Tag Archive | "ozzie newsome"

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Replacing Torrey Smith even more difficult than saying goodbye

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The reasons why it’s difficult to say goodbye to Torrey Smith go far beyond receiving yards and touchdown catches for the Ravens and the city of Baltimore.

Others have played better and longer for a franchise approaching its 20th season in Charm City, but few have left the kind of impression the 26-year-old wide receiver did in his four seasons with the Ravens. His heartfelt farewell released Sunday night only scratches the surface in revealing the man as both a football player and, more importantly, a citizen who’s made a difference in the community — and will apparently continue to do so with his stated intention of continuing to make Baltimore his offseason home.

From the heartbreaking — but inspirational — story of his upbringing in Virginia to his days with Ralph Friedgen at the University of Maryland, Smith has grown up before our eyes in some ways. We watched him handle the tragedy of his younger brother’s death with courage and grace while excelling on the field and ultimately helping the Ravens taste the glory that was two division titles, three playoff appearances, and a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

But it can be a cruel business as the Ravens have deemed Smith’s price tag too expensive — a difficult salary-cap picture certainly didn’t help — and the 2011 second-round selection is seizing his first and best chance to receive a lucrative payday elsewhere. You can understand general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to walk away from a player who never lived up to the billing of becoming a true No. 1 receiver in the same way that you can respect Smith not being willing to leave millions of dollars on the table in a sport that only guarantees so much.

Even with that common ground of understanding for both sides, it doesn’t change the reality of the Ravens needing to replace Smith on the field.

It’s going to be difficult.

His critics frequently bring up his shortcomings and reiterate that he isn’t a true No. 1 wideout, but those weaknesses shouldn’t sell short his talents as a strong No. 2 option who has suited the strong-armed Joe Flacco perfectly over the last four seasons. His ability to both stretch the field and make big plays shouldn’t be discredited because of a disappointing 2014 season that still included a career-best 11 touchdown catches.

It isn’t only about speed as fast but limited receivers such as Jacoby Jones, Yamon Figurs, and Patrick Johnson have proven over the years. Even if his route-running and hands aren’t as consistent as you’d like, Smith has shown much more talent than straight-line speed.

The six-foot, 205-pound receiver finishes his four-year run in Baltimore ranking third on the franchise’s all-time list in receiving yards and second in touchdown catches, numbers that bring two distinct thoughts to mind. One, he’s been one of the most productive receivers in team history despite having only played four seasons. Second, it reflects how little success Newsome and the Ravens have found at the position in nearly two decades.

And that’s where the real concern lies as Smith represents the franchise’s only significant success story in drafting and developing an impact wide receiver. They finally hit in 2011, but the Ravens have selected a laundry list of disappointments or outright busts at the position that includes Johnson, Travis Taylor, Ron Johnson, Devard Darling, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Figurs, Marcus Smith, David Reed, and Tandon Doss.

Yuck.

To be fair, Newsome has found success over the years in plucking veterans off the market including Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and, most recently, Steve Smith, but a few duds have been mixed in there as well in Lee Evans, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Kevin Johnson. Of course, Newsome has been one of the best executives in the NFL for almost 20 years and no organization bats 1.000, but the Ravens have routinely been lacking at the receiver position and that’s without even mentioning the decision to dump Boldin two offseasons ago without replacing him for the 2013 season.

Yes, I know that dead horse doesn’t need to be beaten again.

There might be enough of a track record to trust Newsome to at least find a respectable veteran band-aid — Houston’s Andre Johnson would provide more than that if the cost is within the Ravens’ modest means this offseason — but finding a vertical threat as effective as Smith won’t be as easy. The goal is improving the passing game — not treading water or getting slightly worse — and veteran free-agent options such as Michael Crabtree, Cecil Shorts, Eddie Royal, and Nate Washington hardly make you do cartwheels and won’t all be cheap, either.

Not having a vertical threat for Flacco is akin to asking a home-run hitter to try to settle for more singles and doubles. It doesn’t mean he won’t succeed, but you’re not going to maximize your return.

Maybe the Ravens will hit on a future No. 1 receiver with the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, but their track record suggests finding Torrey Smith’s replacement won’t be that simple and Steve Smith will be 36 this year. The organization is optimistic about its young receivers like Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, Marlon Brown, and Jeremy Butler, but none have shown enough ability to reasonably project a starting role without a major drop-off.

You can understand and respect the Ravens needing to make a difficult financial decision in watching Torrey Smith depart. Newsome has six months to figure it out before the 2015 season kicks off, so it would be silly to push the panic button now.
But there have been too many failures and not enough successes at the wide receiver position over the years to feel great about what will come next.

You just hope the Ravens won’t take as long replacing Torrey Smith as they did to find him.

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Ravens’ cap issues linger as free-agent negotiating window opens

Posted on 07 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With the start of free agency only days away, the Ravens still have work to do to improve a tight salary-cap situation that threatens to hinder their ability to not only re-sign their own free agents but to add outside talent to the roster.

On Saturday, teams were allowed to enter contract negotiations with the certified agents of other NFL teams’ unrestricted free agents, but they are not allowed to complete a deal until 4 p.m. Tuesday when free agency officially begins. Of course, the reality is that teams and agents have been talking through back channels for weeks — February’s scouting combine in Indianapolis has long been considered a tampering haven — and a number of deals will be all but official before Tuesday afternoon.

The Ravens are currently just $4.639 million under the salary cap, resources that will be exhausted when they tender their list of restricted and exclusive-rights free agents by Tuesday’s deadline.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Lardarius Webb remain the two biggest names who will impact the salary cap as the Ravens continue to try to rework their existing deals. Carrying a $16 million cap figure in the final season of his five-year, $61 million contract, Ngata is expected to be released if the Ravens cannot work out an extension by Tuesday and there have been no indications that a deal is close to happening. Cutting the five-time Pro Bowl selection would save $8.5 million in savings while leaving $7.5 million in dead money on the 2015 salary cap.

Webb’s situation is more complex as he carries a $12 million cap figure and the Ravens would like him to accept a cut from the $8 million base salary he’s owed for 2015. Cutting the 29-year-old would result in only $2 million in savings — in addition to further weakening the cornerback position — unless the Ravens designate him a post-June 1 release, which would mean his cap figure would remain on the books until long after most free-agent activity is already over.

Of course, the Ravens could make other cap-saving releases after parting ways with veterans Jacoby Jones and Chris Canty in the last two weeks. Other potential casualties include center Gino Gradkowski, linebacker Albert McClellan, and punter Sam Koch.

But the entire offseason remains in a holding pattern until resolutions are found with both Ngata and Webb.

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Will Webb accept pay cut to remain with Ravens?

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With veteran Lardarius Webb carrying the sixth-highest salary cap figure among NFL cornerbacks, it’s hardly surprising that the Ravens are asking him to take a pay cut.

Whether he accepts is the question as the NFL Network reported Tuesday that Baltimore has officially asked the 29-year-old defensive back to take less than his $8 million base salary for the 2015 season. Webb carries a $12 million cap figure, which is just behind the likes of Dallas’ Brandon Carr ($12.717 million) and Seattle’s Richard Sherman ($12.2 million) for this coming season. Few would say that Webb belongs in that category of players as injuries have stunted a player who once played at a Pro Bowl level before suffering the second anterior cruciate ligament tear of his NFL career during the 2012 season.

A back injury cost Webb all of last year’s training camp and three of the first four games of the regular season before he struggled to regain his pre-injury form the rest of the way, finishing 52nd among cornerbacks who took at least half of his team’s snaps in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. The 2009 third-round pick will be 30 in October and signed a six-year, $50 million contract prior to the 2012 season.

It remains unclear how much less the Ravens are asking Webb to take, but the question for him is whether he thinks another team would give him more than the revised salary general manager Ozzie Newsome is offering. It was roughly six months ago that the Ravens restructured Webb’s contract for the 2014 season, flipping $4 million of his $7.5 million base salary into a bonus and reducing his cap figure. Of course, that adjustment came with the consequence of adding $1 million to his cap figure in each of the next three seasons.

The request of a pay cut is almost always accompanied by the consequence that a player will be released if he doesn’t accept it — no player would ever accept one if that weren’t the case — but the Ravens would save only $2 million in cap space unless they declare Webb a post-June 1 release. Such a maneuver would clear $8 million in cap space, but that relief wouldn’t come until after June 1 when the bulk of free-agent activity has already concluded.

If Newsome believes he can find another comparable veteran — Cary Williams was released on Tuesday — at the same salary or for less than what they’re currently offering Webb, the decision to release him becomes much easier. But they also know cornerback is a major priority and they will already be looking to select one in the early rounds of this year’s draft.

The Ravens can certainly use the cap savings, but they would come with more uncertainty in the secondary if Webb were to be sent packing after six years in Baltimore.

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Ravens pass on using franchise tag for 2015 season

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Luke Jones

As expected, the Ravens elected not to use the franchise tag on any player for the 2015 season.

Limited salary-cap space and the lack of an ideal candidate made it a foregone conclusion that the Ravens would not use the franchise or transition tag on any player before Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. This marks the third consecutive offseason in which the Ravens have not used the designation with former running back Ray Rice being the last Baltimore player to be tagged in 2012.

The five NFL players to be designated as his team’s franchise player were Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Miami tight end Charles Clay was given the transition tag, which is cheaper than the franchise tag but only gives the Dolphins the right to match any offer sheet to which Clay might be signed by another team and does not award them two first-round picks like the non-exclusive franchise tag does.

A look ahead to next offseason provides a pair of intriguing franchise tag candidates in cornerback Jimmy Smith and kicker Justin Tucker. For a frame of reference, the franchise tag for a cornerback is $13.075 million this season while the tag for a kicker is set at $4.126 million.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. next Tuesday, it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 14 unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and 11 exclusive-rights free agents.

The 2015 salary cap has been set to a record-high $143.28 million and the Ravens are expected to be over that total — Baltimore has less than $4 million in cap space currently, according to OverTheCap.com — upon signing their list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players. In other words, the organization still has a lot of work to do to clear room over the next several days with most attention on the fate of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for the 2015 campaign.

Though the signing period officially begins on March 10, the NFL allows teams to enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the three days leading up to the start of the new league year, meaning the rumors and speculation will pick up this weekend before the start of the signing period.

To see how I fared last year, check out my 2014 free-agent forecast HERE.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

CB Antoine Cason: LEAVES
Skinny: Considering the veteran defensive back was a non-factor after being signed last December, there’s no reason to think the Ravens will attempt to re-sign Cason unless he’s still on the market come minicamp time.

LS Morgan Cox: STAYS
Skinny: Cox is as reliable as they come at the long snapper position, but he’s also coming off the second anterior cruciate ligament injury of his career, which will work in the Ravens’ favor in getting him to sign a cheaper contract.

TE Owen Daniels: STAYS
Skinny: The temptation will be there to follow Gary Kubiak to Denver, but Daniels will be viewed as a priority to give Joe Flacco a safety net and to continue to mentor second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore.

RB Justin Forsett: STAYS
Skinny: It will be interesting to see how teams will value the veteran back who will be 30 next season, but we got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome last week that the Ravens view him as the top priority among their own free agents.

CB Danny Gorrer: LEAVES
Skinny: After undergoing a season-ending knee injury in December, Gorrer could be an option to re-sign if he’s still on the market over the summer, but the Ravens will look elsewhere for veteran help at the cornerback position.

DE Lawrence Guy: STAYS
Skinny: With veteran Chris Canty being cut last week, Guy would be a good veteran option to compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Brent Urban at the 5-technique defensive end spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPhee: LEAVES
Skinny: Newsome all but confirmed that McPhee won’t be back as the rush specialist is in line for a big payday and will join the likes of Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Arthur Jones as defensive players the Ravens couldn’t pay in recent years.

S Jeromy Miles: STAYS
Skinny: A good special-teams player and someone who emerged to play real defensive snaps in 2014, Miles will likely be cheap enough to retain and throw back into the safety mix this summer.

G Will Rackley: LEAVES
Skinny: After suffering a concussion early in training camp that landed him on injured reserve, Rackley isn’t expected to be back and the Ravens are in much better shape along the offensive line than they were a year ago.

OL Jah Reid: LEAVES
Skinny: The Ravens would like to add another offensive lineman for depth this offseason, but the 2011 third-round pick was one of the organization’s biggest draft disappointments over the last few years.

CB Aaron Ross: LEAVES
Skinny: The veteran tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with several injuries in recent years, making you wonder if his career has come to an end.

S Darian Stewart: LEAVES
Skinny: With former secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo back in New York as the Giants defensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Stewart land in the Big Apple as the two have a relationship dating back to their days in St. Louis.

WR Torrey Smith: LEAVES
Skinny: The offense will have a difficult time trying to replace his deep-ball ability, but the Ravens seemed to go out of their way last week to prepare fans for the likelihood of the University of Maryland product departing for more money elsewhere. 

QB Tyrod Taylor: LEAVES
Skinny: After serving as the backup for the durable Flacco for four years, Taylor will likely explore other possibilities as the Ravens will look at 2014 sixth-round choice Keith Wenning and other cheap options for the No. 2 job.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Restricted free agents have three accrued seasons in the league. The Ravens can offer a first-round tender ($3.347 million based on a $143 million cap), second-round tender ($2.351 million), or original-round tender ($1.539 million) to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer sheet from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. If the player originally went undrafted, it simply provides the team the right to match an offer sheet but awards no compensation should the player sign elsewhere.

S Will Hill: STAYS (second-round tender)
Skinny: His off-field baggage may prompt the Ravens to give Hill the low tender, but teams would then be able to sign the talented safety to an offer sheet with the Ravens receiving no compensation if they elected not to match.

CB Anthony Levine: STAYS (cheaper two-year deal)
Skinny: The special-teams standout emerged to play meaningful snaps at cornerback in the second half of 2014, but Levine will be offered a two-year deal at a cheaper rate than the low tender as the Ravens did with defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi.

K Justin Tucker: STAYS (second-round tender)
Skinny: Tucker could be in line to become the highest-paid kicker in the league in the next year, so the Ravens will give him the second-round tender to deter any teams from sniffing around for his services.

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have two or fewer accrued seasons in the league and own no negotiating rights. In order for the Ravens to retain the rights to these players, they must tender contracts at the league minimum based on their respective service times in the NFL. Though not certain, the Ravens generally tender all exclusive-rights players since their contracts are not guaranteed for the 2015 season.

WR Kamar Aiken: STAYS
Skinny: With Torrey Smith potentially departing, Aiken could find himself competing for a more meaningful role after an encouraging 2014 season in Baltimore. 

CB Tramain Jacobs: STAYS
Skinny: The Texas A&M product will be one to watch during training camp as he impressed the Ravens enough to land on the practice squad and cracked the 53-man roster later in the year before a hamstring injury sent him to IR. 

OL Ryan Jensen: STAYS
Skinny: The 2013 sixth-round pick spent much of last season on the practice squad before injuries garnered him a promotion, and he will find himself once again fighting to make the regular-season roster. 

LS Kevin McDermott: STAYS
Skinny: With Cox working his way back from ACL surgery, McDermott would figure to hang around to compete with the veteran long snapper during training camp. 

DE Steven Means: STAYS
Skinny: Since McPhee is likely to depart via free agency, there is an opportunity for younger players like Means to emerge as a situational rusher in the linebacker rotation this season. 

CB Rashaan Melvin: STAYS
Skinny: Even if Melvin was exposed by Tom Brady in the divisional round, he played well enough down the stretch for the Ravens to be encouraged and he should be a contender for the No. 3 and No. 4 cornerback jobs this summer. 

LS Patrick Scales: LEAVES
Skinny: Unless the Ravens choose to say goodbye to Cox, it would make little sense to bring back both McDermott and Scales to the long snapper mix. 

TE Phillip Supernaw: STAYS
Skinny: The former Houston Texan could find himself vying for a bigger role in the offense if Daniels doesn’t return and Dennis Pitta cannot return to the field in 2015. 

RB Fitz Toussaint: STAYS
Skinny: The Michigan product was taking carries away from veteran Bernard Pierce late last season and figures to have a chance to make the 2015 roster as the No. 3 running back. 

S Brynden Trawick: STAYS
Skinny: Trawick was not one of the Ravens’ many safeties to receive opportunities in the secondary last year and makes his money on special teams, putting him right back on the roster bubble this summer. 

DT Casey Walker: STAYS
Skinny: With Canty already released and Ngata potentially gone as well, players like Walker have to be salivating over an improved opportunity to crack the defensive line rotation. 

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Ravens release Canty to clear $2.66 million in cap space

Posted on 27 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Defensive end Chris Canty became the second veteran player to be released by the Ravens this week.

The 32-year-old had his contract terminated on Friday morning, a move that saves the Ravens $2.66 million on their 2015 salary cap. Canty was entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and had been pondering retirement this winter, but many predicted he would be a roster victim due to the Ravens’ tight salary-cap situation.

Return specialist Jacoby Jones had his contract terminated earlier this week.

“I am very proud to be a Raven,” Canty said in a statement released by the organization. “They are a great franchise, and I was privileged to be a contributor to that outstanding tradition of defense that is part of the team’s lore.

“I am going to continue to prepare to play again and will explore other possibilities to play the game I love.”

In 26 games over two seasons with Baltimore, Canty didn’t make a big impact on the field, but he was one of the most respected veterans in the locker room, a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked after the turbulent nature of last year with the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. However, with the Ravens selecting defensive end Brent Urban in the fourth round of the 2014 draft — he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s training camp — and also having younger options on the roster such as DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, Canty was viewed as expendable.

The Ravens could also re-sign veteran Lawrence Guy, who played effectively at the 5-technique in the defensive line rotation after being picked up from the San Diego Chargers in early October. General manager Ozzie Newsome did not rule out the possibility of bringing back Canty at a reduced rate, but the Ravens will likely be content in going with younger, cheaper options at defensive end.

“We are a better franchise for having Chris Canty with us the last two years,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “He added maturity and leadership. Chris played well and played a lot of snaps for us, especially last season. He was an outstanding contributor to our playoff season in 2014.”

Canty missed five games during the 2014 campaign while dealing with a staph infection in his wrist in October and an ankle injury at the end of the regular season. He finished the year with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a half-sack.

In his 10-year career, Canty has also played for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, earning a Super Bowl XLVI championship ring.

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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ brass met with reporters Tuesday to review the 2014 season and look ahead at the offseason priorities for 2015.

Below are seven takeaways from what was discussed:

1. The Ravens made it clear they’re more than willing to walk away from wide receiver Torrey Smith.

You got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti that the organization is not willing to break the bank for the 2011 second-round pick as the latter even mentioned how much the Miami Dolphins regretted paying speedy receiver Mike Wallace a couple years ago. You wonder if the Ravens were trying to show Smith some “tough love” negotiating tactics as he’s a couple weeks away from hitting the open market but has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore.

2. Running back Justin Forsett might be a higher priority than we thought.

Forsett will be 30 next season and many have wondered how much of his success was a product of an improved offensive line, but Newsome mentioning what kind of mentor the running back has been in his career was interesting with questions about how he’d be valued on the open market. The Ravens will look to add another young running back for the future, but it wouldn’t make sense for Newsome to offer such a compliment if he were trying to low-ball the veteran, who was such a great story in 2014.

3. We’re still waiting to hear about the future of defensive end Chris Canty.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he hasn’t spoken to the veteran defensive lineman since the end of the season when he told reporters he was contemplating retirement. You’d have to think the Ravens are trying to be respectful to the 32-year-old, who may be a salary-cap casualty if he decides to continue his career. Baltimore was in a similar position with veteran center Matt Birk a couple years ago and likely would have cut him had he not decided to retire in the offseason following Super Bowl XLVII.

4. If there were any lingering doubts, rush specialist Pernell McPhee won’t be returning to Baltimore.

Newsome couldn’t have been more clear unless he said, “We wish Pernell good luck in his future endeavors.” The 2011 fifth-round pick had a terrific season as a situation player this past season and is expected to cash in with a number of teams vying for his services. It will be interesting to see how McPhee handles a full-time role elsewhere as his cranky knees were an issue at a few different points during his run in Baltimore.

5. Safety Terrence Brooks is likely to start the 2015 season on the physically unable to perform list.

After suffering a serious knee injury in December, Brooks figured to be a question mark to begin the 2015 campaign and Newsome confirmed that on Tuesday. The 2014 third-round pick showed a few flashes while also making plenty of mistakes as a rookie, but it will be hard to count on him contributing more in his second year as he works his way back from injury. Much attention has been paid to the cornerback position, but it’s clear the Ravens need to add an impact safety this offseason.

6. Bisciotti experienced his worst year as the owner of the franchise.

It wasn’t surprising to hear the owner share the sentiment, but the conviction with which he spoke let you know just how bothered he was by the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. Bisciotti quipped that he was off “suicide watch” and would have considered selling the team to Steve Ballmer last year, but he didn’t come across well in disputing the notion that the NFL had an image problem before team president Dick Cass saved him by pointing to the league’s concerns with domestic violence.

7. Newsome’s discussion about the Ravens secondary was disappointing.

Newsome is an excellent executive, but his thoughts on the secondary lacked accountability as he leaned on the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury. There’s no disputing that injuries played a role in last year’s woes, but many opined that the Ravens didn’t do enough last offseason to augment the unit after the free-agent loss of cornerback Corey Graham and long before the rash of injuries. Either way, actions will speak louder than words in how the Ravens address the defensive backfield.

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Luke Jones

More than a month after their season-ending loss to New England in the divisional round, the Ravens will finally hold their annual “State of the Ravens” press conference Tuesday afternoon as they look back at last year and offer a look into their offseason plans to improve for 2015.

Below are five topics of interest that are likely to be covered at length:

1. Off-field conduct

A lingering Ray Rice question or two will be asked — particularly of team president Dick Cass, who hasn’t addressed the matter in a press conference setting — but the focus will likely fall on what the organization is doing to address off-field concerns that included five arrests last offseason and ex-Raven Terrence Cody and safety Will Hill already surfacing in the news over the last month. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged in January that the bar is higher in terms of expectations, but concerns will remain until the Ravens can show last year was an aberration and not a lack of organizational control.

2. The future of Haloti Ngata

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s future and $16 million salary cap figure for 2015 have been dissected ad nauseam, but it will be interesting to listen to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s thoughts after Harbaugh expressed confidence last week that an extension would get done. Even though he ultimately inked linebacker Terrell Suggs to a new deal last winter, Newsome made it clear at last year’s “State of the Ravens” that he wasn’t afraid of letting a good player walk out the door. You wonder if we’ll hear a similar “bad cop” routine from Newsome to contrast Harbaugh’s optimism and put some heat on the veteran player.

3. Fixing the secondary

Newsome has often said you can never have too many good cornerbacks, but there’s no question the Ravens were lacking at that position last year even before the season-ending injury to top corner Jimmy Smith. Veteran Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million cap figure and is a likely candidate for a pay cut or a restructure deal, but the Ravens need to find a cornerback — maybe two — who is ready to step into a meaningful role. Safety might be an even bigger concern with Hill’s off-field baggage and the disappointing starts to the NFL careers of Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks.

4. Taking care of their own 

Much of this will hinge on a tight cap situation, but the Ravens proved last year that they were more concerned with taking care of their own than jumping into the free-agent market after re-signing Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones. The Ravens would love to have wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels back next season, but how realistic is that with so few resources available? An offense that took major strides a year ago will already be dealing with new offensive coordinator, but it’s possible there will be significant player turnover as well.

5. Offseason surgical procedures and health concerns

Pitta’s future is bound to come up again after Harbaugh presented a less-than-encouraging update last week, but the end-of-season press conference typically brings updates on other players who’ve undergone offseason surgeries. The Sun reported earlier this month that center Jeremy Zuttah underwent a cleanup procedure for his hip, but the Ravens also have a number of players continuing to recover from season-ending injuries including Jimmy Smith, right tackle Rick Wagner, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, cornerback Asa Jackson, and Brooks.

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Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has fielded countless questions about the future of Peyton Manning since becoming the head coach of the Denver Broncos last month.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, a reporter asked Kubiak an oft-repeated question about his old quarterback in Baltimore.

Is Joe Flacco elite?

“You bet he is. He helped me. It’s probably why I’m standing up here today,” said Kubiak as he laughed. “Joe was tremendous. I really enjoyed working with him — as talented a young man as I’ve ever coached and as good a person as I’ve ever coached. I think we’ll be talking about Joe for a long, long time. I really appreciated my time with him, and I wish him the best.”

Not only leading the Ravens offense to franchise-best marks in total yards and points scored, Kubiak guided Flacco to arguably the best regular season of his seven-year career. The 30-year-old threw a career-best 27 touchdowns and completed 62.1 percent of his passes, his best completion rate since 2010.

And while Kubiak already owned a coaching résumé that included an eight-year stint as the head coach of the Houston Texans, the 53-year-old once again praised the Ravens organization for the opportunity it provided last season. He’s using that experience in Denver, a place he previously spent two decades as a player and assistant coach.

“I took a lot of things,” Kubiak said. “I went there because I knew what the organization stood for. I knew what John [Harbaugh] stood for. That’s what I wanted to be a part of — the tremendous expectations there. I just think the job that they do as an organization, everybody’s on the same page and working together. I think Ozzie [Newsome] was tremendous for me to watch him in the draft and Eric DeCosta. That was very beneficial for me.

“To watch the team go through [the Ray Rice] situation early in the season and watch the organization deal with that. For me as a head coach, watching them deal with that situation and bring the football team out of it in a very positive way was very beneficial. Football-wise, a very experienced staff [with] Dean Pees and some of the coaches I got a chance to work with. The bottom line is watching a successful organization go about it every day — one that’s been there each and every year — I take a lot of that with me.”

Kubiak reiterated Wednesday that he wants Manning to return as the Broncos quarterback and said all indications are pointing toward that happening in 2015. Though the schedule won’t be finalized with dates until this spring, the Ravens will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos this coming season.

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Key dates on NFL offseason calendar

Posted on 12 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Even if we’re in the midst of a rare quiet time in the NFL calendar, below is a look at what’s coming up for the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams as the offseason kicks into high gear in the coming weeks:

February 16 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

February 17-23 — NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis

February 24 — Ravens hold their 2014 season-review/2015 season-preview press conference at 2 p.m. in Owings Mills

March 2 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

March 7-10 — Clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m. on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until the official start of free agency on that day.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.

March 10 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

“Rule of 51″ begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m.

All 2014 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m.

The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m.

Trading period for 2015 begins at 4:00 p.m. after expiration of all 2014 contracts.

March 22-25 — NFL annual meeting in Phoenix

April 6 — Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.

April 20 — Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

April 24 — Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

April 29 — Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents

April 30-May 2 — NFL draft in Chicago

May 8-11 or May 15-18 — Clubs may elect to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.

May 18-20 — NFL spring league meeting in San Francisco

June 21-27 — Rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio

July 15 — At 4:00 p.m., deadline for any club that designated a franchise player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2015 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular-season game.

Mid-July — Clubs are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or “injured players” may report to a club’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

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