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

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

Posted on 14 March 2014 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 08 March 2014 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What are the categories of free agency?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What constitutes an “Accrued Season”?

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

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

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

Q. What determines an Unrestricted Free Agent?

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

Q. What determines a Franchise Player?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What is the salary cap for 2014?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. One hundred percent of its remaining room.

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Luke Jones

After more than two months of preparation following a disappointing 8-8 season, the Ravens will officially see offseason business pick up with the start of free agency on Tuesday afternoon.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has already taken care of two of his own — signing linebacker Terrell Suggs and tight end Dennis Pitta to long-term contracts — as well as parted ways with two key veterans — linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach — but plenty of work remains as the Ravens try to rebound from the first non-playoff campaign of the John Harbaugh era. Even with roughly $25 million in salary cap space prior to the tendering of exclusive-rights and restricted free agents, the concerns are plentiful with gaping holes on the offensive line as well as needs at wide receiver, free safety, and inside linebacker.

Just 13 months removed from their second Super Bowl title, the Ravens are facing heat to bounce back from a failed season in their eyes, but the cupboard is far from bare considering they were just one win away from the postseason despite their many issues — particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Pitta returning next season at full strength as well as the addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will be viewed by many as instant improvements for an offense that finished 29th in the NFL last season.

“There are teams that are a whole lot more disappointed,” owner Steve Bisciotti said at the season-ending press conference. “If we found ourselves at 3-13, like the Falcons, then I think that they’re sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got to make a lot of changes.’ I really don’t think that we do. If 8-8 is a failure, I hope it’s a long time before I feel worse than this. That’s just the way it goes.”

With the offseason ready to kick into high gear as teams can begin negotiating with other free agents this weekend before the market officially opens for business at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, here are a few themes to remember between now and the start of the 2014 season:

1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

With a few rare exceptions such as the quick signings of wide receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle in 2005, the Ravens haven’t been swift to act in free agency, instead allowing other teams to overspend in an effort to make a splash in March.

This lesson is forgotten annually as many confuse Newsome’s methodical ways with hesitancy and indecision. The temptation can be strong to throw money at a top wide receiver such as Hakeem Nicks or Eric Decker or a top offensive tackle like Branden Albert or Jared Veldheer, but the market will be full of potential suitors for their services, potentially driving up the price to unreasonable levels.

Typically, the best free-agent value comes in the second and third wave of activity where the Ravens pride themselves in identifying so-called “80-20″ guys who theoretically provide 80 percent of the production of an incumbent or marquee free agent for 20 percent of the cost. Examples of such players might be Cincinnati left tackle Anthony Collins or a cheaper slot option such as Philadelphia’s Jason Avant who could presumably be coupled with a rookie in the draft.

The abundance of cap space now compared to recent years provides flexibility but encourages stupidity if you’re not careful. Newsome made it clear in January that the Ravens have every intention of adding an impact wide receiver and laid out the avenues in which that goal — along with others — can be achieved.

“That player will be available between now [and September], whether it’s in free agency, whether he’s a cap casualty, whether it’s in the draft or whether it’s through trade,” Newsome said. “There is no reason that he might not be here at the beginning of the season, but I always try to leave myself a little leeway to give us a chance to get it right.”

Remember that there’s no Lombardi awarded in mid-March.

2. Use all outlets in moderation.

It isn’t solely about re-signing your own free agents, playing the open market, looking for trades, or relying on the draft.

Everything in moderation.

We’ve already seen this play out to some degree as the Ravens elected not to use the franchise tag on left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is reportedly looking for upwards of $10 million per season. Even after giving up fourth- and fifth-round picks last October to acquire the former Jaguars tackle, the Ravens simply didn’t feel Monroe was worth the $11.65 million franchise tag tender and are likely to lose him as a result of not seeing eye to eye over his value.

“If things don’t happen before Tuesday, then we’re going to have to build a team the way we build it in other directions,” Harbaugh said. “But we’re working really hard to get that done right now. We want to keep our guys, and we want our guys to be here just like Dennis. We want to keep those guys.”

Beyond Monroe, the Ravens would like to keep inside linebacker Daryl Smith and a couple others such as wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cornerback Corey Graham, but you can’t fall in love with your own players in the same way that you don’t want to throw lucrative money at a free agent on the first day of business. It’s for this reason that Baltimore is pretty much resigned to the idea of defensive tackle Arthur Jones walking away for a bigger contract elsewhere since Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore are waiting in the wings and they have many needs elsewhere.

Though patience is key, the Ravens shouldn’t — and can’t — wait until the draft and expect their many positional needs to be filled with only four scheduled picks as well as four anticipated compensatory picks.

Again, rely on everything in moderation.

3. Don’t alter how you value players because of a greater amount of salary cap space.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

Posted on 04 March 2014 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’ 13 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and six exclusive-rights free agents.

The 2014 salary cap was officially set to a record-high $133 million last week and the Ravens have just under $25 million in cap space after signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that includes a cap figure of just $3.2 million for the 2014 season. Most media attention focuses on unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens’ list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players will take up a noticeable portion of that available cap space when tendered.

In much better cap position than they’ve been in a few years, the Ravens will likely have the ability to be a bigger player in the free-agent market than they are in most years, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has also valued compensatory picks over the years and signing unrestricted free agents hurts the formula in determining those.

Though the signing period officially begins on March 11, 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 2013 free-agent forecast HERE.

Unrestricted free agents

TE Dallas Clark: LEAVES
Skinny: Earlier this offseason, Clark expressed uncertainty whether he would play again in 2014, but it’s all but guaranteed that he won’t be back with the Ravens after he was no longer a factor when Pitta returned from injury last December.

NT Terrence Cody: LEAVES
Skinny: The 2010 second-round pick wasn’t quite the bust that fellow 2010 class member Sergio Kindle was, but he was certainly a disappointment in his four-year run with the Ravens and never really improved.

TE Ed Dickson: LEAVES
Skinny: He may have been the best blocking tight end on the roster the last couple years, but that was still an issue for the Ravens in 2013 and both sides appeared ready to move on by the end of last season.

CB Corey Graham: STAYS
Skinny: Viewed more as a luxury than a pressing need, Graham may ultimately fit into the Ravens’ plans with an improved cap position and the lack of quality cornerback depth behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

DT Arthur Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Emerging as one of the better 3-technique defensive tackles in the AFC in his first full year as a starter, Jones figures to fetch the kind of deal that will be more than the Ravens are willing to pay with so many needs on the other side of the ball.

WR Jacoby Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: The door will remain open for a return at the right price, but the shortage of quality wide receivers on the open market will likely lead to another team overvaluing Jones’ limited ability as a wideout.

S James Ihedigbo: LEAVES
Skinny: All things being equal, the Ravens would like to have Ihedigbo back, but he deserves to start somewhere and 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam is a better fit at the strong spot than at the free safety position where he struggled as a rookie.

S Jeromy Miles: STAYS
Skinny: Plucked from Cincinnati’s roster early last season, Miles is a strong special-teams player and shouldn’t command more than the veteran minimum to remain with the Ravens.

OT Eugene Monroe: LEAVES
Skinny: The 26-year-old remains the Ravens’ top priority, but it’s clear that the sides have a difference in opinion of his value and a number of teams are looking for a left tackle, which doesn’t bode well for the chances of him re-signing.

OT Michael Oher: LEAVES
Skinny: A high-ranking member of the organization expressed the belief that Oher would be viewed as a left tackle if he were to remain with the Ravens, but he appears to be no more than a Plan C or D at this point.

RB Bernard Scott: LEAVES
Skinny: With Ray Rice dealing with legal problems and Bernard Pierce coming back from shoulder surgery, the No. 3 running back job has suddenly become a bigger priority and the Ravens will be looking for a substantial upgrade over Scott.

LB Daryl Smith: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens took a chance on Smith last summer and he rewarded them handsomely with a strong 2013 season, so it makes too much sense to re-sign him after Jameel McClain was cut due to cap reasons last week.

WR Brandon Stokley: LEAVES
Skinny: The man who caught the first touchdown of Super Bowl XXXV announced his retirement at the end of last season but will always be a popular figure in Baltimore.

Restricted free agents

Restricted free agents have three accrued seasons in the league. The Ravens can offer a first-round ($3.113 million), second-round ($2.187 million), or original-round tender ($1.431) 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.

WR Tandon Doss: STAYS
Skinny: The 2011 fourth-round pick has disappointed as a receiver, but his ability as a punt returner will lead to the Ravens either offering him the low tender or re-signing him on a cheap two-year contract.

LB Albert McClellan: STAYS
Skinny: McClellan was a non-factor defensively last season but is a strong special-teams player and has the ability to play all four linebacker spots, making him a likely choice to receive the low tender or an inexpensive two-year deal.

Exclusive-rights free agents

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Newsome, Devereaux headed to National High School Hall of Fame

Posted on 04 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Five outstanding former high school athletes, including legendary Cleveland Browns’ tight end Ozzie Newsome from Alabama and pro basketball star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway from Tennessee, headline the 2014 class of the National High School Hall of Fame.

Joining Newsome and Hardaway as athletes in the 2014 class are Casey Blake, a four-sport star at Indianola (Iowa) High School, who had a 13-year professional baseball career; Michael Devereaux, a four-sport standout at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming, who enjoyed an 12-year professional baseball career; and Suzy Powell, a basketball and track and field star at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, who competed in three Olympic Games.

These five individuals, along with four high school coaches, one contest official, one administrator and one in the performing arts, will be inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) National High School Hall of Fame July 2 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place in Boston, Massachusetts. The 32nd Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be the closing event of the 95thannual NFHS Summer Meeting.

High school coaches slated for induction this year include Bob McDonald, basketball coach at Chisholm (Minnesota) High School who is retiring this year after a legendary 59-year coaching career; Morgan Gilbert, who retired last year from Tuckerman (Arkansas) High School after winning more than 1,000 games as both a basketball coach and baseball coach during a 48-year career; Katie Horstman, who started the girls sports program at Minster (Ohio) High School in 1972 and led the girls track team to eight state championships; and Frank Pecora, who becomes Vermont’s first inductee in the National High School Hall of Fame after leading Northfield (Vermont) High School to 15 state baseball championships.

Other members of the 2014 induction class are George Demetriou, a football and baseball official from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is a state and national officiating leader in both sports; Sheryl Solberg, a state and national leader in the development of girls athletics programs during her 34 years as assistant to the executive secretary of the North Dakota High School Activities Association; and Randy Pierce, a state and national debate leader who coached debate at Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri, for almost 40 years before retiring in 2012.

 

ATHLETES

Ozzie Newsome was a three-sport standout (football, basketball, baseball) at Colbert County High School in Leighton, Alabama, in the early 1970s. He helped Colbert County to state championships in football and basketball in 1972 and to the state finals in baseball in 1973. After four years at the University of Alabama, Newsome became one of the greatest tight ends in National Football League (NFL) history during his 13-year career with the Cleveland Browns. He has been general manager/executive vice president of the Baltimore Ravens since 1996 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway scored more than 3,000 points during his three-year basketball career at Treadwell High School in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1987 to 1990. As a senior, Hardaway averaged 36 points and 10 rebounds per game and was the Parade National Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball in Tennessee. Hardaway was an all-American at Memphis State University and a four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) all-star with the Orlando Magic. He played with three other NBA teams during his 15-year career and was a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic basketball team that won a gold medal.

Casey Blake was named the Top Male High School Athlete in Iowa in 1992 at the conclusion of his four-sport, four-year career at Indianola High School. As the team’s quarterback, he led Indianola to the state football playoffs twice and was the leading scorer on the basketball team. He was the first freshman to play on the school’s baseball team and was named all-state two times, and he was a medal winner in the 400-meter hurdles in the state track meet. Blake was a three-time All-American at Wichita State University and retired in 2011 after a 13-year career in professional baseball with five teams, including the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Michael Devereaux was one of the greatest high school athletes in Wyoming history at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper (1979-81). He led the track team to the 1981 state championship while setting state records in four events (100, 200, 400 and high jump), helped the basketball team to back-to-back titles in 1980 and 1981, and was a member of the state football championship team in 1980. Though the Wyoming High School Activities Association does not sponsor baseball, Devereaux led his American Legion team to three state titles. The highlights of his 12-year professional baseball career were with the Baltimore Orioles in 1992, when he finished seventh in the MVP voting, and with the Atlanta Braves in 1995, when he was MVP of the National League Championship Series and helped the Braves to the World Series title.

Suzy Powell was one of the top discus throwers at all levels of competition in this country – from her days at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, until her retirement in 2012. Powell set the national high school girls discus record of 188-4 in 1994 and held the mark until 2009. She was three-time California state champion in the discus and was the California Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 1994. Powell also played basketball and averaged 21.6 points per game as a senior. She was a member of three U.S. Olympic teams (1996, 2000 and 2008) and was ranked No. 1 in the United States in the discus as recently as 2007.

 

COACHES

            After 59 years and at the age of 80, Bob McDonald concluded his amazing basketball coaching career this year. McDonald spent the final 53 years at Chisholm (Minnesota) High School and finished with an overall record of 1,012-428, which included three state championships and 11 state tournament appearances. He is one of only 13 coaches nationally to surpass 1,000 victories. McDonald also coached track and field at Chisholm for 50 years and won a state title in 2001. 

Morgan Gilbert is the only high school coach in history to surpass 1,000 victories in both basketball and baseball and ranks among the top 10 all-time leaders in both sports. After concluding his remarkable 48-year career last year, including the past 40 years at Tuckerman (Arkansas) High School, Gilbert ranked sixth all-time in baseball coaching victories with a 1,030-396 career mark and seventh all-time in basketball with a 1,077-593 career record. His teams competed in the state basketball playoffs 38 times and the state baseball playoffs 39 times.

Katie Horstman was considered a pioneer in the area of girls athletics in the state of Ohio after starting the girls athletic program at her alma mater – Minster High School – in 1972. In her 25 years at Minster, Horstman coached volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, track and field, cross country and softball. Her track and field teams won eight state titles and finished second four other times, and she led the cross country team to one state title and three runner-up finishes. Prior to returning to Minster, Horstman played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1950s.

The first person from Vermont to be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame, Frank Pecora had an outstanding career as baseball coach at Northfield High School. In 38 years (1973, 1976-2012), Pecora’s teams won 15 state championships, including five in a row from 1997 to 2001, and finished second four other times. Pecora was the school’s athletic director as well during his career at Northfield. He was president of the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association and served on the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Board of Directors.

 

OFFICIAL

George Demetriou has officiated high school baseball and football in Colorado for 25 years, including three championship games in baseball and two in football; however, his contributions to officiating in those sports go far beyond his on-the-field accomplishments. Demetriou has served as the Colorado High School Activities Association baseball and football rules interpreter and has authored widely distributed books in both sports. He has written more than 300 articles, many of which have appeared in Referee magazine, and he is the author of an annual football study guide for NFHS and NCAA rules.

 

ADMINISTRATOR

Sheryl Solberg was one of the leaders in the development and growth of girls sports programs – in her state and across the nation – during her 34 years as assistant to the executive secretary of the North Dakota High School Activities Association (1978-2012). At the state level, she handled coaches and officials programs for most of the state’s sports, and was involved with several national rules experiments, including rally scoring and the libero position in volleyball and the smaller-size basketball for girls. She also led numerous officiating camps and clinics throughout the country.

 

PERFORMING ARTS

Randy Pierce was a leader in high school debate at all levels – from almost 40 years at Pattonville High School to his work with the Missouri State High School Activities Association to his work with the NFHS and the National Debate Topic Selection Committee. Pierce coached the Pattonville High School mock trial team to six state championships and qualified students to MSHSAA state championships for 37 consecutive years. In 2010, Pierce received his seventh diamond award from the National Forensic League.

The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, performing arts coaches/directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and activity programs. This year’s class increases the number of people in the Hall of Fame to 423.

The 12 individuals were chosen after a two-level selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders. Nominations were made through NFHS member associations.

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Ravens elect not to use franchise tag on left tackle Monroe

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Ravens elect not to use franchise tag on left tackle Monroe

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Needing to decide by 4 p.m. Monday whether they would designate left tackle Eugene Monroe as their franchise player, the Ravens elected not to use the tag on their starting left tackle.

The Ravens would have been required to offer an $11.654 million tender if they’d named Monroe their franchise player. Prior to signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract on Friday, the Ravens had roughly $26 million in cap space, which does not include tenders for exclusive-rights free agents and restricted free agents. However, with other pressing needs on the offensive line as well as at wide receiver and free safety, the tag price was considered a steep investment with no guarantee of a long-term deal in the future.

Several outlets reported Monday morning that the sides remained far apart in long-term contract negotiations as other teams such as the Miami Dolphins have already leaked interest in the 26-year-old should he hit the market when free agency begins on March 11. The 2009 first-round pick has routinely been ranked in the top 10 of available NFL free agents by various outlets.

Other teams may begin negotiating with Monroe on March 8, but no contracts may be signed before next Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the start of the new league year. However, with no tag in place, it appears unlikely that the offensive lineman wouldn’t want to at least explore other offers on the open market.

According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe earned the fourth-best grade of any tackle in the league over the final 11 weeks of the 2013 season, the period of time in which he played with the Ravens. The University of Virginia product has never been named to the Pro Bowl but has started 73 of 76 games in his five-year career, showing durability and consistent play despite spending most of that time with the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars.

Monroe has continued to work out at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills and has acknowledged he would like to remain in Baltimore after the Ravens forked over fourth- and fifth-round picks to acquire him from Jacksonville last October, but he does not intend to give them a hometown discount.

“I want to be here, but I know there could be opportunities everywhere,” Monroe said in an interview with AM 1570 WNST last month. “I just have to be patient and wait for things to unfold. Everyone in the business should understand that you have to get the absolute best, and that you can’t give any discounts because you have to have you and your family’s best interest at heart.”

The Ravens have routinely used the franchise tag as a mechanism to extend the negotiating window in order to eventually reach a multi-year contract, but a simple look at the last three times general manager Ozzie Newsome used the tag indicates the tender amount ultimately provides a framework for the average cost per year of a long-term deal, which may have made Baltimore leery over a figure approaching $12 million.

In 2009, linebacker Terrell Suggs was tagged with a $10.2 million tender before signing a deal worth $10.5 million per season over six years, Two years later, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata received a $12.4 million franchise tender before signing a contract worth $12.2 million per year over five seasons. And two years ago, running back Ray Rice was set to play for a $7.7 million franchise amount before inking a five-year contract paying an average of $7 million per season.

In other words, Monday’s decision could simply be viewed as the Ravens not valuing Monroe as an $11.65 million-per-year player.

In their 19-year history, the Ravens have used the franchise tag on five players — designating cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Terrell Suggs twice each — and only failed to reach a long-term agreement with one as offensive lineman Wally Williams departed after the 1998 season to sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints.

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Newsome says Ravens could bring back McClain or Leach

Posted on 27 February 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens have terminated the contracts of vested veterans FB Vonta Leach and LB Jameel McClain, general manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Thursday.

“Vonta and Jameel are two of our most important players over the last few seasons, helping us to the playoffs and giving the Ravens the Super Bowl win after the 2012 season,” Newsome stated. “Vonta proved to be one of the best fullbacks in the league, plus he added leadership and toughness to our offense. Jameel is a Ravens’ success story who came to us as a rookie free agent. He changed positions from playing on the defensive line and outside to becoming a good inside linebacker and starter. People close to our team understand his commitment to being the best he can be and the leadership he gave on and off the field.

“There could come a point later on when we would consider bringing back Vonta and Jameel. They are our types of players.”

A 10-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection, Leach spent the past three seasons with the Ravens, earning All-Star honors twice (2011-12). Seeing action in 146 career games (79 starts), Leach originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2004. In his three seasons with the Ravens, he played in all 48 games (36 starts) and served as the lead blocker for RB Ray Rice, who was tabbed as a Pro Bowler during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns.

“He’s the big, physical fullback you like to have when you pound the ball and are on special teams,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “And, who doesn’t like Vonta? He’s fun to be around, and his personality helped lift the energy at a lot of practices. People know we like to be physically dominating, and when we did that in recent years, Vonta was a big part of that.”

McClain, a six-year NFL veteran, originally signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent in 2008. Seeing action in 87 career games (55 starts), he recorded 338 tackles (214 solo), 4.5 sacks (-33.5 yards), one interception, 10 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown) and one forced fumble. McClain’s 338 stops rank 17th on the Ravens’ all-time tackles chart, while he also registered a franchise-record two safeties (both during his 2008 rookie season).

“There is so much to like about Jameel, the player and the person,” Harbaugh added. “He’s a true leader, and his story from rookie free agent to NFL starter is one of the best in the league. You give him so much credit for finding a way to become the player he is. He’s one of those guys who gets the most out of his ability. He has a lot of football left, and maybe, that could be with the Ravens down the line.

“Both of these men helped the Ravens win a lot of games and the Super Bowl Championship. We are thankful for all they gave us.”

McClain earned the team’s 2013 Ed Block Courage Award after returning from a spinal cord contusion injury he sustained in 2012. Missing the final three regular season games and each playoff contest in 2012, McClain then sat out the first six games of the 2013 campaign before returning for its final 10 contests (all starts). He totaled 50 tackles (27 solo) and one forced fumble last season.

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Ravens release McClain, Leach in cap-saving maneuvers

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Ravens release McClain, Leach in cap-saving maneuvers

Posted on 27 February 2014 by Luke Jones

Even with an estimated $20 million of salary cap space at their disposal with free agency approaching next month, the Ravens parted ways with two veteran starters to free up more resources on Thursday.

Baltimore announced that inside linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach were being released in cap-saving maneuvers. By doing so, the Ravens save a total of $4.95 million in room as free agency is set to begin on March 11.

“There could come a point later on when we would consider bringing back Vonta and Jameel,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a team statement. “They are our types of players.”

McClain told WNST.net that the Ravens would like to have him back at a reduced rate and that “the story’s not finished.” The seventh-year linebacker agreed to a pay cut from $3 million to $1.5 million in base salary this past season as he started the year on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from a spinal cord contusion suffered on Dec. 9, 2012.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Leach posted a message of thanks on his official Twitter account that included a collage of photos from his three-year run with the organization. The veteran fullback made it clear at the end of the season that he saw the writing on the wall for his future with the Ravens after he played a total of just 12 offensive snaps in the final three games of the season. Of course, Leach was previously cut last summer before re-signing with the Ravens at a reduced rate and seeing his role in the offense diminish as the running game set franchise-worst marks.

“Obviously, I wasn’t in the offense a whole lot this year,” Leach said the day after the season end in late December. “If they had a role for me, ideally, I’d want to come back here. I understand that this is a business.”

Baltimore drafted fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round last season and could add more of a blocking fullback via the draft or free agency if new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak deems it necessary. Leach is entering his 11th season and is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, two of those honors received while playing for the Ravens and blocking for fellow Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.

The 28-year-old McClain represents one of the better stories in franchise history of an undrafted rookie not only making the 53-man roster in 2008 but carving out a significant role in the defense, starting in 55 games and collecting 316 tackles over the last five years. Told by some he’d never play football again after injuring his neck in 2012, McClain played 10 games last season and made 52 tackles.

“He’s a true leader, and his story from rookie free agent to NFL starter is one of the best in the league,” coach John Harbaugh said in a team release. “You give him so much credit for finding a way to become the player he is. He’s one of those guys who gets the most out of his ability. He has a lot of football left, and maybe, that could be with the Ravens down the line.”

With the Ravens drafting inside linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round of the 2013 draft and already engaging in talks with pending free agent Daryl Smith, McClain’s price tag was deemed too high for a team with a plethora of needs this offseason.

Neither move is surprising as McClain and Leach topped the list of possible cap casualties as the Ravens attempt to bounce back from their first non-playoff season of the Harbaugh era. Also thought to be a potential cut at the start of the offseason, punter Sam Koch — set to count for $2.8 million against the cap in 2014 — told WNST.net Thursday afternoon that he hadn’t heard anything in terms of his roster standing

Newsome and the front office remain in negotiations with tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe as both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Reports indicate the Ravens are making progress with Pitta before Monday’s deadline to use the franchise tag while they remain far apart in their discussions with Monroe.

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Ravens wrap busy week in Indianapolis with thoughts toward May

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Ravens wrap busy week in Indianapolis with thoughts toward May

Posted on 25 February 2014 by Luke Jones

Facing a critical offseason after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Ravens have wrapped a productive week of evaluating the 2014 rookie class at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Much work remains with pro days still to come and the draft not taking place until May 8, but the combine provides a strong framework of information as well as the first opportunity for teams to meet with underclassmen who declared for the NFL.

In addition to evaluating draft prospects’ physical tools, administering physicals, and interviewing players to gauge their intelligence and character, the Ravens were busy trying to address their pending free agents as general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged continuing negotiations with the representatives of tight end Dennis Pitta, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, and linebacker Daryl Smith. However, no deals were considered imminent at the conclusion of the combine on Tuesday.

Of course, Newsome and coach John Harbaugh were also asked about the status of troubled running back Ray Rice, echoing the sentiment that the facts of the case will determine the consequences. As of now, the Ravens have offered no indication that Rice’s future could be in jeopardy after he and his fiancée were charged with simple assault-domestic violence in Atlantic City earlier this month.

Below is a list — though not intended to be a complete collection — of draft prospects the Ravens interviewed in Indianapolis, according to a number of publications including ESPN, the Carroll County Times, and The Sun. It’s important not to read too much into these meetings as it’s common for players to meet with a plethora of teams, but it can indicate special interest in a given prospect.

In addition to a tidbit on each prospect, a estimated projection of when the player might be drafted is included.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mike Evans, Texas A&M — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 prospect ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap in addition to showing consistent hands, factors likely leading to him being gone before the Ravens pick 17th.

Marqise Lee, USC — first/second round
Skinny: A 4.52-second 40 time wasn’t overwhelming by any means, but he performed solidly in field drills and pundits think he plays faster than his time indicated in Indianapolis.

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State — first round
Tidbit: At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin has freakish size but isn’t as polished as Evans, carrying more of a bust risk while remaining an intriguing prospect.

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State — first/second round
Tidbit: Considered one of the big winners in Indianapolis, the 5-foot-10 Cooks may have solidified his standing as a first-round pick after running a blazing 40 (4.33 seconds) and displaying excellent hands in drills.

Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt — first/second round
Tidbit: The 6-foot-3 receiver’s 40 time was much better than many thought, which bodes well for his draft prospects after a monster career playing in the SEC.

Jarvis Landry, LSU — second/third round
Tidbit: A slow 40 time was the result of a hamstring injury, but questions remain about the underneath receiver’s explosiveness as teammate Odell Beckham Jr. outperformed him at the combine.

Mike Davis, Texas — third round
Tidbit: A minor foot injury kept Davis was taking part in field drills, but he remains a viable Day 2 option.

Robert Herron, Wyoming — fourth round
Tidbit: The 5-foot-9 receiver has quick feet with a 4.45 40-yard dash time and compiled more than 2,000 receiving yards in college, making him a name to watch on Day 3.

TIGHT ENDS

Eric Ebron, North Carolina — first round
Skinny: Previously considered a good fit for the Ravens at 17th overall, the 6-foot-4 pass-catching threat had a monster workout in Indianapolis and very well could have vaunted himself into the top 10.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech — first/second round
Skinny: The 6-foot-5 target posted an underwhelming 4.74-second 40 time and clearly fell far behind Ebron in the battle for top tight end prospect, but he remains a top 50 player despite small hands and some drops during drills.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa — third
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 product is known for being a tremendous blocker and fits the mold of a more traditional tight end even if he lacks the upside of the other top prospects at the position.

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame — second
Skinny: Praised by Harbaugh earlier this week, Niklas has a monster 6-foot-6 frame and could be a steal in the second or third round.

RUNNING BACKS

Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona — second/third round
Skinny: A slow 4.70 40 time didn’t do him any favors in trying to improve his draft stock, but his instincts, soft hands, and blocking ability keep him in position to be one of the first running backs selected despite a forgettable combine.

Carlos Hyde, Ohio State — second/third round
Skinny: The Buckeyes back hurt his hamstring running the 40 but remains a candidate to be the first running back to come off the draft board.

Terrance West, Towson — third round
Skinny: All eyes were on the local product to see how well he would test and the record-setting back ran a 4.54-second 40, only helping his stock to be a potential second-day pick as he continues to rise on experts’ boards.

Andre Williams, Boston College — third/fourth round
Skinny: The 230-pound bruiser tested very well in running the 40 (4.54), which follows a 2,000-yard season with the Eagles and bodes very well for his draft status.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Taylor Lewan, Michigan — first round
Skinny: The massive 6-foot-7 lineman ran a remarkable 4.87 in the 40-yard dash and shined in blocking drills to solidify his standing as a top 15 pick and future left tackle at the next level.

Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama — first/second round
Skinny: The combine couldn’t have been much worse for the projected first-round choice as concerns arose about an arthritic knee, and a 5.59 40-yard dash time and underwhelming bench press now threaten to drop him considerably.

Zack Martin, Notre Dame — first round
Skinny: Quickly becoming a favorite of teams with multiple needs along the offensive line like the Ravens, Martin continues to be a likely choice in the second half of the first round and is projected to be able to play multiple positions on the line.

Morgan Moses, Virginia — first/second round
Skinny: Not considered a good athlete despite his strong play on the field, Moses finished near the bottom of speed and agility categories among offensive linemen and remains a fringe first-round talent.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota — first round
Skinny: The 6-foot-6, 318-pound lineman stood out at the Senior Bowl and worked out well in Indianapolis, but his uneven performance in games still leaves questions for teams to investigate.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS/EDGE RUSHERS

Dee Ford, Austin — first/second round
Skinny: After excelling at last month’s Senior Bowl, Ford didn’t work out at the combine due to a medical flag of a 2011 back surgery after proclaiming himself to be better than Jadeveon Clowney a day earlier.

Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech — third/fourth round
Skinny: The pass rusher didn’t work out in Indianapolis due to hamstring and hand injuries, but he’s an intriguing mid-round prospect after collecting 12 1/2 sacks last season.

Michael Sam, Missouri — third/fourth round
Skinny: Impressing mightily in the way he handled his media session, Sam ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and still can’t shake concerns of being too small to play defensive end and not being athletic enough to play outside linebacker.

Adrian Hubbard, Alabama — fourth round
Skinny: His 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame is complemented well by a 4.69 40-yard dash, but uneven production on the field with the Crimson Tide hurts his draft stock.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Lamin Barrow, LSU — third/fourth round
Skinny: His 4.64-second 40 was the third-fastest time among linebackers, and he appears to have the skills necessary to cover running backs and tight ends at only 229 pounds.

Chris Borland, Wisconsin — third round
Skinny: His measurables weren’t overly impressive at the combine — including short arms and a subpar 4.83 40 time — but his football instincts are highly regarded as he figures to be a solid mid-round prospect at inside linebacker.

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Newsome acknowledges Ray Rice video “doesn’t look good”

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Newsome acknowledges Ray Rice video “doesn’t look good”

Posted on 22 February 2014 by Luke Jones

While echoing John Harbaugh’s sentiment that the facts will determine consequences for Ray Rice, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t sugarcoat his reaction when asked if he’d seen the video of the running back dragging his fiancee from a casino elevator.

“It doesn’t look good,” Newsome said. “But I’m going to reserve all my comments up until I have a chance to talk to Ray.”

While Rice has spoken to Harbaugh, director of player development Harry Swayne, and head of security Darren Sanders, Newsome told reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that he has yet to speak to the seventh-year running back.

Rice and fiancée Janay Palmer were both arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a physical altercation in Atlantic City last weekend. However, Newsome said he feels “very good” about Rice’s side of the story told to members of the organization and on the measures the 27-year-old has taken in the aftermath of the incident to address his relationship with Palmer.

“In any of those situations, it’s very concerning, but up until we get all of the facts, we will allow the process run its course,” Newsome said. “I think John said it best yesterday: ‘We will let the facts determine what the consequences will be.’”

Newsome gave no indication that Rice’s future with the Ravens is in jeopardy, but he acknowledged that the entire video must be reviewed by the league and that the organization will follow commissioner Roger Goodell’s lead in that regard. It has been reported that Atlantic City police possess surveillance video of the pair striking each other with Rice rendering Palmer unconscious.

Many have opined that because of the public nature in which this story has played out with TMZ releasing a portion of the video on Wednesday, Rice is likely to face a suspension.

“As a league, we have a conduct policy,” Newsome said said. “Being a member of the league, we will follow that from A to Z. Up until we get to that point, right now, he falls under the personal conduct policy with the league. And we will allow the league to take its position before we will have to take any.”

To hear the entire Ozzie Newsome press conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, click HERE.

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