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Harbaugh speaks on Jernigan, Boldin, Yanda, Mosley

Posted on 28 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh discussed an array of topics at the league meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday morning, but one of the most interesting was the status of Timmy Jernigan.

Asked about former NFL executive Michael Lombardi’s recent revelation that Baltimore was considering trading the defensive tackle, Harbaugh didn’t dismiss the report, but he didn’t make it sound as though the organization was actively pursuing a deal, either.

“Everybody’s up for trade. I’m sure that if the Ravens got enough, they’d trade me in a second,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “It might not take much right now if people are looking. That’s just part of the conversation in the NFL.”

With the Ravens re-signing nose tackle Brandon Williams to a five-year, $52.5 million contract earlier this month, the chances of Jernigan receiving a contract extension appear remote despite the 2014 second-round selection being the top interior pass rusher on the current roster. The Florida State product registered a career-high five sacks in 2016, but his production faded in the second half of the season as he managed just one sack over the final nine games and had only one tackle over the final four contests combined.

A player of Jernigan’s caliber signing elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent would likely fetch the Ravens a solid compensatory pick, so the argument could be made that general manager Ozzie Newsome could pull the trigger on a deal to receive a draft choice sooner. However, Baltimore is already trying to improve its pass rush this offseason and would be losing a valuable year of production from a player its already developed over the last three seasons, meaning the asking price wouldn’t exactly be cheap.

“Timmy’s going to have the best year of his career without question,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure he’s training hard. I know how passionate is. He wants to be a great player. Trade talks always go on. People are interested in Timmy because I’m sure they feel like with our defensive line situation that we have a lot of good players and he might be available. People are going to ask about him.”

Boldin reunion

The Ravens are still trying to fill a significant hole at wide receiver, which has led many outsiders to ask about the possibility of bringing back veteran Anquan Boldin, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Of course, Newsome traded Boldin to San Francisco in exchange for a seventh-round pick just weeks after Super Bowl XLVII, a move for which the Ravens have been criticized ever since. Harbaugh said he would be interested in the 36-year-old’s return to Baltimore, but he didn’t make it sound as though it was something the organization has explored in depth.

“That’s up to Ozzie. That’s up to all of us,” Harbaugh said. “But, in the final accounting, I think we have to see what all the options are. And I don’t even know if Anquan wants to come back. That would be another thing we’d have to look into.”

Boldin spent the 2016 season with the Detroit Lions, playing in all 16 games and catching 67 passes for 584 yards. His eight touchdown receptions were the most he’s collected since 2008, but he averaged a career-worst 8.7 yards per reception. That’s a concerning statistic when you remember how badly the Ravens’ passing game struggled to push the ball down the field last season.

His yards per reception average has declined every year since 2011.

“I do believe he can still play at the highest level,” Harbaugh said. “I think his ability and skills are such that he’s not going to drop off the edge just because of how he plays. I know he loved it in Baltimore, and I loved him in Baltimore. I didn’t want him to have to leave when it happened. That’s just the way things worked out, but I’d be for [a reunion].”

Shoulder surgery for Yanda

Harbaugh confirmed that six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda did undergo left shoulder surgery this offseason, but it is not expected to affect his status for the start of the 2017 regular season.

The injury forced Yanda to switch from right guard to the left side to be able to play through the pain. His ability to continue performing at a high level despite the in-season switch was a testament to a man who has quietly become one of the best players in franchise history.

“He’ll be ready for training camp 100 percent,” Harbaugh said. “I saw him. He’s lifting. He looks good. We’ll keep him out of [organized team activities] and minicamp.”

Yanda’s absence means the Ravens will be working with three new players on the first-team offensive line during spring workouts with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and left guard Alex Lewis being the only holdovers from 2016. Baltimore is currently looking for replacements for Rick Wagner at right tackle and Jeremy Zuttah at center.

Mosley option for 2018

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens’ decision whether to exercise their 2018 contract option on two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is merely a “formality” this spring.

“I’m sure that we’ll pick up his option,” Harbaugh said. “I expect C.J. Mosley to be a Raven for many, many, many years.”

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koch

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Proposed rule change aimed at Ravens’ end-game holding strategy

Posted on 23 March 2017 by Luke Jones

A tactic used by the Ravens to preserve a narrow victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last season may no longer be legal in the future.

The NFL’s competition committed has proposed a rule to prohibit the act of committing multiple fouls on the same down to manipulate the game clock. If approved, such an act would draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and prompt the game clock to be reset to where it was at the snap. The official reason given for the suggested change was “competitive fairness,” according to the committee.

This proposal comes after multiple members of the Baltimore punt team intentionally committed holding to allow punter Sam Koch to stall and run out the final 11 seconds of the fourth quarter and take a safety to conclude a 19-14 win at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 27. The same strategy was used by the Ravens at the end of Super Bowl XLVII four years ago, but Koch took a safety before time completely expired against San Francisco.

The 49ers used a similar defensive holding tactic late in the first half of a game last year that forced New Orleans to settle for a field goal try instead of having more time to try to score a touchdown.

This would hardly be the first time that the league has eliminated a loophole in the rule book that’s perceived by some as a violation of the game’s competitive spirit. It was a little over two years ago that the New England Patriots’ use of eligible and ineligible receivers bewildered the Ravens in a playoff contest and led to the NFL tightening up the rule a few months later.

No matter the aftermath, it’s wise to be aware of the intricacies of the rule book in hopes of finding a competitive edge to help win a game. The Ravens used that same tactic to help secure their second NFL championship four years ago and to win a crucial game to remain in the playoff hunt last season.

Owners will debate and vote on proposed rule changes at next week’s league meetings in Phoenix.

Check out the full list of proposed changes HERE.

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mornhinweg

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Ravens offense waits as defense receives substantial facelift

Posted on 23 March 2017 by Luke Jones

During Brandon Carr’s press conference this week, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees was recalling how he’d sent a text message to John Harbaugh after the latest defensive signing was made when the head coach interjected.

“I got a text from Marty [Mornhinweg], too, by the way,” said Harbaugh about his offensive coordinator. “He thought it was a good signing, too — just for the record. We’ve got some work to do over there, too.”

That’s an understatement as general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent lucrative dollars and most of his salary-cap space to revamp a defense that still finished in the top 10 of most significant statistical categories last season despite its well-documented problems down the stretch. Meanwhile, an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in virtually everything in 2016 has last four starters and has added only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead, who is an intriguing talent but coming off a major knee injury.

Some have attempted to skew the 2016 narrative by pointing to a 27-point scoring output and the late defensive collapse in Pittsburgh on Christmas Day as justification for focusing on the defense this offseason, but that anecdotal evidence clouds the truth. The offense played at a high level only a few times all year while the defense — flawed as it was when cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn’t on the field — was the bigger reason why the Ravens were still in contention in Week 16. That’s not to say that improvements weren’t warranted on the defensive side — which still could use another edge rusher — but the offense was summarily broken all year and has only gotten worse since the season finale in Cincinnati. You can certainly be excited about the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the additions of safety Tony Jefferson and Carr, but it’s fair to ask if some of those resources might have been better served addressing the offense.

To be clear, we know the start of the season is more than five months away, and Newsome and the Ravens are aware that they still have much work to do on that side of the ball. But with the first and second waves of free agency now in the books, Baltimore has fewer remaining channels — with the draft being the biggest one — to not only replace departed starters but find ways to markedly improve the offense. Of course, the margin for error is smaller without a dynamic offensive playmaker on which to lean.

Harbaugh sent a loud signal that the Ravens want to get back to running the ball at a high level by hiring senior offensive assistant and ground-game guru Greg Roman, but they need the horses in the trenches to do it. Otherwise, the offense will inevitably revert to Joe Flacco throwing more than 40 times per game, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out since Super Bowl XLVII.

The biggest objective must be to address the offensive line after the departure of right tackle Rick Wagner and the trade of center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco. Whether you believe Detroit overpaid for Wagner or not, replacing an above-average right tackle without meaningful drop-off will be very difficult unless new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has a trick up his sleeve.

Moving on from the underwhelming Zuttah wasn’t shocking, but they have to replace him with someone better or at least as good. There’s been little chatter about former New York Jet Nick Mangold to this point, and even if the Ravens eye a draft prospect such as Ethan Pocic from LSU, there are no guarantees of landing him in the second or third round. The Ravens could consider an internal candidate, but neither John Urschel nor Ryan Jensen inspire much confidence after their respective 2016 campaigns.

Finding a fullback to replace 2016 Pro Bowl selection Kyle Juszczyk shouldn’t be too difficult, but — like with Wagner — it may not be easy to do it without some drop-off.

Then, there’s wide receiver, that position we’ve discussed this time of year on an annual basis.

Baltimore lost its top two possessions receivers in Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and elected not to sign any free-agent wideouts from a top tier that included Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor. Perhaps the next Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, or Smith will be acquired in the coming weeks, but one can only look to 2013 and 2015 as recent examples of the Ravens being underprepared at that position and it hurting them substantially. Even looking past the organization’s poor track record with drafting receivers, relying heavily on a rookie wideout is a risky proposition for any team.

You might be willing to give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt along the offensive line — after all, Wagner was mostly an unknown three years ago — but skepticism at wide receiver is justified, whether it’s March or September.

It’s been interesting to see how the offseason has played out to this point, starting with Harbaugh’s decision to retain Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator despite showing little improvement taking over for the fired Marc Trestman. The team’s brass spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about needing to do whatever it takes to help Flacco play better in 2017, but a below-average offense from a year ago is currently standing at a net loss, putting heavy pressure on the front office and scouting department to nail next month’s draft and to find an under-the-radar free agent or two while also hoping that internal options take significant steps forward.

Otherwise, the Ravens will be needing a 2000-like performance from its revamped defense to have a real shot at getting back to the playoffs in 2017.

Yes, there’s plenty of time left, but many boxes remain unchecked.

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Carr’s reliability made him easy choice for Ravens

Posted on 21 March 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You can hardly blame the Ravens for being drawn to cornerback Brandon Carr.

After starting no fewer than four different players at cornerback in each of the last three seasons — including a whopping seven in 2014 — the Ravens needed more dependability at a position high in demand and limited in quality. The 30-year-old Carr may not have lived up to the high expectations that accompanied a $50 million contract with Dallas five years ago, but he’s been a reliable cornerback who’s started all 16 games in each of his nine NFL seasons.

Carr needs to show he can still play at a high level in 2017, but just being there means more than you might think for a team that’s started the likes of Rashaan Melvin and Shareece Wright in meaningful games over the last few years. Perhaps that’s why the Ravens signed Carr over former Dallas teammate Morris Claiborne, a talented former first-round pick who’s missed more than 40 percent of games in his career.

“There were different guys that had different histories,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the durability of others on the free-agent market. “You know you cannot do any better than Brandon has done. There’s a reason for that. Sure, luck comes into it and you do knock on wood and laugh about those kind of things.”

That durability is something the Ravens hope will continue with No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith missing 22 games over his six-year career and most of last December when their once-mighty defense fell apart. Some drop-off is inevitable whenever a team loses one of its best players, but performance can’t fall off a cliff in the way the Baltimore defense’s did at the end of last season without addressing the problem.

The Ravens feel confident about the trio of Smith, Carr, and 2016 fourth-round pick Tavon Young to go along with starting safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, but Harbaugh said they will continue to look for more secondary depth with this year’s draft deep in cornerback talent.

How has Carr been able to stay on the field at a position involving so much lateral movement and speed?

“I do not even know how I do it myself with the injuries that I won’t even talk about,” said Carr, who cited his work with outside trainers and his focus on nutrition as factors that have kept him healthy. “I just keep playing through them. Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw, and sometimes it is just being stupid and playing through whatever is going on.

“Alongside of that, my preparation throughout the offseason taking care of my body [and] just keeping a balance in my life with family, friends, football, and my faith. I just try to stay on top of injuries.”

Holding the longest active streak for consecutive games (144) started by a cornerback, Carr isn’t guaranteed to continue being an iron man who’s never missed a game as he turns 31 in May. But the Ravens figured they would take their chances.

“I think the biggest indicator of future behavior and success is past behavior and success,” Harbaugh said. “He has proven that already.”

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Aiken agrees to one-year deal with Indianapolis

Posted on 21 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Kamar Aiken became the latest Ravens offensive player to exit this offseason after agreeing to a one-year deal with Indianapolis on Tuesday.

The wide receiver was coming off a 2016 season in which he struggled and the Ravens did little to get him involved. Aiken caught 29 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown while playing 342 fewer offensive snaps than he did the previous season. This came after the 27-year-old excelled in place of an injured Steve Smith in 2015, finishing with a career-high 75 receptions for 944 yards and five touchdown catches while playing with four different starting quarterbacks.

Aiken had made it clear that he was looking to move on this offseason after slipping to fourth on the wide receiver depth chart behind Smith, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman.

“It was one of the most frustrating years I’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” said Aiken on Jan. 2. “I would say I was proud of how I handled it. I handled it the best way I could. I’m alright with it.”

His departure leaves another offensive hole for general manager Ozzie Newsome to fill as the Ravens have now lost two of their top four wide receivers, their starting right tackle, their starting center, and their starting fullback. The only notable addition on offense has been running back Danny Woodhead, who is 32 and coming off major knee surgery.

Most of the organization’s salary-cap resources have been exhausted on improving the defense, a group that finished seventh in the NFL in total yards and ninths in points allowed last season. The Baltimore offense ranked 17th in total yards and 21st in points per game after replacing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman with Marty Mornhinweg in October.

Newsome has said he’d like to add a “complementary” receiver to go along with the speedy combination of Wallace and Perriman, but the Ravens refrained from signing any notable free-agent wideouts in a cooler-than-expected market for the position.

Aiken’s agreement with the Colts was first reported by NFL Network and later confirmed by agent David Canter.

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stanley

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Ravens own seven selections in first 186 picks of 2017 draft

Posted on 17 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Having completed the Jeremy Zuttah trade with San Francisco that included the exchange of 2017 sixth-round picks, the Ravens now own seven selections in the first 186 picks of April’s draft.

After an encouraging early return from his 2016 draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome hopes to find similar success this year to help Baltimore return to the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Ravens own only one compensatory pick — a third-round selection — but this is the first year in which those picks may be traded.

Their original 2017 seventh-round pick belongs to Los Angeles as a result of the trade for wide receiver Chris Givens two years ago. Barring any maneuvering, the Ravens’ seven selections would be their fewest in a draft since 2010.

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

Round 1: 16th overall
Round 2: 47th overall
Round 3: 78th overall
Round 3: 99th overall (compensatory)
Round 4: 122nd overall
Round 5: 159th overall
Round 6: 186th overall (from San Francisco)

Just for fun, here’s a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those slots (or as close as possible) over the years:

16th overall: LB C.J. Mosley (17th), 2014
47th overall: DT Timmy Jernigan (48th), 2014
78th overall: RB Musa Smith (77th), 2003
99th overall: OL Oniel Cousins, 2008
122nd overall: LB Za’Darius Smith, 2015
159th overall: FB Justin Green (158th), 2005
186th overall: LB Adalius Thomas, 2000

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carr

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Ravens add veteran cornerback Brandon Carr to secondary

Posted on 16 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Having stated the goal of improving their secondary this offseason, the Ravens have made their second significant addition to that group by agreeing to a four-year deal with cornerback Brandon Carr.

The former Dallas Cowboy and Kansas City Chief has started every game of his nine-year career and has never missed a contest, a level of durability that the Ravens likely value after countless injuries in the secondary in recent years. The six-foot, 210-pound cornerback will turn 31 in May and is likely to serve as an outside corner opposite Jimmy Smith with Tavon Young defending the slot in the nickel package.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Carr will be signing a one-year contract with a subsequent options that could make the deal worth $24 million over four seasons. Such a structure makes sense when signing a player entering his 10th year in the NFL.

The 2008 fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State collected 61 tackles, one interception, and nine pass breakups for the Cowboys last season. He has intercepted 15 passes in his career.

“This is a good football player,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement released by the team. “We got better today.”

The move comes after the Ravens had shown interest in Carr’s former teammate, Morris Claiborne, who agreed to terms with the New York Jets on Thursday. A disappointing former first-round pick from LSU, the 27-year-old Claiborne appeared to finally put it together from a performance standpoint last season, but he has never been able to stay healthy and has missed 33 games in five professional seasons. Claiborne is four years younger and has a higher ceiling, but Carr has the higher floor with his dependability over the years.

Carr was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 51st-best cornerback in the NFL and ranked 44th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system last season. He’s never made the Pro Bowl in his long career, but Carr had the reputation for being a great teammate and a solid player in Dallas.

With his signing, the Ravens continue to make defense their top priority this offseason after signing Arizona safety Tony Jefferson to a four-year, $34 million contract and re-signing nose tackle Brandon Williams to a five-year, $52.5 million deal last week.

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Ravens trade veteran center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco

Posted on 15 March 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:05 p.m.)

Vowing to improve their offensive line after an 8-8 season, the Ravens have opened up another starting job a week after starting right tackle Rick Wagner departed via free agency.

After NFL Network reported earlier in the day that he would be released, center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco after three seasons and 41 starts with Baltimore. The teams will swap their 2017 sixth-round picks, meaning the Ravens move up 12 spots from 198th to 186th overall on the final day of April’s draft instead of receiving nothing in what would have been a release. The trade came a few hours after former Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk lamented his teammate’s reported release on Twitter and suggested he would be a good fit with the 49ers.

Zuttah was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past year, but the Ravens are aiming to have a more physical presence for the middle of their offensive line. His trade saves $2.4 million in salary cap space, but Zuttah becomes the fourth Week 1 offensive starter to exit since the end of 2016, joining Wagner, Juszczyk, and retired wide receiver Steve Smith.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Zuttah was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best center in the NFL and was ranked 26th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system. Seeking an upgrade is an understandable goal, but it remains unclear how the Ravens will proceed as young linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are the only internal candidates to replace Zuttah on the current roster.

Urschel started seven games in place of an injured Zuttah in 2015, but he played just 265 offensive snaps in 2016 despite plenty of unrest at the guard spots. Jensen made three starts at guard in 2016, but he appeared to fall out of favor as the season progressed. Of course, new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and new senior offensive assistant — and running game guru — Greg Roman may have higher opinions of these players than former offensive line coach Juan Castillo apparently did.

Many have speculated about the possibility of the Ravens pursuing seven-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, but there has been little chatter linking the 33-year-old to any team after an injury-riddled season. The New York Jets released Mangold late last month, ending their 11-year union.

The 2017 draft isn’t considered to be rich in center talent, either, but among the top center prospects are LSU’s Ethan Pocic and Ohio State’s Pat Elflein.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has received praise for the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the addition of safety Tony Jefferson on lucrative deals to help the Baltimore defense, but the league’s 21st-ranked scoring offense has endured several losses while 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead has been the only addition to this point. And with the first wave of free agency over, the Ravens will likely be depending on the draft as the primary way to address most of their remaining needs on either side of the ball.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first wave of free agency

Posted on 14 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first wave of NFL free agency in the rear-view mirror, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts on the Ravens, each in 50 words or less:

1. Some may scoff at the emotion shown by Brandon Williams after signing a five-year, $52.5 million contract, but his right to maximize his earnings doesn’t mean staying in Baltimore wasn’t important to him. You could also see how happy general manager Ozzie Newsome was during Monday’s press conference.

2. Kudos to Williams for paying tribute to the late Clarence Brooks for his impact on the nose tackle’s career. The 28-year-old said the longtime defensive line coach saw everything that he could be and envisioned this happening for him one day. Brooks is definitely missed.

3. The addition of Tony Jefferson could really help in trying to replace linebacker Zach Orr. If the Ravens add a complementary third safety, defensive coordinator Dean Pees could use Jefferson as a dime in passing situations and minimize the need for a three-down linebacker, which is more difficult to find.

4. Major investments have been made in the defense, but you hope Newsome has more than couch change to address a Ravens offense that was summarily broken in 2016 and has lost key pieces. The hiring of Greg Roman will help the running game, but that only goes so far.

5. I’ll give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt at right tackle, but color me skeptical about wide receiver with free-agent options dwindling and prices having not been all that outrageous. Being underprepared at the position doomed Baltimore in 2013 and 2015, and you hope that odd-year trend doesn’t continue.

6. The Anthony Levine re-signing didn’t receive much attention, but losing the likes of Orr and fullback Kyle Juszczyk hurt the special teams and Levine has been a core contributor to Jerry Rosburg’s units.

7. I’m intrigued by the addition of the diminutive Danny Woodhead, who can do some of the things Juszczyk provided despite the obvious difference in size. The Ravens view Woodhead as a potential playmaker, but he’s also 32 and coming off major knee surgery, leaving some substantial unknown.

8. The fascination with free-agent cornerback Morris Claiborne is baffling with the former Dallas Cowboy missing 41 percent of games over his five-year career and having underperformed until 2016. Barring a cheap price tag — multiple teams are interested — this feels like a fool’s gold signing.

9. The Ravens loudly reconfirmed their longtime philosophy of being strong up the middle defensively with the financial commitments made to Williams and Jefferson, but I still wonder if that thinking needs to be adjusted in today’s NFL. Fortunately, this year’s draft is rich with edge rushers and cornerbacks.

10. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but teams are sleeping on Kamar Aiken compared to some other receivers who’ve already signed. He wasn’t keen on returning to Baltimore at the end of 2016 after being underutilized, but the Ravens could do worse than bringing back their leading receiver from 2015.

11. The Ravens have had some players recruit free agents in the past, but you have to be impressed with the efforts of Eric Weddle after just one year with the organization. He’s one of those rare veterans whom you wish could have been a Raven for his entire career.

12. Lardarius Webb is a prime example of some of the tough luck the Ravens have experienced in recent years. He was Baltimore’s best defensive player in 2012 before suffering the second ACL injury of his career six months after signing a six-year, $50 million contract. He was never the same.

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brandonwilliams

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Bisciotti call helped push Brandon Williams deal across finish line

Posted on 13 March 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if trumping the massive deal awarded to New York Giants nose tackle Damon Harrison last year was his goal, Brandon Williams acknowledged reality before then trying to defer to his agency’s role in negotiating his five-year, $52.5 million contract with the Ravens.

He didn’t say it verbatim at his Monday press conference in Owings Mills, but the 28-year-old was aiming to become the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.

“Obviously, it was a starting point, I guess,” said Williams of Harrison’s five-year, $46.25 million contract that included $24 million guaranteed. “You look at his deal, and I guess you kind of go from there.”

It’s hardly surprising, of course, but what was interesting was general manager Ozzie Newsome pulling back the curtain on the sequence of events that resulted in Williams ultimately receiving $27.5 million guaranteed. Newsome has often referenced Baltimore’s process of determining a value for a player and staying true to that final number during the negotiating process, but an audible was apparently called last week, a reflection of how badly the Ravens wanted to keep their fifth-year nose tackle and maintain their long-held desire to be strong up the middle defensively.

A Thursday morning conference call with owner Steve Bisciotti that included Newsome, team president Dick Cass, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and head coach John Harbaugh paved the way for the sides to get a deal done later that evening. Regardless of their many needs on both sides of the ball, the Ravens made it clear that they weren’t going to let their man get away.

“We came to a number [in January] that we felt like would be fair for Brandon and fair for us,” Newsome said. “But then, there is always an adjustment that has to happen based on, No. 1, how high the cap went, which went up $12 million [from 2016]. Then, [we considered] some of the deals that were made in the early part of the day and the early part of the week.

“Before the deal got completely done, I got another call from Steve early Thursday evening basically saying to me, ‘Do what you have to do to get the deal done.’ Having an owner like that really helps myself and [senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty] to be able to put together a deal that can keep good players on our football team.”

In the end, perhaps the owner couldn’t stand the thought of seeing another talented young player find big money somewhere else like guard Kelechi Osemele did a year ago, but his final call appeared to push negotiations across the finish line.

That revelation may provide some ammunition to those arguing that the Ravens overpaid to keep a run-stopping nose tackle, but we may never know whether another team was prepared to go as high as the Ravens did to sign Williams. Newsome reiterated on Monday that he’s comfortable with the organization’s remaining resources to address its many other needs, but only time will tell whether that proves to be the case.

For Williams, the lucrative deal brings the expectations of leading a young group of defensive linemen as well as living up to the title previously held by Harrison.

“He tweeted me out and said, ‘Good job. Looks like you’re the best now. See you on the field,'” Williams said. “Now, I’ve got to prove my worth, so I’m ready to do that.”

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