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Ravens lose veteran scout to Philadelphia

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have lost East regional scout Andy Weidl to Philadelphia where he will reunite with former Baltimore national scout Joe Douglas.

On Wednesday, the Eagles officially announced the hiring of Weidl as their assistant director of player personnel. They also hired Douglas, who spent last season as the director of college scouting for the Chicago Bears and will now become Philadelphia’s new vice president of player personnel.

With the Ravens since 2005, Weidl had served as the organization’s East regional scout since the 2013 draft and was responsible for scouting the entire eastern section of the United State, which included players from the ACC, American Conference, Big Ten, MAC, and SEC. He also evaluated and provided crosschecking scouting reports on players deemed “draftable” by the scouting department.

Both Douglas and Weidl were respected members of the scouting department valued by general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.

“I have known Joe for several years and have admired his work with both the Ravens and the Bears,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on Wednesday. “He is a guy that we had targeted from the outset. I feel that we are very fortunate to have him lead our player personnel department. Ozzie Newsome and [Bears general manager] Ryan Pace spoke very highly of him and his work. He is passionate about football, passionate about scouting, and he played a vital role in the success of the Ravens over the last decade.

“Andy also comes from the Ozzie Newsome tree of talent evaluators in Baltimore, and he has a great working relationship with Joe. I spoke with Tom Donahoe, who hired Andy in Pittsburgh, and he had nothing but great things to say about his work ethic. Like Joe, you can sense his drive for scouting right off the bat, and he has spent his entire career working for an opportunity like this. We are very pleased to have him join us.”

Players drafted from Weidl’s territories over the years included five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Weidl played his college football at Villanova where he graduated with a degree in communications in 1996. He had previous NFL stops with the Steelers and New Orleans before joining the Ravens more than a decade ago.

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Dixon eager to prove himself in Ravens’ crowded backfield

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens already had plenty of depth at the running back position when they selected Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round.

The question is whether someone will emerge as the clear-cut feature back for 2016 and beyond. Ranked by some as high as the second-best running back in the draft behind fourth overall selection Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon surprisingly fell all the way to the 134th pick where the Ravens snatched him up with the last of their record five fourth-round choices.

Watching his college highlights filled with big plays and impressive vision, it isn’t difficult to figure out which running back he tries to imitate on the football field as he wore No. 28 and averaged 11.1 yards per reception to go along with his robust 5.6 yards per carry over four seasons with the Bulldogs.

“The running back I really looked up to is Marshall Faulk,” Dixon said. “Just looking at his journey, just his work ethic that he had and the perseverance that he had through life. It’s always great, so that’s kind of who I modeled my game after.”

Of course, the Ravens would be thrilled if he could be half the player that Faulk was, but his physical gifts don’t stand out, a reason why he remained on teams’ draft boards until the end of the fourth round. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash time is good enough but hardly special and his 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame isn’t imposing, but then you watch his tape and look at his production as a four-year starter and can’t help but be intrigued.

Over four seasons, Dixon rushed for 4,483 yards on 802 carries — a heavy college workload that also might have scared some teams away — and caught 87 passes for 969 yards. His 87 career touchdowns temporarily gave him the NCAA Division I record last December before it was eclipsed by new Ravens teammate Keenan Reynolds, who is now Dixon’s roommate.

“It was kind of bittersweet. I was kind of mad at the time, but I’m especially happy for him and his journey,” said Dixon, who added that his mother is a huge Reynolds fan and asked for his autograph. “We all have different journeys, different walks through football. You never want to knock someone else’s walk through football. I gave him his props and everything.

“I told him if I had those other two [extra] games, he probably wouldn’t have been the leader.”

Dixon smiled as he noted that Reynolds had played in 13 games as a senior compared to his 11, but he’ll need that competitive fire in a backfield that includes 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett, 2015 fourth-round selection Buck Allen, 2014 fourth-rounder Lorenzo Taliaferro, 2014 third-round pick Terrance West, and Trent Richardson, the third overall pick of the 2012 draft who is trying to revitalize his career. Of those six, the Ravens figure to keep four at most on their 53-man roster.

Plenty of intriguing talent, but who will seize the opportunity and run with it?

It would be unwise to overlook the man who scored more touchdowns than any running back in FBS history.

“It’s a lot of competition in the room,” Dixon said. “[Running backs coach Thomas] Hammock, he works really well with us. He does a great job with us. All we can do is control what we can control. That’s what we’re going to do is come out here and compete and work hard.”

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Ravens sign fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continued to make quick work of signing their 2016 draft class by agreeing to a deal with fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young on Monday morning.

The Temple product from Oxon Hills became the eighth of Baltimore’s 11 draft picks to ink his four-year contract as the signing process has become elementary with the the most-recent collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The only Ravens draft picks who had yet to sign through Monday night were first-round offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, and sixth-round wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.

The 104th overall pick and the first of a record five fourth-round selections made by the Ravens in last month’s draft, the 5-foot-9 Young is expected to compete with veteran Kyle Arrington for the nickel cornerback role this summer.

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Ravens great Ray Lewis reportedly out at ESPN

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

After serving as an NFL analyst for the last three seasons, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is reportedly out at ESPN.

According to The Big Lead, ESPN is parting ways with Lewis, who was not part of the network’s NFL draft coverage last month. The future Hall of Fame linebacker was hired by ESPN immediatey after his retirement at the end of the 2012 season, but his work had been criticized during his tenure on more than one occasion with his trademark passion not always translating to cogent analysis.

Lewis isn’t the only ex-player leaving the network as Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter is also being let go while Randy Moss will join fellow newcomers Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson this season.

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A Flacco surfaces on practice field for Ravens

Posted on 07 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco won’t be ready until training camp and wouldn’t have been anywhere near the practice field for Ravens rookie camp anyway, but the family was still represented on Saturday.

Continuing to pursue an NFL career after brief opportunities with San Diego and Jacksonville, tight end Mike Flacco, the younger brother of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, was a tryout participant for Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens have a very deep group of tight ends on their offseason roster, but the 29-year-old can’t help but think about having the opportunity to catch passes from his older brother.

“That’d be a dream if I could make it that long,” said Mike Flacco, who played his college football at New Haven. “Just day by day and try to give it all I’ve got.”

Of course, this weekend’s tryout isn’t Mike Flacco’s only link to Baltimore sports as he was drafted by the Orioles in the 31st round of the 2009 draft out of CCBC-Catonsville. Primarily a first baseman, he advanced as high as Double-A Bowie before being traded to the Boston Red Sox and electing to retire from professional baseball in 2013 with a career .253 average.

In 2013 with Division II New Haven, Mike Flacco caught 30 passes for 591 yards and nine touchdowns. He was signed by the Chargers the following spring but cut at the end of the 2014 preseason. The Jaguars then signed him to their practice squad in October 2014, but he only stuck with that organization for a few weeks.

The 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end has only received a few tryouts since then, but he isn’t ready to give up on the possibility of a football career just yet.

“It’s been long. It’s been all over the place,” said Mike Flacco about his athletic endeavors. “Unfortunately, I’ve never quite gotten to the point where I want to yet. You just push and if it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll go back to school and I’ll be happy.”

He has been pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Villanova.

His chances of receiving an extended look with the Ravens beyond this weekend are remote, but that didn’t stop him from showing off some athletic ability on Saturday as he caught a long pass in 1-on-1 drills and made a few other receptions during the practice session.

“It’s been great. Mike is a great kid,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He does move a little bit like Joe. The body mechanics, a little bit, are similar, so it’s fun to watch.”

Two draft picks sidelined

Third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi was the only member of Baltimore’s 2016 draft class not on the field during Saturday’s practice open to media.

“Bronson tweaked his back a little bit yesterday,” Harbaugh said. “He was out here yesterday practicing, did a good job, and strained his lower back a little. He’s not practicing today.”

Fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon only observed Saturday’s practice as he continues to deal with a hamstring issue stemming from his March pro day.

Harbaugh also announced that fullback Trevon Pendleton, a tryout player from Michigan State, suffered a broken foot on Friday.

No joint training camp practices this year

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens would not have any joint practices with another team this summer.

Baltimore hosted San Francisco in Owings Mills two years ago and traveled to Philadelphia to practice against the Eagles ahead of their preseason meeting last August.

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Reynolds reaches out to enemy lines for NFL advice

Posted on 06 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Before the draft, new Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds sought advice from a former NFL player who understood the transition he’s currently going through.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward began his career at the University of Georgia playing quarterback and running back before finally excelling at the wide receiver position. And after racking up 1,000 catches and more than 12,000 receiving yards in 14 NFL seasons, Ward was a valuable source of information for Reynolds.

After being drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of last weekend’s draft, however, the former Navy quarterback knew he might receive flak for fraternizing with a former member of Baltimore’s AFC North rival.

“I know that’s like a cardinal sin in this building,” said Reynolds as he laughed. “We got to talk before the draft — to ease anybody’s mind. I talked to him, because in his college experience, he did play wide receiver, but he also played quarterback [and] running back. He was all over the place, so he had to adjust to the new role of being a permanent wide receiver. He gave me some tips and tricks and things to work on to perfect my craft.”

The Ravens have already said that they envision Reynolds as a slot receiver and a contributor in the return game. Though making it clear that he’s willing to play anywhere to succeed at the NFL level, the 21-year-old acknowledged it has been an adjustment realizing he would no longer be a quarterback after setting the FBS record with 4,559 rushing yards at the position.

In fact, Reynolds didn’t even learn that he’d work as a running back at the East-West Shrine until reading an article listing him at the running back position.

“When I got invited to the Shrine game, I saw that I wasn’t a quarterback anymore, and I was like, ‘Well, this is fun,'” said Reynolds, who scored more touchdowns than anyone in NCAA Division I history. “I was like, ‘This is an opportunity to pursue the dream at the next level,’ and I’m embracing it with everything I can. [There have] been several guys that have come before me that have been able to make the transition successfully, so I’ve been trying to model my game after them, talk to them, and just hear what they have to say.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reynolds has worked extensively with former Pro Bowl selection Brian Mitchell to learn the finer points of the return game. He wouldn’t be the first college quarterback to succeed as an NFL return specialist as Antwaan Randle El did it for the Steelers and New England’s Julian Edelman has thrived as both a receiver and returner more recently.

Reynolds even thinks his experience running the triple-option offense at Navy will better prepare him for his new role as a return specialist.

“I think there are some similar traits that you have to have on that level as a punt returner,” Reynolds said. “You have to be able to make quick decisions; you have to be quick in tight spaces, make a move and make somebody miss. Every day in practice, anytime we ran an inside run as a quarterback, we were making the safety miss, making the safety miss. That was something that coaches always ingrained in the quarterback’s head.

“Making that first guy miss and trying to make a play is what I was doing for the last four years.”

The Ravens love Reynolds’ character and athleticism, but he knows the transition won’t be easy as he’ll be competing with a deep group of receivers who have many more years of experience playing the position than he does.

But if his career at Navy was any indication, Reynolds will embrace the opportunity to succeed at the next level. He certainly doesn’t plan on allowing his work ethic to be questioned along the way.

“Every position has a technique that you have to perfect,” Reynolds said. “Guys have spent 10 [or] 15 years perfecting these techniques, and I’m a newborn in this position. I just have to work extremely hard — twice as hard as the next man — to get used to the position [and] get better at the technique.”

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Ravens sign 11 rookie free agents, announce two roster cuts

Posted on 06 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens conducting their 2016 rookie minicamp this weekend, they announced the signings of 11 rookie free agents as well as the departure of two players on Friday.

Baltimore waived running back Terrence Magee and wide receiver Chuck Jacobs as both were victims of the crowded depth chart at their respective positions.

The organization signed Baylor guard Jarell Broxton, Florida Atlantic defensive tackle Trevon Coley, Harvard center Anthony Fabiano, Middle Tennessee State inside linebacker Cavellis Luckett, Georgia State kicker Wil Lutz, Colorado offensive tackle Stephane Nembot, Stony Brook outside linebacker Victor Ochi, Michigan outside linebacker Mario Ojemudia, Portland State inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, Samford defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and Duke center Matt Skura as rookie free agents.

The group is headlined by Ochi, who was the Colonial Athletic Association co-defensive player of the year and finished the 2015 season with 13 sacks, good for second at the FCS level. Another notable pickup was Broxton, who made 21 starts in two years at Baylor and was a first-team all-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press.

Though the signing of draft picks has become elementary since the latest collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2011, the Ravens announced they reached deals with second-round outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon, fourth-round defensive tackle Willie Henry, fifth-round outside linebacker Matt Judon, fourth-round offensive tackle Alex Lewis, and Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Moore to four-year contracts. Five of their 2016 draft picks remain unsigned, including first-round offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, but those players are still allowed to take part in rookie minicamp.

The Ravens also announced jersey numbers for their rookie players:

2016 draft class
OT Ronnie Stanley — No. 79
OLB Kamalei Correa — No. 51
DE Bronson Kaufusi — No. 92
CB Tavon Young — No. 43
WR Chris Moore — No. 81
OT Alex Lewis — No. 72
DT Willie Henry — No. 69
RB Kenneth Dixon — No. 48
OLB Matt Judon — No. 91
WR/RS Keenan Reynolds — No. 6
CB Maurice Canady — No. 49

2016 rookie free agents
G Jarell Broxton — No. 61
DT Trevon Coley — No. 70
C Anthony Fabiano — No. 65
ILB Cavellis Luckett — No. 46
K/P Wil Lutz — No. 3
OT Stephane Nembot — No. 67
OLB Victor Ochi — No. 44
OLB Mario Ojemudia — No. 53
ILB Patrick Onwuasor — No. 47
DT Michael Pierce — No. 78
C Matt Skura — No. 62

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Ravens cut two from roster following 2016 draft

Posted on 03 May 2016 by Luke Jones

After coming away with their biggest draft class since 2003 this past weekend, the Ravens have cut two players to make more roster room for incoming undrafted free agents.

The team announced the rescinding of its exclusive-rights tender to tight end Konrad Reuland and the waiving of guard Leon Brown, bringing the total number of players on the offseason roster to 81 after 11 players were drafted over the weekend. The 90-man limit is now expected to be filled out by undrafted free agents over the next few days ahead of rookie minicamp.

Reuland spent parts of the last two seasons with the organization and was promoted to the active roster last December when Crockett Gillmore was injured and rookie Nick Boyle was serving a four-game suspension. The 29-year-old appeared in four games, but he did not catch a pass.

Brown, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama, was signed to the Ravens’ offseason roster last year and was cut at the end of the 2015 preseason. Baltimore re-signed Brown to its practice squad in late December and signed him to a reserve-future deal.

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Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam (26) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Ravens decline fifth-year option on safety Matt Elam

Posted on 02 May 2016 by Luke Jones

After completing the 21st draft class in franchise history over the weekend, the Ravens decided against making a longer commitment to a former first-round pick on Monday.

Baltimore declined its fifth-year option for 2013 first-round safety Matt Elam, which will make him a free agent next offseason. The 24-year-old from the University of Florida missed the entire 2015 season after suffering a torn biceps early in training camp, but he has been considered one of the most disappointing first-round picks in franchise history.

The 2017 option was expected to cost north of $5 million, making it a relatively easy choice for the Ravens not to use it on the safety. Elam is scheduled to make $1.327 million in base salary and to carry a $2.14 million salary cap figure for 2016, making him no sure thing to make the 53-man roster for the coming season.

Elam was benched during the 2014 season and general manager Ozzie Newsome admitted last spring that the Ravens had been disappointed in his performance to that point in his career. Pro Football Focus graded the 5-foot-10, 200-pound as Baltimore’s worst defensive player in 2014, and he missed a team-high 18 tackles while primarily playing out of the nickel position.

With Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb expected to start at the safety spots this season, Elam is expected to compete with Kendrick Lewis and Terrence Brooks for the primary backup spot.

In 32 career games, Elam has collected 127 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and seven pass breakups.

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Ravens wouldn’t step up to get Ramsey in end

Posted on 02 May 2016 by Luke Jones

General manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed over the weekend that the Ravens attempted to trade up to the fourth overall pick to draft Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, but we now know more details about why a deal never came to fruition with Dallas.

According to Sports Illustrated, Dallas offered to trade the No. 4 pick to Baltimore for the sixth overall selection and a third-round choice (70th overall), but the Ravens only offered their first-round pick and their original fourth-round selection (104th overall) to move up. Of course, the trade never happened as the Cowboys took Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, Jacksonville nabbed Ramsey, and the Ravens selected Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

So, why wouldn’t the Cowboys move down two spots since Jacksonville was never considered a threat to take Elliott? Because they didn’t deem an extra fourth-round pick worth the risk of another team potentially calling the Jaguars to move into the fifth spot — ahead of Dallas — to take the best running back in the draft.

If you study the many draft trade value charts out there — which aren’t gospel, of course, but provide a nice guideline — the difference in value between the No. 4 and No. 6 picks in the draft comes to 200 points. The 70th pick that the Cowboys requested is worth 240 points, which Newsome and the Ravens considered to be too pricey. However, the 104th overall pick offered to Dallas is valued at just 86 points, making you understand why Dallas balked at a low-ball offer to move down.

Was the Cowboys’ asking price steep? A little bit, but it was more reasonable than the reported counteroffer made by the Ravens, making you question just how badly they wanted Ramsey.

In the end, the Ravens took Stanley at No. 6 and then Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi with that third-round pick instead of pulling the trigger to draft Ramsey. Newsome used the fourth-round pick he had offered to the Cowboys to select Temple cornerback Tavon Young with his first pick on Saturday.

We’ll see how that decision plays out over time, but the inability to pull off the trade contributed to the Ravens not drafting a cornerback in the first three rounds for the fifth consecutive year.

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