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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 31-7 win over Miami

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 2-0 in the preseason with a 31-7 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The offensive line was again a mess as third-stringer Jarrod Pughsley starting at right guard was surprising to even beat reporters. Evaluating this group without Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley on the field is very difficult, but there were too many penalties and not enough room in the running game.

2. You have to like the defensive depth as the starters were again impressive and the reserves held the Dolphins to just 17 yards in the second half. I also like seeing how frequently the Ravens are using Anthony Levine in the dime package. He’s a good fit for that role.

3. Ryan Mallett was better than last week, but he threw two interceptions and still isn’t pushing the ball downfield, a problem that Joe Flacco had in this offense last season. His third-down conversions to Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace were good throws, but there still wasn’t much to like here.

4. Both interceptions came on passes intended for rookie Quincy Adeboyejo, who didn’t present himself well on either. The first came on a deep route he ran poorly and the second was on a pass thrown behind him that was catchable. Quarterback and receiver have to take some blame on both.

5. Jaylen Hill finished with a team-leading three tackles and two pass breakups. At this point, the rookie free agent from Jacksonville State might have to play himself off the roster not to make the team. He looks like he belongs despite being undersized.

6. Say what you want about the absence of Flacco and the current state of the offensive line, but fumbles by Wallace and Terrance West in the first eight minutes of the game had to drive John Harbaugh crazy. This offense isn’t good enough to overcome potential turnovers and penalties.

7. It’s been a quiet camp for Maxx Williams, but his third-down reception to move the chains late in the first half and his 40-yard catch and run in the third quarter were eyebrow-raising plays. The 2015 second-round pick showed toughness and some explosiveness that hadn’t been seen this summer.

8. Donald Payne had one of the more impressive sequences of the night as the rookie linebacker forced a fumble on a kickoff midway through the second quarter and sprinted down the field to flatten the returner on the next one. That will grab the attention of Harbaugh and Jerry Rosburg.

9. The Ravens have been using Patrick Ricard as a fullback in practices for the last week or so, but that might say more about the current fullbacks on the roster. Regardless, it’s fun to see a 6-foot-3, 304-pound defensive lineman playing that spot.

10. Josh Woodrum has played very well against second- and third-team defenders and is putting himself in the conversation for a spot on the practice squad, but he’s not going to be the one to supplant Mallett if the organization decides to upgrade the backup spot.

11. Justin Tucker picking up a fumble and trying to run reminded me of the scene in “Major League” when Willie Mays Hayes makes a basket catch to end an inning and manager Lou Brown welcomes him back to the dugout saying, “Nice catch, Hayes. Don’t ever [expletive] do it again.”

12. We’re spoiled here in Baltimore and it was only a preseason game, but that showing from Miami was one of the worst special-teams performances I’ve seen in a long time.

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Flacco not expected to return to Ravens practice this week

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

After another uneven performance by backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and the starting offense in a 31-7 preseason win over Miami, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Joe Flacco isn’t expected to return to practice this week.

The 10th-year quarterback has been sidelined with a back injury since the start of training camp and will not play in the preseason, but the team said in a release last week that “the plan” is for Flacco to be ready for the Sept. 10 opener in Cincinnati. He will now have no more than two weeks of practice time to get ready for Week 1.

“I don’t think that time frame is this week yet,” Harbaugh told reporters after Thursday’s game. “So, we’ll kind of stick with the plan on that. I think it’s a straightforward date that the doctors and the back specialists have given us, so we’re going to stick with that.”

The original hope was that Flacco would only miss a week of practice with a back issue he revealed to team officials upon reporting for the start of camp on July 26. The organization said from the start that caution would be exercised with a 32-year-old quarterback who has missed just six games in his first nine seasons and has rarely ever sat out practices in his career.

Mallett improved somewhat from the first preseason game by completing 13 of 22 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown to reserve tight end Larry Donnell, but he was also intercepted twice and again struggled to push the ball down the field with confidence. His struggles this summer have led many to continue clamoring for Baltimore to sign polarizing quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Ravens were also missing their two best offensive linemen against the Dolphins on Thursday as six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and 2016 first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley sat out, leaving Mallett to be protected by a starting line consisting of four former undrafted free agents.

“I thought he did good. He got out of trouble a few times. He made a few throws,” Harbaugh said. “I think we just keep working to build off that. He was under pressure quite a bit early on, and I thought he handled it well and didn’t make mistakes. That’s really important. He played good, solid football.

“We’re not totally together upfront right now, and I think he’s doing OK given the circumstances.”

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Injuries continue hammering Ravens in preseason

Posted on 11 August 2017 by Luke Jones

After it appeared that the Ravens may have escaped their preseason opener without any major injuries, the organization delivered more bad news to an ever-growing list on Friday afternoon.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis will undergo shoulder surgery next week and will miss the entire 2017 season. The Ravens say the 2016 fourth-round pick’s shoulder hadn’t responded favorably to treatment in recent days, leading to the decision to operate.

It’s a major blow to an offensive line that saw two starters depart in the offseason and had already lost interior linemen John Urschel to retirement and fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury since the start of training camp. General manager Ozzie Newsome will likely need to pursue veteran depth as the best options on the current roster to replace Lewis at left guard are former practice-squad member Matt Skura and fifth-round rookie Jermaine Eluemunor.

Lewis was one of three projected starters on the offensive line to miss Thursday’s game as right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Austin Howard continue to be brought along slowly after offseason shoulder surgeries.

The team also announced that rookie wide receiver Tim White suffered a thumb injury in Thursday’s win over Washington and will undergo a repair procedure. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season, an unfortunate development for a rookie free agent who had turned heads this summer. White caught a 33-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter of the 23-3 win over the Redskins.

Since June 1, the Ravens have now lost a whopping nine players for the season because of season-ending injury, retirement, or suspension.

The Ravens also said that quarterback Joe Flacco will return to practice during the summer, but he is not expected to play in any preseason games. The press release added that he is making “good” progress after having his back re-examined and “the plan” is for him to start at Cincinnati to open the season on Sept. 10.

Of course, many will remain skeptical of this updated timetable after the organization had initially expressed hope that Flacco might miss only a week to begin camp.

Backup Ryan Mallett struggled in the preseason opener, completing 9 of 18 passes for just 58 yards.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 23-3 win over Washington

Posted on 11 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their preseason opener in a 23-3 final over Washington, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I made my feelings clear about the Ravens defense at the conclusion of draft weekend, and the group didn’t disappoint in the preseason opener. Playing fast and physical, Baltimore held the Redskins to a measly 47 yards and four first downs in the first half. You could see the potential.

2. Brent Urban was the best player on the field, bringing inside pressure and consistently penetrating the backfield against the run. He finished with two forced fumbles, a sack, and four tackles to lead a revamped defense. Not bad for his debut as the starting 5-technique defensive end.

3. With eight key players sitting out, I’m not sure what anyone could have reasonably expected from the Ravens offense. The running game wasn’t overly productive at 3.6 yards per carry in the first half, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg stuck with it and the group played turnover-free football.

4. Those absences aside, Ryan Mallett did nothing to silence his detractors by averaging an ugly 3.2 yards per pass attempt. John Harbaugh said Mallett played “winning football” after the game, which was reminiscent of Brian Billick’s descriptions of Kyle Boller after the many defense-led wins of yesteryear.

5. The start of the game certainly felt familiar with the defense forcing a three-and-out, the offense going three-and-out, and Sam Koch placing a punt inside the 5-yard line.

6. After a miss from 43 yards that was negated by a penalty, Justin Tucker later restored order to the universe with a 59-yard field goal to end the first half. Yes, he’s missed a few more in camp than I recall in previous summers, but I’ll guess he’ll be OK.

7. Second-round pick Tyus Bowser had an strong debut with three tackles, a quarterback hit, and solid all-around work at outside linebacker, but fellow rookie Tim Williams struggled to set the edge and remains a work in progress as anything more than a situational pass rusher for now.

8. Rookie free agent Jaylen Hill showed why coaches have been impressed with him in practices as he defended the deep ball effectively and picked off Colt McCoy late in the first half. His night would have been even better had he not whiffed on a corner blitz.

9. Tim White made a superb adjustment on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Josh Woodrum late in the third quarter and looked capable as the return specialist in the first half. The rookie free agent’s speed has stood out since organized team activities in the spring.

10. Keenan Reynolds returning a punt 46 yards was the feel-good moment of the night as Harbaugh’s smile on the sideline epitomized how much everyone is rooting for the former Navy star. He still has a long way to go to crack the 53-man roster, but he’s improved from last year.

11. The best news of the night was the Ravens seemingly escaping the game without any major injuries. In contrast, Washington lost linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Su’a Cravens to knee injuries. Coaches hold their breath every second of the preseason.

12. First-round pick Marlon Humphrey went through a rigorous pre-game workout and appears poised to return to practice after a week-long absence. However, Breshad Perriman was nothing more than an observer and doesn’t appear particularly close to returning from a hamstring injury.

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Ravens-Redskins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 09 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are set to begin their 22nd preseason after one of the more tumultuous starts to training camp in team history.

Having already lost seven players to season-ending injuries, retirement, or suspension since the beginning of June, Baltimore is still without starting quarterback Joe Flacco while other impact players have missed substantial time in camp. The injuries create a balancing act between keeping valuable assets out of harm’s way and the desire to take advantage of live-game reps against Washington on Thursday night.

“We’ll work it out as we go. We’ll see,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Some guys will play, some guys won’t. You just have to play it by ear. We have a plan, but I’m just not really into it right now as far as sharing it. It can change. We have a plan until the shooting starts; then plans change.”

Especially with Flacco unavailable, the Ravens will likely focus on the evaluation of their running game after hiring senior offensive assistant Greg Roman in the offseason to revamp the league’s 28th-ranked rushing attack in the offseason. Of course, that could prove to be difficult with an offensive line that’s currently less than 100 percent.

The final result means little, but the first preseason game provides context for evaluating players who’ve only been practicing against each another to this point. The coaching staff will eagerly be watching how young players respond to the bright lights of a game after settling into the familiar routine of camp workouts.

“They are ready to go play against somebody else, and they have been playing against each other now for almost two weeks,” Harbaugh said. “These are pretty tough practices and tough drills. They know each other pretty well right now, so they are ready to get in that environment and play a game and cut it loose a little bit and see where they are.”

Thursday marks the 10th time these NFL neighbors have met in the preseason with the Ravens holding the 6-3 edge over Washington, but the Redskins won a 16-10 regular-season contest at M&T Bank Stadium last October, which prompted the firing of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman the next day.

Baltimore has a 24-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veteran players who could be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), OT Austin Howard (shoulder), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), WR Kenny Bell (hamstring), CB Sheldon Price (undisclosed), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee)
DOUBTFUL: OL Alex Lewis (undisclosed), CB Marlon Humphrey (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), WR Chris Matthews (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

QB Ryan Mallett

Expectations should be realistic for a backup, but the Ravens wasted no time re-signing Mallett to a one-year, $2 million contract at the start of free agency, suggesting they have some level of confidence in him to be a suitable No. 2 option. His first few practices of training camp were brutal, but the 29-year-old has rebounded to play at a more acceptable level in recent days, perhaps a product of the Colin Kaepernick discussion dying down. With Flacco’s return still expected to be sooner than later, Mallett showing command of the offense with at least some modest production should quell some concerns.

OLB Matt Judon

Used as a situational pass rusher as a rookie, Judon has received most of the summer reps as the starting strong-side outside linebacker, a spot shared by Albert McClellan and Elvis Dumervil last season. In order to be more effective in pass coverage, the 2016 fifth-round pick dropped weight and is strikingly leaner while still showing enough strength to set the edge and rush the passer. Judon ranked third on the team with four sacks in 2016, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees would prefer to see him double that total as the Ravens try to turn the heat up on a pass rush that was underwhelming a year ago.

C Ryan Jensen

The Ravens traded veteran starter Jeremy Zuttah in the offseason, but the sudden retirement of John Urschel at the start of training camp short-circuited the expected competition at center and left Jensen as the default starter. He brings the size and physicality that should work better in Roman’s downhill blocking schemes, but Jensen has only nine career starts under his belt, prompting many to continue clamoring for a Nick Mangold signing. General manager Ozzie Newsome spent most of his few remaining cap dollars on new right tackle Austin Howard, so Jensen needs to show he can do the job.

DL Patrick Ricard

Asking about individual players during training camp is often pointless because coaches are rarely anything but positive in their remarks, but you pay attention when a player’s name is mentioned without being prompted, something that’s happened more than once with Ricard. The 6-foot-3, 304-pound rookie free agent from Maine has lined up all over the defensive line and has stood his ground while making plays, putting himself in the roster conversation in a deep position group. Ricard will need to show the same promise in games, but he has looked the part of a solid rotational NFL defensive lineman.

WR Quincy Adeboyejo

The undrafted Ole Miss product is a bit of a mystery as his good speed and 6-foot-3, 197-pound frame didn’t translate to a standout college career, but he has turned heads, beating the likes of even Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr to make long catches in practices. Of course, making plays in camp workouts isn’t the same as producing in games, but he should receive ample opportunities with veterans such as Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace unlikely to make more than a cameo Thursday. After failing to develop so many late-round wideouts over the years, the Ravens would sure love to get lucky with Adeboyejo.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens counting down to their preseason opener against Washington, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens won’t dare exhale until Joe Flacco is back on the practice field without incident, but a solid performance from Ryan Mallett against Washington would quell some short-term concerns. He’s practiced better of late, but a poor outing will only spark more questions about the still-unsigned Colin Kaepernick.

2. Flacco has already missed nearly two weeks of practice, which is substantial for an offense that was tweaked in the offseason. He also hasn’t been able to build much rapport with Jeremy Maclin. The lost time isn’t insurmountable, but it certainly sets up for some early-season growing pains.

3. The Ravens having strong defensive line depth is nothing new, but it’s impressive to consider the upside at such little cost beyond standout defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Surprising rookie free agent Patrick Ricard has only complicated what could be some tough roster decisions.

4. The fullback position remains a work in progress with running backs coach Thomas Hammock offering a lukewarm assessment of Lorenzo Taliaferro’s performance at his new spot. This spot takes on more significance with the losses sustained at the tight end position since the spring.

5. Tony Jefferson is impressive when playing downhill toward the line of scrimmage, but he looks rather ordinary in deeper coverage. I like the idea of using him as a dime linebacker in passing situations, but injuries at the nickel have forced Lardarius Webb to play there instead of at safety.

6. As if rookie free agents Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White haven’t received enough early-camp attention as receivers, Jerry Rosburg loudly praised their efforts as gunners on the punt team during Tuesday’s practice. Standing out on special teams would boost their roster chances even more.

7. To this point, Brent Urban hasn’t been seriously challenged for the 5-technique spot as he’s played the run well and has served as an inside rusher in sub packages. Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley have their work cut out for them to crack the game-day rotation.

8. Buck Allen was one of the bigger disappointments of the 2016 campaign, but he has run with more confidence and aggression this summer. The Kenneth Dixon injury created an opportunity, so it will be interesting to see whether he takes advantage in the preseason.

9. A major point of emphasis for the running backs has been pass protection as the Ravens were forced to use former fullback Kyle Juszczyk in single-back sets last year because their young tailbacks struggled mightily. Terrance West and Allen need to be much better in that area.

10. Jimmy Smith missed a few practices with an undisclosed injury, which reminded just how critical he is to the defense. Yes, having Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey should prevent a 2016-like collapse, but this defense needs to be special and likely won’t be if Smith can’t stay on the field.

11. Kamalei Correa is the favorite to start at the inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, but keep an eye on the nickel package where Patrick Onwuasor has also received some reps. The dime package could come into play as well if they don’t find a reliable three-down linebacker.

12. I recommend Robert Mays’ recent piece on Marshal Yanda, who quietly continues building his case as one of the best five or six players in franchise history. A couple more Pro Bowl selections would put the 32-year-old in the Hall of Fame discussion at the very least.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 01 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winding down their opening week of training camp, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Injuries have been a story for years, but the current run since June 1 is staggering. The Ravens revamped their training program over the last two offseasons in response to having a combined 39 players on injured reserve in 2014 and 2015. They’re not turning a blind eye to this.

2. The offense has definitely fared poorly with Joe Flacco sidelined, but let’s not shortchange the defense through all the criticism for Ryan Mallett and company. The collective quarterback play has often looked inept, but this Baltimore defense has much potential. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

3. Crockett Gillmore had lofty expectations in the final year of his rookie contract, making his latest injury a disappointment for a player who showed much promise in 2015. Assuming he doesn’t make a miraculous return this season, he will have missed 31 games over the last three campaigns.

4. The award for biggest change in body type goes to Matt Judon, who looks 20 pounds lighter than he did as a rookie. Aiming to be the strong-side outside linebacker, Judon dropped weight over the summer to be better in coverage. He’s looked the part in the first few practices.

5. Don’t sleep on Matt Skura, who is a reserve center and has filled in for Marshal Yanda during full-team drills. After spending last season on the practice squad, the Duke product has a big opportunity with John Urschel retired and Nico Siragusa now out for the year.

6. I’ve counted as many as 10 different players taking reps as a punt or kick returner so far. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim White is a name to watch, but this appears to be a wide-open competition, which is nothing new since Jacoby Jones’ release a couple years ago.

7. The injury was lost in the wash, but the indefinite loss of Maurice Canady is a tough blow after slot cornerback Tavon Young went down for the season in the spring. Lardarius Webb has been working in the slot with veteran newcomer Brandon Boykin off to a slow start.

8. The first-round selection of Marlon Humphrey didn’t receive much enthusiasm in April, but the 21-year-old has shown impressive composure and has made plays early in his first training camp. The presence of Brandon Carr eases the immediate need, but the Alabama product has impressed.

9. Maxx Williams deserves ample time to get his football legs back under him, but he hasn’t moved particularly well so far in his return from a secretive knee surgery that had never been performed on an NFL player. The Ravens could really use contributions from their 2015 second-round pick.

10. Young pass rushers take time to develop, but Tim Williams has stood out in individual drills. His quickness is evident as he blew past a rookie offensive tackle who hadn’t even gotten out of his stance Tuesday, and he’s even gotten the best of Ronnie Stanley from time to time.

11. Rookie free agents to watch in the preseason include defensive end Patrick Ricard and cornerback Jaylen Hill as well as White. It wouldn’t shock me to see Ricard become the next undrafted defensive lineman to stick, but we still have a long way to go.

12. How rough has the first week of training camp been? Justin Tucker even missed consecutive field goal tries from 49 yards on Tuesday, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him do in practice. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that he’ll be OK, however.

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Gillmore, Canady new absences at Ravens training camp

Posted on 29 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As quarterback Joe Flacco missed his third straight practice with a back issue, the Ravens had two new absences as they took the field on Saturday.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore and cornerback Maurice Canady did not participate in the first full-pad workout of training camp, joining Flacco and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) on the sideline. Gillmore left in the final minutes of Friday’s session with what appeared to be a right leg injury, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t have an update on his condition after that workout and wasn’t available to media on Saturday. It remains unclear why Canady didn’t practice after he was a full participant the day before.

The Ravens will hope it’s only a brief absence for Canady, who emerged in the spring as the early favorite to be the nickel corner after second-year cornerback Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury. In Canady’s absence, veteran defensive back Lardarius Webb was defending the slot for the first-team defense.

As you’d expect, it’s been a rough start for the offense without Flacco under center. In addition to the countless turnovers and difficulty moving the ball, the unit had an embarrassing moment when quarterback Ryan Mallett, running back Terrance West, and motioning wide receiver Mike Wallace all collided in the backfield on a run play.

For now, the offensive coaching staff is taking its situation in stride while Flacco recovers.

“He’s getting himself right in the training room with [head athletic trainer Mark Smith], the staff, and all those doctors and things,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “We’ll get him back out here at some point. In the meantime, we get our work done. We get our timing down. It’s a great opportunity for the other fellows.”

Mallett did improve somewhat from Friday’s brutal showing that included several interceptions, but he was still picked off by safeties Eric Weddle and Chuck Clark on Saturday. Weddle also intercepted Dustin Vaughan during another 11-on-11 period.

The four-time Pro Bowl safety wasn’t the only defensive standout as rookie Tim Williams soundly beat starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst as well as reserve Stephane Nembot in isolated pass-rush drills. The third-round pick from Alabama has shown good burst out of his stance and is a candidate to serve as a situational pass rusher in his first NFL season.

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Ravens remain in holding pattern with Flacco resting back

Posted on 28 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are in a holding pattern with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco continuing to rest his ailing back.

The concern is hardly dire yet with the season opener still six weeks away, but that could change if the 32-year-old doesn’t respond favorably to the rest and treatment he’s receiving over the first week of training camp. Back injuries can be complicated and often linger if not handled carefully, making it wise for the Ravens to take their time with their most important player.

Of course, that hasn’t slowed the red-hot discussion about whether Baltimore should sign polarizing quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unemployed despite clearly possessing the talent to play in a league that lacks quality signal-callers. Over the last two days, head coach John Harbaugh has heaped plenty of praise on Kaepernick, who played for his brother and Ravens senior offensive assistant Greg Roman in San Francisco.

But it’s complicated.

“We’ll just see how it plays out. It has to do with our need,” Harbaugh said. “Joe is day to day. Do we really need to make that move or not? That’s the decision that really has to be made. There are a lot of layers to it, just from a football standpoint. I’ll focus on the football part.

“If there are other layers to it, then that’s taken into consideration at the appropriate level.”

Those other layers are very relevant from a business standpoint and primarily concern owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass, but let’s focus on football, roster construction, and the salary cap. Your opinion on the non-football part of the discussion is unlikely to be swayed at this point anyway, whether you’re pounding the desk for him to be wearing purple or threatening to cancel your season tickets over his potential signing.

The newly-signed David Olson is irrelevant to this debate. Harbaugh said Thursday that the Ravens needed to add a camp “arm” immediately, and Olson merely assumed the reps that assistant coach Matt Weiss was forced to take because there were only two healthy quarterbacks on the field for Thursday’s full-squad practice involving a total of 85 players. The former arena quarterback isn’t replacing Flacco or backup Ryan Mallett and didn’t take a potential spot from Kaepernick, either.

That brings us to Mallett. In a vacuum, Kaepernick is the better quarterback who brings much more experience to the table. The incumbent backup possesses a similar skill set to Flacco that does make for an easy short-term transition from a schematic standpoint, but the Ravens also employed Tyrod Taylor as their backup for four years, making you think a difference in style shouldn’t be a major deterrent with all things being equal.

But Mallett was just signed to a one-year, $2 million contract with a $1 million signing bonus at the start of free agency back in March, which suggests they at least had a comfort level in him as a backup less than five months ago. You can fairly question the wisdom in re-signing him so quickly if they’re no longer enamored with his performance, which has been poor over the first couple days of camp.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens currently have $6.881 million in salary cap space, a number that will shrink at the end of the preseason when the Rule of 51 no longer applies and teams must fit their entire 53-man roster, their players on injured reserve, and their 10-man practice squad under the cap. In other words, the Ravens do not have much flexibility right now and will still need a “rainy day” fund when other roster needs arise over the duration of the season.

Signing Kaepernick and cutting Mallett — assuming the Ravens would continue their current eight-year trend of entering a season with just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster — would leave $1 million of dead money on the cap. In other words, the Ravens would need to add that amount to whatever they would give Kaepernick, making his salary expectations quite relevant to this discussion. His ability suggests that he should be worth much more, but we know how his story has played out throughout the offseason and we don’t know if he would accept the veteran minimum or a little more than that.

As it stands, general manager Ozzie Newsome maybe has one moderate signing he can make without having to restructure veteran contracts and impacting future cap years. With so much concern along the offensive line as well as questions at other positions such as tight end and running back, should improving the backup quarterback spot really be a top priority? If there are questions about the offense with Flacco under center, would you rather have Kaepernick standing on the sideline as an insurance policy or add another offensive lineman that’s going to see the field and better protect a quarterback whose health is potentially in question?

Of course, that brings us back to the current holding pattern.

If the Ravens are more concerned about Flacco’s long-term availability going into the regular season than they’re currently indicating, Kaepernick makes plenty of sense. In a worst-case scenario, Roman could dust off some zone-read packages from his San Francisco days and allow Kaepernick to better utilize his athleticism in what would be viewed by some as a throwaway season anyway if the franchise quarterback were to be on the shelf.

If Flacco’s back is perfectly fine in a week or two, however, pumping more dollars into the quarterback position doesn’t seem like the best allocation of resources for a team desperate to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Yes, Kaepernick is good enough to play in this league, either as a starter or as a high-quality backup. He deserves to have that opportunity somewhere.

But the timing and conditions of a potential marriage with the Ravens will be on their terms.

And that’s not even considering those other layers currently being discussed by the powers that be.

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With Flacco sidelined, Ravens not ruling out signing Kaepernick

Posted on 27 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After confirming Joe Flacco would receive a week of rest for his ailing back to begin training camp, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh brought up the name on many minds before he could even be asked the question.

Citing a good relationship that began when his brother, Jim, was still the head coach in San Francisco, Harbaugh acknowledged the possibility of the Ravens adding ex-49er Colin Kaepernick. The polarizing quarterback remains unsigned with many believing that the NFL has blackballed him for choosing not to stand during the national anthem as a form of protest during the 2016 season.

Kaepernick has said that he was making a statement about the oppression of non-white races and social inequality in the United States, but an ESPN report in March indicated that the 29-year-old plans to once again stand for the anthem this season after believing his message had been heard.

“He and I have been talking throughout the summer a number of times,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve had some great conversations on the phone. It’s really been a pleasure to talk to him and get to know him. I like history and politics and stuff, too, so we’ve had some debates. It’s been fun, and he’s a great guy. He’s a guy right now that’s being talked about, and we’ll just see what happens with that. I think that would all be speculation right now, but I think he’s a really good football player. As I said at the owners’ meetings, I do believe he’ll be playing in the National Football League this year.”

The Ravens currently have just two healthy quarterbacks on their 90-man roster as projected backup Ryan Mallett handled the starting reps and the little-known Dustin Vaughan struggled mightily during Thursday’s practice. With the shortage of signal-callers on the field, offensive assistant Matt Weiss was even handling some snaps during a few drills.

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens would definitely be adding another training camp “arm” to handle reps, but he emphasized that Kaepernick would be more than that, labeling him an “accomplished” player. Despite beginning the 2016 season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert, the Super Bowl XLVII quarterback threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 90.7 passer rating in 12 games. Kaepernick visited with Seattle in late May, but no other teams with serious interest have been reported since he became a free agent in March.

Safety Eric Weddle, who rapidly became one of the team leaders upon arriving in Baltimore last year, took a pragmatic stance on the possibility of Kaepernick — or any other outsider — becoming a Raven.

“I don’t really care who they bring in, what they do,” Weddle said. “If it helps our team, bring them all in. That’s upstairs. That’s for the coaching staff and Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] and [Steve] Bisciotti to figure out who they want to bring in. Whether he’s the right guy, I don’t really know, I don’t really care. We’re just trying to be the best team.”

The Ravens’ true level of interest likely depends on the health of Flacco, who only reported his back discomfort to the team Wednesday when he arrived at the training facility. Mallett was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million contract at the start of free agency, which leads one to believe that the organization is comfortable with him as the backup quarterback.

While much of the outside world salivates over the possibility of Kaepernick landing in Baltimore, Harbaugh is keeping his fingers crossed that Flacco will be back on the field sooner than later.

“It flared up a little bit, and he went and saw the back specialist,” said Harbaugh, who dismissed any concern that Flacco wouldn’t be ready for the start of the regular season. “They’re recommending about a week of rest. They say that should take care of it. I guess with a back, you can always say, ‘We’ll see.’ All indications from the back specialist, Dr. [John] Carbone, are that he should be fine in about a week, and that’s what we’ll be hoping for and praying for.”

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