore lowered its latest offer from previous ones on Thursday and the amount was less than the four-year, $16.1 million deal signed by Green Bay’s Mason Crosby earlier this offseason.

Of course, Roche’s comments are being viewed by most as a negotiating tactic, but it’s no secret that media-driven ploys do not sit well with general manager Ozzie Newsome, who rarely speaks to reporters. Still holding nearly $13 million in salary cap space with Tucker’s $4.572 million tag on the books, the Ravens are hardly in a position where they need to give in if he is looking to set a new and lucrative standard for kicker contracts.

Tucker signed his franchise tender in early March and attended spring organized team activities and June’s mandatory minicamp.

The four-year, $17.2 million agreement with $10.1 million guaranteed awarded to New England’s Stephen Gostkowski last summer is the richest kicker deal in NFL history with many outsiders considering it a reasonable point of reference for the negotiations with Tucker, who is five years younger but has three fewer Pro Bowl invitations to his name.

It’s also worth noting that the Ravens would have the option to use the tag on Tucker again next year if he were to follow through with the intention not to negotiate after the 2016 season. Giving him the franchise tag in 2017 would cost 120 percent of this year’s salary, which would come out to just under $5.5 million.

With that reality in mind, Tucker would be justified asking for nothing less than $10 million guaranteed in any long-term deal, which would be the sum of the tag amounts for 2016 and 2017.

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As deadline approaches, Ravens in good position with Tucker

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Justin Tucker deserves to be made one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL by the Ravens.

In fact, the 26-year-old has a good argument to top the list as he enters his fifth season as the second-most accurate kicker in league history among those with 100 field goal attempts. There’s no disputing the value he’s brought to Baltimore with only six career misses inside 50 yards and just one over the last two seasons combined.

But as Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline to sign franchise-tag players to long-term contracts rapidly approaches, general manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn’t feel too desperate to get a deal done. Even with Tucker’s $4.572 franchise tender currently on the books, the Ravens have almost $13 million in salary cap space, more than enough to make another veteran signing or two and to have flexibility going into the regular season when injuries are bound to occur.

The franchise amount would give Tucker the second-largest cash payout among kickers for 2016, behind only Green Bay’s Mason Crosby after he signed a long-term deal this winter. That outcome would hardly be a sign of disrespect for Tucker, who was originally undrafted from the University of Texas in 2012.

Despite Tucker expressing nothing but confidence this spring about a long-term deal getting done, it remains unclear what he and agent Robert Roche are asking for in terms of compensation. The four-year, $17.2 million deal with $10.1 million guaranteed signed by New England’s Stephen Gostkowski — a four-time Pro Bowl selection — last summer would appear to be a fair framework, but the Ravens shouldn’t feel obligated to set a new standard for kickers if that’s Tucker’s vision.

Kicker success can be fleeting — don’t forget that Baltimore signed Billy Cundiff to a five-year, $15 million deal just one year before his fateful miss in Foxborough — and it’s worth noting that Tucker has gone only 8-for-19 from 50 or more yards over the last two seasons. His incredible accuracy inside 50 cannot be discounted, but the Ravens would surely like to see him rediscover some of the long-ball success he displayed over his first two years when he went 10-for-11 from 50 or longer.

That’s a reasonable expectation if Tucker is looking to become the highest-paid kicker on the planet. And it’s fair to wonder if that’s the sticking point if the 2013 Pro Bowl kicker is seeking a lucrative and trend-setting contract.

Tight end clarity

Much has been written about the Ravens’ extensive depth at tight end, but these types of competitions often have a way of sorting themselves out as we witnessed with 2015 sixth-round pick Darren Waller being suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy earlier this month.

This news coupled with the 10-game suspension for second-year tight end Nick Boyle will make for some easier roster decisions for the Ravens, who already have Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Dennis Pitta on the depth chart. What remains to be seen is whether there will be roster room — or enough forgiveness — for Waller and Boyle when their bans expire.

This is Boyle’s second suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy while Waller is facing his first NFL discipline after being suspended twice at Georgia Tech for testing positive for marijuana.

One who fortunately got away

Remember when the Ravens signed Rolando McClain to potentially take over for Ray Lewis in 2013 before the troubled linebacker got arrested and abruptly retired? Remember how they gave the former Oakland Raider another chance a year later before he flopped during a workout and retired again?

Newsome netted a sixth-round pick by sending McClain and a seventh-round choice to Dallas in the summer of 2014, but the Ravens clearly dodged a bullet with the 26-year-old now being suspended for a second time with the Cowboys for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The Ravens may currently face uncertainty at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, but McClain did them a favor — twice — by demonstrating his lack of commitment to be a successful NFL player. He’s played well at times over the last two years, but he’s fortunately the Cowboys’ problem and wasn’t worth the trouble.

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Sizing up the post-minicamp 2016 Ravens roster

Posted on 20 June 2016 by Luke Jones

With mandatory minicamp behind them and training camp several weeks away, the Ravens turn their attention toward the preseason and eventually trimming the current offseason roster down to 53 by the start of the regular season.

Little should be taken away from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — conducted without live contact — but my still-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 43 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place in late June. My rough assessment of the 89 players currently on the roster lists 26 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office pay attention to the numbers at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or cornerbacks or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens are looking for reserves who can excel on special teams in addition to their designated position, so they will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific position when filling out the bottom of the roster.

Of course, this breakdown could change at any point and certainly by the first day of training camp if any individuals report to Owings Mills in poor physical condition or have not done the necessary mental preparation for the summer.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out during the different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Josh Johnson, Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: Mallett has his moments impressing you with his strong throwing arm, but he also made too many ill-advised plays this spring. Needless to say, the Ravens have to be happy that Flacco is on track to be on the field for the first day of training camp.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
BUBBLE: Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro
LONG SHOT: Trent Richardson
Skinny: There is plenty of NFL-caliber talent in this group of tailbacks, but the question is whether there is a legitimate No. 1 option to stand out from the rest. Richardson is a nice comeback story, but hamstring and knee injuries clearly have him lagging behind the rest of the group.

WIDE RECEIVERS (10)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews, Kaelin Clay
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: This group lacks clarity with the current status of Smith and Perriman, but the competition for what figures to be one or two spots among these bubble receivers will be fascinating. Reynolds has plenty of fans in his corner, but don’t sleep on Clay as a return specialist after a good spring.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams
BUBBLE: Dennis Pitta, Darren Waller
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle
Skinny: Pitta being listed on the bubble player has more to do with his health and how he’ll respond to live contact this summer than his playing ability. Waller winning a roster spot won’t be easy, but his versatility to also play receiver and his special-teams ability shouldn’t count him out.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen
BUBBLE: James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley, Vladimir Ducasse
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Newbot
Skinny: The early reviews for Stanley have been positive, but it’s fair to be concerned about the tackle depth following Eugene Monroe’s release. Lewis primarily worked at guard this spring, but he could unseat Hurst as the team’s swing tackle or the Ravens could add a veteran to the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry
BUBBLE: Brent Urban, Kapron Lewis-Moore
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley, Michael Pierce
Skinny: The Ravens are loaded along the defensive line, so it will be interesting to see how many of these young players they will ultimately keep. Urban is more than likely on the good side of the bubble, but he needs to stay healthy and show more than he did in his first NFL action late last season.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Albert McClellan
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Cavellis Luckett, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: There may not be a more interesting competition in camp than this one as the Ravens have chosen to this point not to add a veteran to replace Daryl Smith. Orr appears to be the favorite to start next to Mosley, but Baltimore has experimented with moving second-rounder Kamalei Correa inside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Matt Judon, Victor Ochi, Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: The Ravens have numbers here, but what can they really expect from Suggs, who is still working his way back from last September’s Achilles tendon injury? Judon and Ochi are green players, but they provide upside as potential situational pass-rushing options.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson
INJURED RESERVE: Jumal Rolle
Skinny: New secondary coach Leslie Frazier has several slot cornerbacks, but outside depth is thin behind Smith and Wright with Davis coming back from a serious knee injury and Sheldon Price lacking experience. The veteran Arrington took a pay cut this offseason and is firmly on the bubble.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam, Anthony Levine
LONG SHOT: Sam Brown
Skinny: The Ravens are committed to Weddle and Webb as their starting safeties, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess. It’s possible that all four of these “bubble” safeties could make the roster, but there isn’t much separation among them at this point.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: With Koch and Cox signing long-term deals in the last calendar year and Tucker receiving the franchise tag this offseason, the Ravens are set at these spots with Lutz expected to merely share some practice reps this summer.

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Ravens release veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe

Posted on 15 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The divorce between the Ravens and Eugene Monroe became official Wednesday after the veteran left tackle’s contract was terminated.

A day after head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that general manager Ozzie Newsome was in trade discussions regarding Monroe’s services, Baltimore officially parted ways with the 29-year-old, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2014 that included $17.5 million guaranteed. Despite missing a total of four games in his first five NFL seasons, Monroe started just 17 of 34 games over the last two seasons as he was sidelined with a variety of ailments.

It became apparent early this offseason that the Ravens were ready to move on from Monroe, first attempting to re-sign standout guard Kelechi Osemele to play left tackle permanently and then taking Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley with their earliest draft pick in 16 years. The veteran tackle’s stance on medical marijuana has also grabbed headlines over the last few months with Monroe even posting on Twitter last week that he felt the organization was distancing itself from him and his position.

By cutting him after June 1, the Ravens save $6.5 million in salary cap space while carrying $2.2 million in dead money. The 2017 salary cap will also carry $4.4 million in dead money from Monroe’s contract.

The frustration with Monroe likely boiled over in Week 11 last year when he exited with a shoulder injury before his replacement, James Hurst, was then pushed into starting quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing his season-ending ACL injury late in a 16-13 win over St. Louis. That would prove to be Monroe’s final game with the Ravens as he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery the following month.

Monroe had been cleared to return to the practice field last week, but the Ravens held him out of the first day of minicamp while attempting to trade him. According to NFL Network, the New York Giants were interested in Monroe but not at his $6.5 million salary for 2016 as well as his $6.75 million salaries for the final two years of his contract.

A first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, Monroe was traded to the Ravens on Oct. 1, 2013 and played well in 11 games, prompting Newsome to invest a long-term contract in the University of Virginia product.

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Ravens attempting to trade veteran tackle Monroe

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are poised to move on from veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe.

Despite being cleared to return to the field from last December’s season-ending shoulder surgery last week, Monroe was not on the field for the start of Baltimore’s three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that general manager Ozzie Newsome was engaged in discussions to trade Monroe, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this season.

Monroe said via his official Twitter account on Friday that the Ravens had distanced themselves from him and his strong position in favor of medical marijuana, but the organization had been noncommittal about his future throughout the offseason. After unsuccessfully trying to re-sign Kelechi Osemele with the intention of permanently moving him to left tackle, Newsome selected Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in April’s draft.

“My understanding right now is that teams are inquiring about Eugene,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re in that kind of a situation, when there’s a possibility of those kinds of things happening, you’re pretty much obligated to pull back and not practice a guy. That where it’s at right now. It’s in Ozzie’s hands, and we’ll just see where it goes.”

Entering the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed, Monroe, 29, has started just 17 games since the start of 2014 while missing action with a variety of injuries. He was sidelined last November when backup left tackle James Hurst was pushed into Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

Trading or cutting Monroe now would clear $6.5 million in salary cap space — leaving $2.2 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap — and would push $4.4 million in dead money to the 2017 cap.

The only other surprise absence from the field on Tuesday was outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who is scheduled to speak with reporters on Wednesday. Like a few other veterans, Dumervil hadn’t taken part in any voluntary organized team activities open to the media.

“I think Elvis is going to be up here tomorrow, so he can give you the details,” Harbaugh said. “But he had what has been termed a ‘preventative procedure.’ He’s not ready to go in minicamp. He’ll be ready to go in training camp, but he can explain that to you [Wednesday].”

Other players missing from Tuesday’s practice were quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), defensive linemen Bronson Kaufusi (back) and Michael Pierce (undisclosed), cornerback Jumal Rolle (Achilles tendon), and wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon), Breshad Perriman (knee), and Michael Campanaro (calf).

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was on the field and wearing a helmet, but the veteran defensive back was limited to playing catch as he continues to recover from foot surgery earlier this spring.

Kaufusi signed his four-year rookie deal on Tuesday, meaning the Ravens’ entire 2016 draft class is now under contract.

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Reynolds officially receives clearance to play for Ravens in 2016

Posted on 27 May 2016 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

It was announced today by the United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that Ravens WR/RS Keenan Reynolds may defer his military service and will be eligible to play in the NFL in 2016.

Statement from Ravens General Manager & Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome:

“This is good news, and congratulations to Keenan on his graduation today.”

Statement from WR/RS Keenan Reynolds:

“It is a blessing to hear the news from Defense Secretary Carter today. I am truly excited to proudly serve my country while having the ability fulfill my dream of playing for the best organization in the NFL.

“I would like to thank the Navy for allowing me to represent them while taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

“I would also like to thank Mr. Bisciotti and the Ravens organization for believing in me and giving me this chance.”

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Defensive position battles to watch for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

After examining the offensive battles on Tuesday, below is a look at the top defensive competitions:

1. Inside linebacker

The candidates: Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan

The reality: It remains to be seen whether Ozzie Newsome will add a veteran after cutting Daryl Smith, but Orr saw 142 defensive snaps and replaced Smith on passing downs late in the 2015 season. Brown is a 2013 second-round pick, but he’s been a non-factor in three seasons and has a ton to prove this summer. A special-teams ace, McClellan provides depth but probably isn’t a serious contender to start.

2. Cornerback

The candidates: Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Young

The reality: We know Jimmy Smith will start at one cornerback spot, but how the Ravens will line up at the other outside spot and in the nickel remains to be seen. Wright is the early favorite to start in the base defense after receiving $4.76 million guaranteed, but Powers brings extensive starting experience to Baltimore and can play outside and inside. Davis and Young are interesting names to watch this summer.

3. Defensive end

The candidates: Lawrence Guy, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban

The reality: The Ravens don’t appear too concerned over replacing veteran Chris Canty as Guy has been solid when asked to fill in over the last two seasons. However, Kaufusi brings potential as this year’s third-round pick out of Brigham Young. This could be a make-or-break year for Urban, who finally got on the field in the second half of last season but has battled too many injuries going back to college.

4. Outside linebacker

The candidates: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon

The reality: We know Suggs and Dumervil own pedigrees as Pro Bowl talents, but how will that ultimately translate in 2016? It’s tough to say whether Suggs can still be an every-down rush linebacker coming off his second Achilles injury in four years, and we know Dumervil’s rush ability was optimized sharing snaps with Courtney Upshaw in 2013 and 2014. Smith is the favorite to take Upshaw’s early-down Sam linebacker role, but Correa and Judon offer intriguing upside as rookie pass rushers.

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