Tag Archive | "Torrey Smith"

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Is paralysis by analysis hurting Ravens at receiver?

Posted on 07 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A month after watching starting wide receiver Torrey Smith depart via free agency, the Ravens have expressed a strong sentiment this offseason.

They’re not panicking at the wide receiver position. Of course, a tight salary cap left them on the outside looking in with the top options available on the free-agent market, but the Ravens have given no clear indications that they’ve actively been trying to add a solid veteran to a mix that includes a soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith and no other receiver who registered more than 24 catches last season.

Instead, the organization has talked up its current group of young receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro — while attempting to throw cold water on the notion that they’re desperate for a starter. Last week, owner Steve Bisciotti spent more time discussing the need for a pass rusher and another tight end rather than a wide receiver in a conference call with season-ticket holders.

Of course, it’s the season of smokescreens around the NFL, so anything said at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. But you can count on general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz offering the same synopsis of the wide receiver position that they typically do.

“The wide receiver draft class is deep,” Harbaugh said at the league meetings in Arizona last month. “I think there are options for the Ravens in rounds one through seven. It’s always hard. Every position is different. We’ve done studies on that as far as the success rate in different rounds at different positions.

“Receiver is a little bit of a crapshoot in the first round. It turns out, it’s a crapshoot in every round. A lot of receivers, they’ve been seventh-round picks, fifth-round picks, third-round pick receivers that have turned out to be Hall of Fame-type players. Then, you’ve got first-round picks that have never really done anything. Obviously, your chances are higher the higher you pick a guy. But it’s hard to predict.”

Harbaugh’s right on both accounts. This year’s draft class of wide receivers is one of the best in recent memory with many analysts projecting upwards of five or six being taken in the first round with plenty of quality depth available in subsequent rounds.

Drafting a wide receiver is a tricky proposition with the results all over the map around the league. The Ravens have certainly had a slew of misses with first-round disappointments Travis Taylor (2000) and Mark Clayton (2005) as well as a number of other failed picks before finally hitting on Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft.

But the expression of being able to take a receiver in any of the seven rounds will remind observers of the Ravens’ recent years in which they haven’t drafted a wideout outside the sixth or seventh round since 2011. It’s fair to wonder if some paralysis by analysis exists with the Ravens not taking even a moderate risk at the position in any of the last three drafts when wide receiver was at least a consensus area to improve.

The run began in 2012 with the sixth-round selection of Tommy Streeter, who never played a regular-season snap in Baltimore.

“Really the whole draft, there are guys in each round that can help us,” Hortiz said prior to the 2013 draft when the Ravens needed a receiver after trading Anquan Boldin. “There is a really solid core group of guys in the middle rounds that I think will go in the second or third round that will be solid, dependable starters in the NFL.”

The Ravens came away with only Aaron Mellette in the seventh round that year and struggled in the passing game on their way to missing the playoffs for the only time in the Harbaugh era. Mellette never played a snap for the Ravens, but the organization deserves credit for signing Brown as an undrafted free agent that year and he’s exceeded expectations in his first two seasons.

Last year when Torrey Smith was entering the final season of his rookie contract and newcomer Steve Smith was entering his 14th NFL season, Newsome repeated a familiar assessment about another class of wide receivers held in high regard.

“I would say that’s a position where you could probably draft a player in any of the seven rounds, and I think our board stacks that way,” Newsome said. “If there is an opportunity for us to add another receiver, we will definitely do it based on the way our board is stacked right now.”

The Ravens did take Campanaro in the seventh round, and the 5-foot-9 Wake Forset product shows some promise to be a contributor if he can remain healthy. But he was unable to do that last year as he dealt with two different hamstring injuries and a rib injury. As Harbaugh has suggested, Campanaro can’t be counted on until he proves he can stay on the field.

The lack of movement to add a veteran through free agency or trade over the last month only raises the need to add a wide receiver in the draft. And even though the consensus top three receivers in the draft — West Virginia’s Kevin White, Alabama’s Amari Cooper, and Louisville’s DeVante Parker — are expected to be gone by the time the Ravens pick 26th in the first round, a number of intriguing options should be available over the first two days.

Yes, it’s the one position in the draft in which the otherwise-shrewd Newsome has struggled, but the Ravens can’t focus so much on risk aversion that they’re caught standing on the sideline while receivers come off the board in the first few rounds.

A repeat of two years ago cannot happen if the Ravens want to be back in championship contention for 2015.

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Harbaugh says Ravens keeping all options open at receiver

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday, head coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens are keeping their options open at the wide receiver position.

After releasing Jacoby Jones and allowing starter Torrey Smith to depart via free agency, Baltimore has yet to add a wideout to the current roster while veteran options available on the market have dwindled over the last two weeks. The top remaining free-agent receivers include Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings, Nate Washington, Denarius Moore, and Hakeem Nicks.

Despite limited options, Harbaugh isn’t shooting down the possibility of the Ravens signing a free agent to add to the current mix.

“We’d be interested in adding any position right now, wide receiver being one of them if it’s the right guy,” Harbaugh said. “Again, it’s got to fit. It’s got to fit as far as the player, the personality, the talent obviously, a fit for our offense, and — of course — the financial part of it.”

Many have pointed to the draft as the best avenue to find Smith’s long-term replacement, and Harbaugh agreed with assessments of 2015 being a very deep class. Though it’s a statement that’s been uttered by the Ravens’ brass in past seasons, Harbaugh suggested there should be viable options at the receiver position in all seven rounds of the draft.

General manager Ozzie Newsome would figure to have a good chance to hit on a receiver with 10 choices over the first 203 seletions of the draft, but the organization owns a poor track record drafting receivers with Smith having represented the biggest success story in the 20-year history of the franchise.

Many have pointed to the likes of Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman, Auburn’s Sammie Coates, and Ohio State’s Devin Smith as potential fits in the first or second round. But you won’t find a more unpredictable position in the draft other than quarterback.

“It’s always hard. Every position is different,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve done studies on that as far as the success rate in different rounds at different positions. Receiver is a little bit of a crapshoot in the first round. It turns out it’s a crapshoot in every round. A lot of receivers, they’ve been seventh-round picks, fifth-round picks, third-round pick receivers that have turned out to be Hall of Fame type players. Then, you’ve got first-round picks that have never really done anything. Obviously, your chances are higher the higher you pick a guy, but it’s hard to predict.”

Regardless of how that crapshoot might play out or whether they’re able to add a veteran through free agency or a trade, the Ravens know they’ll need more contributions from young receivers already on the roster such as Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, Marlon Brown, and Jeremy Butler.

Beyond veteran Steve Smith (79 receptions for 1,065 yards) and running back Justin Forsett (44 catches for 263 yards), the Ravens don’t have another player on the current roster who made more than 24 receptions last year. In 2014, Aiken and Brown were solid No. 3 and No. 4 receivers in the passing game while the rookie Campanaro showed some flashes (seven receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown) in very limited playing time.

The bar will be higher for the coming season.

“They are going to have to handle more. That’s going to be their job,” Harbaugh said. “They are excited about it, they want to handle more. They’ll have their opportunity to prove it.

“I think Campanaro is a talented guy in the slot. He’s gifted as far as getting open, catching the football, and making plays after the catch. I’m excited to see if he can stay healthy and grow. Aiken is a strong receiver that’s just gotten better every single practice and every single day. If he continues to improve like that, he’ll be a very good player.”

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Who’s left on wide receiver market for Ravens?

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A week after watching Torrey Smith depart to sign a five-year, $40 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens appear no closer to filling the gaping hole left behind at the wide receiver position.

With the only players remaining on the roster with more than 24 receptions last season being the soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith and starting running back Justin Forsett, it would be quite a risk for the Ravens to count solely on this spring’s draft to find help at the wide receiver position. Of course, limited salary cap space has prohibited Baltimore from pursuing more expensive options such as Andre Johnson over the last week.

Below is a look at seven veteran receivers who remain on the open market:

Dwayne Bowe
Age: 30
2014 stats: 60 caches, 754 yards, zero touchdowns
Skinny: Bowe has most recently visited with the Cleveland Browns and would appear to be one of the better options remaining on the market, but he’s also eclipsed the 800-yard receiving mark just once in the last three years. Working with Joe Flacco as opposed to Alex Smith would certainly help his cause, but the Ravens may not want to deal with questions about his work ethic and off-field trouble.

Greg Jennings
Age: 31
2014 stats: 59 catches, 742 yards, six touchdowns
Skinny: Jennings isn’t the deep threat that he was in his early days with the Green Bay Packers, but an unsettled quarterback situation was likely the biggest variable explaining his numbers dipping in Minnesota over the last two years. Considering he wouldn’t count against the compensatory pick formula since he was released, Jennings would make sense for the Ravens at the right price. 

Michael Crabtree
Age: 27
2014 stats: 68 catches, 698 yards, four touchdowns
Skinny: The market has been unusually quiet for the 2009 first-round pick, making you wonder if his asking price is too high coming off a disappointing final year with San Francisco. Never considered a speedster, Crabtree is less than two years removed from a torn Achilles tendon, which makes you wonder if his 2014 season was his new ceiling or only a stepping stone in regaining his pre-injury form.

Stevie Johnson
Age: 28
2014 stats: 35 catches, 435 yards, three touchdowns
Skinny: There is debate over how much the 6-foot-2 Johnson has left, but he proved to be productive when given opportunities in the San Francisco passing game last season. He had a reputation for being a knucklehead in Buffalo, but Johnson had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Bills and New England and San Diego have shown strong interest in him in recent days.

Denarius Moore
Age: 26
2014 stats: 12 catches, 115 yards, zero touchdowns
Skinny: The ultimate buy-low candidate, Moore showed promise as a vertical threat in the Oakland offense in his first three years, but the speedster was a non-factor for the Raiders last season. If you’re looking to take a flier on a receiver who could stretch the field after the Ravens parted ways with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, Moore wouldn’t be the worst addition to add to the mix.

Nate Washington
Age: 31
2014 stats: 40 catches, 647 yards, two touchdowns
Skinny: Washington has quietly put together a decent NFL career as a complementary receiver, and he has still averaged at least 15.8 yards per catch in each of the last three seasons with Tennessee despite messy quarterback play. He’s no Torrey Smith, but he still has some ability to be a factor in the vertical passing game as a role player.

Hakeem Nicks
Age: 27
2014 stats: 38 catches, 405 yards, four touchdowns
Skinny: Consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the New York Giants must feel like a long time ago for Nicks, who had underwhelming numbers while playing with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis this past season. He’s still young enough to turn around a career that’s trending in the wrong direction, but his disappointing numbers in 2014 will be hard for Nicks to sell to potential suitors.

 

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Torrey Smith joins ex-Raven Boldin in San Francisco

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

After teaming together to beat San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, former Ravens wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin have reunited as members of the 49ers.

As expected, the 26-year-old Smith agreed to a reported five-year, $40 million contract that includes $22 million guaranteed after announcing Sunday that he would not be returning to the Ravens. Apparently, it was his former teammate who helped recruit Smith to San Francisco as the pair remained friends after Boldin was traded to the 49ers two years ago. Smith also has a relationship with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, a fellow University of Maryland alum.

After reportedly turning down a five-year, $35 million offer from the Ravens before the 2014 campaign, Smith made out well in free agency despite a down season in which he caught only 49 passes for 767 yards. It remains unclear whether a similar offer from the Ravens was still on the table considering the organization’s significant salary cap problems stemming in part from the release of Ray Rice last September.

Smith will provide the 49ers the deep threat in the passing game they’ve sorely lacked for a number of years.

Meanwhile, the Ravens will need to replace their biggest draft success at the wide receiver position in franchise history after selecting Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft. He finished his run in Baltimore ranking second in franchise history in touchdown receptions and third in receiving yards.

Baltimore is scheduled to visit Smith, Boldin, and the 49ers during the 2015 regular season.

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Replacing Torrey Smith even more difficult than saying goodbye

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

It’s going to be difficult.

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

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

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

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

Yuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cobb deal puts Torrey Smith in prime position on open market

Posted on 08 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Saturday was a productive night for free-agent wide receiver Torrey Smith and brought the latest signal supporting his expected departure from the Ravens.

With the news of star wideout Randall Cobb agreeing to a four-year, $40 million contract to remain with the Green Bay Packers, Smith will only see the demand for his services rise around the league with a top free-agent receiver now off the board.  The 26-year-old Smith and Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are considered the top talents who will officially hit the market on 4 p.m. Tuesday for the start of free agency.

With Baltimore currently holding just $4.639 million in salary cap space, Smith is expected to find a home elsewhere with the San Francisco 49ers reportedly leading the race for the speedy receiver’s services. According to CBS Sports, the 2011 first-round pick turned down a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season, a move that now looks wise despite a disappointing campaign in which he caught just 49 passes for 767 yards.

Despite both sides repeatedly expressing hope that they’d continue their relationship, the Ravens’ brass seemed to go out of its way to prepare fans for Smith’s departure late last month with owner Steve Bisciotti even taking a shot at the lucrative $60 million contract the Miami Dolphins gave wide receiver Mike Wallace two offseasons ago.

“Let’s be frank: Do you hope that Torrey doesn’t break the bank out in the open market so that we can get him for our number? That’s a hard thing to say,” Bisciotti said. “I care about the kid. I want him to maximize his earnings. At the same time, the more successful he is at doing that, the less success we have in retaining him. I don’t like to stand up here and say I’m rooting against the guy, but we’ve got to find a number.”

And that number is expected to be too rich with Cobb now off the market and a number of teams looking for an impact wide receiver in free agency.

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Ravens pass on using franchise tag for 2015 season

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

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

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

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

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

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

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

Below are seven takeaways from what was discussed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

No Ravens free-agent-to-be has sparked more debate over the last several months than wide receiver Torrey Smith as he’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks.

So much time is spent picking apart his shortcomings in running routes and arguing that he’s not a No. 1 receiver — there aren’t 32 of them in the entire NFL, by the way — that we lose sight of what Smith has brought to the table in his four years with the Ravens. Prior to his selection in the second round of the 2011 draft, the Ravens lacked any kind of a vertical threat for quarterback Joe Flacco and were regularly suffocated by any defense simply playing Cover 2 with aggressive cornerbacks. From the moment he arrived, the speedy receiver brought an ability to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the process of doing so.

The University of Maryland product ranks third on the all-time franchise list in receptions and is second with 30 touchdown catches while never missing a game in four years. After a 2013 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards — both career highs — his numbers dipped to 49 catches for 767 yards under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Smith still caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew an impressive 261 yards on pass interference calls. The six-foot, 205-pound wideout wasn’t a great fit in Kubiak’s system that focused on short-to-intermediate passing, but his skill set is something that would be hard to replace.

By all accounts, Smith is also one of the best men in the Ravens locker room, a factor that shouldn’t be lost in the wake of last offseason when five players were arrested and after the recent reports of Will Hill and Terrence Cody being in trouble with the law. Character can’t be everything when it comes to valuing a player, but it should count for something.

It’s true that Smith profiles best as a good No. 2 receiver, but that still carries substantial value, evident by a CBS Sports report indicating the Ravens offered him a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season. And even if the 26-year-old won’t cash in on his gamble in the same way that Flacco did in his walk year two years ago, offers in that same neighborhood — or slightly better — will still be thrown his way on the open market. Resources such as Spotrac.com have projected Smith to be worth slightly above $7 million per year, and that’s before learning whether top free-agent receivers such as Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb will even hit the market.

If you’re convinced the Ravens shouldn’t pay Smith what they offered him a few months ago or sweeten the deal a bit to potentially get it done, then what?

Even if Bryant, Thomas, and Cobb find their way to the market, the Ravens won’t have the salary cap space to make a competitive offer. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin would be next on the list, but most project him to fetch more than Smith in free agency. A look at contracts signed in recent offseasons likely puts Smith in line with the deals received by Eric Decker and Golden Tate last offseason, but the final price will depend on the supply of quality receivers on the market and the number of teams willing to spend.

Whether re-signing Smith or not, the Ravens will take a long look at the wide receiver position in the draft, but Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White will be long gone by the time they pick 26th overall. And let’s not forget that general manager Ozzie Newsome’s sterling draft reputation doesn’t extend to the wide receiver position where Smith is the Ravens’ biggest success story in two decades. Going into the draft needing to find a starting receiver with a late first-round pick isn’t a recipe for success for a playoff-caliber team.

Drafting a wideout such as DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, or Devin Funchess could pay off in the long run, but few positions are as unpredictable as wide receiver, especially if you’re expecting one to play a significant role immediately.

Should Smith depart, the Ravens would be looking at a 36-year-old Steve Smith as one starter and a competition among the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Jacoby Jones (if he isn’t a cap casualty) for the No. 2 spot. Those receivers are complementary parts — not NFL starters — at this stage, and the Ravens can’t depend too much on Steve Smith, who slowed down at different points last season after a blazing start.

As they have in the past, Baltimore could look for another short-term veteran fix, but there’s only so much upside to be had with receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially if you’re looking for someone to stretch the field.

Of course, Smith will also need to prove just how much he wants to remain in Baltimore as he told WNST.net last week that he won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder and complimented the organization for giving him a chance to win every year. If the Ravens are still offering the fifth-year receiver what they did a few months ago and are willing to offer a little more as a show of faith in him, Smith can’t accuse them of disrespecting him after a season he’s described himself as less than stellar.

Most agree that Smith needs to be “the right player at the right price” for the Ravens to continue their relationship with him, but his departure would spell bad news for a team trying to build on a 10-6 season that ended in the divisional round.

His detractors have had few problems pointing out what Smith isn’t, but replacing him would be more difficult than many are willing to admit.

 

 

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