Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

hill

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Ravens waive pair of former preseason standouts

Posted on 19 March 2019 by Luke Jones

Former undrafted free agents Jaylen Hill and Bam Bradley were feel-good stories of the 2017 preseason, making the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster before injuries derailed the start of their NFL careers.

Their time with Baltimore came to an end Tuesday with both being waived with failed physical designations, according to the NFL transaction sheet. Hill, a slot cornerback from Jacksonville State, and Bradley, an inside linebacker from Pitt, missed the entire 2018 season while recovering from ACL injuries sustained during their rookie campaign.

Hill’s strong preseason play put him on the radar two years ago as the Ravens were searching for a replacement for nickel back Tavon Young, who had suffered a torn ACL that spring. The 24-year-old Hill appeared in six games before tearing his ACL in Week 16 and began the 2018 season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from the injury. Soon after returning to practice last November, Hill suffered a hip injury that ended his season.

Even if healthy, Hill would have faced a steep climb to earn a roster spot as general manager Eric DeCosta officially signed veteran special-teams standout Justin Bethel Tuesday to add to a deep group of cornerbacks that already includes Young, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady, and Cyrus Jones.

Bradley, 24, suffered a significant knee injury in only his second NFL game and was slow to recover, spending all of last season on the PUP list. If healthy, Bradley could have been a name of interest as the Ravens move on from four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who signed a record $85 million contract with the New York Jets last week. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young currently project as Baltimore’s starting inside linebackers with special-teams contributor Chris Board also expected to be in the mix.

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Former Ravens defensive tackle Ngata announces retirement

Posted on 18 March 2019 by Luke Jones

A week after free-agent departure Terrell Suggs said farewell to Baltimore after 16 years, another former Ravens defensive great is calling it a career.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata announced his retirement via Instagram by posting a video of himself standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The 35-year-old spent nine of his 13 NFL seasons with Baltimore and was a member of the Super Bowl XLVII champions. After being traded to Detroit in 2014, Ngata played three years with the Lions and spent last season with Philadelphia, appearing in 13 games and making nine starts.

Selected with the 12th overall pick of the 2006 draft from the University of Oregon, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle has a strong claim as the fourth-best defensive player in Ravens history behind Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Suggs, who is also likely to wind up in Canton. Ngata not only served as the immovable anchor of strong run defenses for nearly a decade, but his 25 1/2 sacks with the Ravens reflected his ability to pressure the quarterback, a trait that distinguished him from other notable defensive tackles in team history.

Only five Ravens — Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Reed, Suggs, and Marshal Yanda — were named to more career Pro Bowls as Ngata was invited every year from 2009-13. He signed a five-year, $61 million contract in 2011 that made him one of the highest-paid athletes in the world over a 12-month period.

In addition to his superb individual play, Ngata helped bring some stability at an uncertain time for the organization. The second act and eventual storybook ending to Lewis’ Hall of Fame career with the Ravens may have never materialized had general manager Ozzie Newsome not drafted Ngata in 2006. In the months leading up to that draft, it was no secret that a disenchanted Lewis — who was also rumored to be seeking a new contract — had requested to be traded and voiced his displeasure about the Ravens lacking a beefy defensive tackle to keep blockers away from him. Ngata became an immediate impact starter for a defense that led the NFL in total yards allowed and total points allowed and set team records for interceptions (28) and sacks (60), and the Ravens finished a franchise-best 13-3 in the regular season with Lewis’ spirits and play improving from the previous year.

A slam-dunk choice for the Ravens’ Ring of Honor sooner than later, Ngata finishes his NFL career having played in 180 games and collected 515 tackles, 32 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and five interceptions.

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hays

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Despite strong spring, Orioles prospect Hays optioned to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 17 March 2019 by Luke Jones

No player in Orioles major league camp was having a better spring than Austin Hays, but that didn’t stop the 23-year-old outfielder from being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday.

The decision was met with some surprise after Hays batted .351 with five home runs and a 1.277 on-base plus slugging percentage in 40 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League, but the 2016 third-round pick’s only professional experience above the Double-A level to this point in his career is 63 plate appearance with Baltimore in the final month of 2017. Entering spring training, most didn’t consider Hays a strong bet to make the major league club after his injury-riddled 2018 season that ended with him undergoing ankle surgery in September, but he used the spring to reestablish himself as one of Baltimore’s best prospects and eased concerns about his ankle by showing off good speed and strong defense. His nine extra-base hits led the club.

Baseball America named Hays its No. 21 overall prospect entering 2018, but the first 2016 draftee to make the major leagues struggled at Double-A Bowie, batting just .242 with 12 homers and a .703 OPS in 288 plate appearances while missing significant time with his ankle injury. With Hays struggling, the Orioles promoted the likes of Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart after the trade deadline last year.

Mullins is expected to be the Opening Day center fielder for Baltimore, but Hays has impressed with his defense in center and appears likely to play that position for the Tides. Questions about Mullins’ throwing arm could eventually push him to a corner outfield spot, especially if Hays plays the position effectively at Norfolk.

Hays wasn’t the only young outfielder to be optioned to Norfolk on Sunday as former Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander was cut from major league camp. The 24-year-old also made a favorable impression this spring with the new Orioles regime by batting .333 with eight extra-base hits and a 1.086 OPS in 36 plate appearances.

With Hays and Santander demoted, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard, Dwight Smith Jr., Eric Young Jr., and Drew Jackson remain in the outfield picture to varying degrees.

General manager Mike Elias also optioned infielder Stevie Wilkerson and right-handed pitchers Cody Carroll, Branden Kline, and Yefry Ramirez to the Tides. Ramirez was vying for a spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation after making 12 starts in the majors last year, but he posted a 5.11 ERA in 12 1/3 innings in the Grapefruit League.

Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa and infielder Christopher Bostick were also reassigned to minor-league camp, leaving 39 players in major league camp with the start of the season less than two weeks away.

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ingram

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first wave of free agency

Posted on 14 March 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens making significant additions and enduring substantial losses in the first wave of free agency, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I don’t think the departure of Terrell Suggs has sunk in as most expected one of the franchise’s most iconic players to return for a 17th season. While Ray Lewis had the storybook ending and Ed Reed’s free-agent exit played out more gradually, Monday’s news was so abrupt.

2. Adding 29-year-old Mark Ingram made less sense if 2019 were shaping up to be more of a transition year with an eye toward the future, but he’s a well-rounded upgrade and has lower mileage as a timeshare back. His pass protection is also an upgrade over incumbents. Solid signing.

3. Ingram’s perception suffers from an “Alvin Kamara effect” as well as the infatuation some had with signing Le’Veon Bell, but he ranks first in yards per carry (4.71) and fourth in yards after contact per attempt (2.90) among backs with 550 carries since 2014, per Pro Football Focus. He’ll help.

4. Talent and on-field production are paramount, but I couldn’t help but think Ingram’s reputation in New Orleans and Earl Thomas’ winning pedigree in Seattle carry extra weight with the level of experience and leadership leaving Owings Mills this offseason.

5. The Thomas signing certainly reinforced Baltimore’s philosophy at safety after the organization failed with early draft picks and “value” signings early in the post-Ed Reed era. The Ravens have now given out a safety contract of $26 million or more in three of the last four offseasons.

6. Those with a longer-term viewpoint may not have cared for Eric DeCosta forgoing potential third- and fifth-round compensatory picks to sign Thomas and Ingram, but you can’t hold yourself prisoner to what still amounts to lower-percentage draft choices if the right free agent is available. There’s a middle road.

7. An optimistic outlook would say Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams haven’t had enough snaps to show what they can do, but coaches would have loved to have eased Suggs’ workload last year if either were deemed worthy. Either way, these 2017 draft picks have much to prove.

8. Adding a pass rusher or two must be a top priority for a front seven that’s endured substantial losses. That said, I think a great secondary carries more value in today’s game with more quick-drop passing and run-pass options that can really neutralize edge pressure.

9. More snaps are in order for the 2018 platoon of Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young, but a Daryl Smith-like stopgap would make me feel better about inside linebacker rather than expecting both to fill a full-time role without a hitch. We’ll found out how much Baltimore will miss C.J. Mosley.

10. Matt Skura received an additional $533,558 — a league high — in 2018 performance-based pay, a collectively-bargained program that compensates players based upon their playing time relative to salary levels. Making a $555,000 salary last year, Skura has provided good value making 28 starts the last two seasons.

11. Wink Martindale deserves much credit for last year’s defensive success, but losing Eric Weddle, Suggs, and Mosley will challenge the coordinator who gave those veterans so much freedom to make modifications before the snap. Thomas’ arrival helps, but there will certainly be an adjustment.

12. How does a Sunday night or Monday matchup of Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., and the Cleveland passing game against Thomas, Marlon Humphrey, and the Baltimore secondary sound? Dismissing Pittsburgh would be very unwise, but Ravens-Browns sounds pretty darn interesting now.

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suggsflacco

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Suggs, Flacco bid farewell to Ravens — and vice versa

Posted on 13 March 2019 by Luke Jones

With the start of the new league year Wednesday brought the official departures of two of the best players in franchise history.

Seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs and Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player and best quarterback in franchise history Joe Flacco offered their farewells as Suggs, an Arizona native, has joined the Cardinals and Flacco was officially traded to the Denver Broncos. Given his passion for movies, Suggs posting a farewell video on Twitter wasn’t surprising. The stoic Flacco took a simpler approach with his goodbye.

Not to be outdone, the Ravens produced a pair of terrific tribute videos sure to have you reminiscing — and wondering why the room suddenly became so dusty.

This year will mark the first time in team history the roster will not feature Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, or Suggs as the first two members of that old defensive guard have taken their places in Canton. Suggs seems poised to join them one day after 16 superb seasons with the Ravens.

The coming season will also feature Lamar Jackson as Baltimore’s first opening day starting quarterback not named Flacco since Brian Billick’s final season as head coach. Flacco’s 2012 postseason run epitomized his ability to raise his play when it mattered most, a trait we can all appreciate in this game called life.

It’s truly the end of an era in Baltimore.

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thomas

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Ravens add six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas to revamped defense

Posted on 13 March 2019 by Luke Jones

Following the departures of three former Pro Bowl players and their 2018 sack leader in the last week, the Ravens were looking like a defense in the midst of an unsettling youth movement.

That perception changed dramatically with an agreement to sign six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas to a four-year, $55 million contract with $32 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The former Seattle Seahawk not only replaces veteran Eric Weddle at free safety, but he provides Baltimore a ball-hawking presence for the first time since the days of Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed patrolling the secondary.

After holding out for the entire 2018 preseason over a contract dispute, the 29-year-old Thomas appeared in only four games last year before suffering a season-ending broken lower leg. However, his play-making ability was still evident despite missing all of training camp as he intercepted three passes, which would have led the Ravens defense for the entire season.

Thomas also missed the final five games of the 2016 season with a broken tibia.

Part of the “Legion of Boom” secondary that helped lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl championship and an appearance in another, Thomas has recorded 28 interceptions and 68 pass breakups in 125 career games. The only seasons in which the 2010 first-round pick from Texas has missed the Pro Bowl since his rookie year were his injury-shortened campaigns in two of the last three years as he’s been regarded as the consensus best free safety in the NFL since the final years of Reed’s brilliant career.

Thomas’ impressive range will afford defensive coordinator Wink Martindale the flexibility to call more single-high safety looks, something the Ravens had to be careful in using with a less athletic Weddle at the position. Such an alignment plays to the strengths of strong safety Tony Jefferson, who is better playing closer to the line of scrimmage where he can stop the run and blitz in certain situations.

Much work remains to be done on the front seven after the departures of four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker and potential future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, and rush specialist Za’Darius Smith. However, the secondary is shaping up to be even better than it was a year ago with Thomas and Jefferson at safety, the trio of Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Jimmy Smith at outside cornerback, and slot cornerback Tavon Young.

The reported signings of Thomas and two-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram on Wednesday certainly lifted the spirits of Ravens supporters who had seen those four defensive departures — as well as starting wide receiver John Brown — sign elsewhere. The exodus was enough to make many wonder if Baltimore was even entering a rebuilding period to better position itself for future seasons by preserving salary cap space and 2020 compensatory picks, but signing one of the NFL’s best defensive players over the last decade was a clear sign that expectations remain high for the coming season.

The truth is DeCosta made difficult decisions that may still hurt the Ravens in the short term. There’s no losing such a high level of leadership, football intellect, and institutional knowledge from Suggs and Weddle without there being some void, even with the latter being replaced by a better individual player. Mosley and Smith ultimately received more money than Baltimore was willing to pay, but you don’t just brush off losing one of the NFL’s best inside linebackers and the team’s best pass rusher without preparing for potential growing pains. The organization expected to keep Suggs and tried to retain Mosley, so it would be silly to dismiss those departures as no big deal when the Ravens certainly didn’t feel that way.

At the same time, it was no secret the second half of last season brought the awkward juxtaposition of the start of the Lamar Jackson era and the potential last ride for several veterans and players in the final year of their contract. In his first offseason as general manager, DeCosta had the salary cap space to keep both Weddle and Suggs around for one more run, but what were the odds they would even maintain their 2018 level of play at their respective ages? The Ravens certainly could have been more proactive in signing Mosley to a extension — and could have even used the franchise tag — long before the New York Jets made him an $85 million offer on Monday, but DeCosta understood the risks of allowing it to get to that point.

And let’s not forget the Ravens own only one playoff victory in the last six years. Beyond the understandable sentimentality and appreciation fans felt for one of the franchise’s all-time greats in Suggs. DeCosta wasn’t exactly busting up a Super Bowl team in the same way Ozzie Newsome had in 2002 and 2013.

The 2018 defense was greater than the sum of its parts, but duplicating that same degree of on-field success with the status quo would have been difficult, especially with Smith’s departure that was always expected. Thomas’ arrival not only helps fill a leadership void, but he brings greater play-making ability in the secondary.

And while he and Ingram alone do not guarantee improved chances of winning a Super Bowl than a year ago, they are the first additions of an offseason more intriguing than anything we’ve seen from the Ravens in several years.

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Mosley receives record-setting contract from New York Jets

Posted on 12 March 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have lost a third former Pro Bowl player on their top-ranked defense from a year ago.

According to NFL Network, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will receive a massive five-year, $85 million deal from the New York Jets that includes $51 million guaranteed. The deal makes the four-time Pro Bowl selection the highest-paid inside linebacker in NFL history and shatters the eyebrow-raising four-year, $54 million contract San Francisco awarded veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander on Monday. The Ravens had deemed keeping Mosley a priority and the 2014 first-round pick had repeatedly expressed his desire to stay despite the sides being slow to engage in extension talks last year, but general manager Eric DeCosta was not willing to go as high as the Jets’ lucrative final offer.

DeCosta will now be tasked with rebuilding a Baltimore defense that has already said goodbye to seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and six-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle. Those two were well into their 30s and nearing the end of their respective careers, but the loss of the 26-year-old Mosley represents uncharted territory for the Ravens, who had never lost a multi-time Pro Bowl selection in his mid-20s. Baltimore also lost 2018 sack leader Za’Darius Smith, who agreed to a deal with the Green Bay Packers later on Tuesday.

Despite suffering a knee injury in Week 2 that cost him nearly two full games this past season, Mosley played in 15 games and led the Ravens with 105 tackles. His lone interception of 2018 came in the closing moments of the regular-season finale to seal a 26-24 win over Cleveland and Baltimore’s first AFC North championship since 2012.

Selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft out of Alabama, Mosley was tabbed as the successor to Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who had retired the previous offseason. That responsiblity was one Mosley took seriously, but it led to unfair expectations for some of his critics who were quick to point out his relative deficiencies, particularly in pass coverage. Mosley missed only three games in five seasons and concludes his run with the Ravens fifth on their all-time tackles list behind only Lewis, Suggs, Kelly Gregg, and Ed Reed.

How the Ravens replace Mosley’s presence in the middle of the defense remains to be seen, but weak-side inside linebackers Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young are both in line for increased responsibilities. The young duo combined to play fewer snaps (803) than Mosley (875) last year, but the Ravens could also look to add a cheaper veteran or another inside linebacker in April’s draft.

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suggs

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Seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Suggs leaving Ravens after 16 seasons

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Luke Jones

If you weren’t convinced the Ravens defense was entering a new era, Monday brought the biggest sign yet as one of the best players in franchise history is saying goodbye.

After seven Pro Bowls, a Defensive Player of the Year award, a Super Bowl championship, and three times as many career sacks as all but two other Ravens, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is expected to sign with Arizona, ending an incredible 16-year run with the organization that selected him with the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft. The 36-year-old free agent often expressed hope of staying with the Ravens for the remainder of his career, but he acknowledged the possibility of that not happening at the end of last season. The Cardinals provide Suggs the opportunity to return home as he attended high school in Arizona and was an All-American standout at Arizona State.

New general manager Eric DeCosta said last month he wanted Suggs to return for a 17th season, which would have tied Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis for the longest tenure in Ravens history. It remains unclear how far apart the sides might have been in contract talks.

“I think Sizz is definitely a guy that we want back,” DeCosta said at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. “This is a good opportunity for us to meet with his agents this week, which will happen in the next few days. He’s a guy that means a lot to our franchise as a player, but also as a leader. I would love to have him back next year.”

Suggs is the second key veteran to leave Baltimore’s top-ranked defense after Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle was released last week and signed with the Los Angeles Rams. Free-agent inside linebacker C.J. Mosley would become the third Pro Bowl defensive player to depart if the Ravens can’t strike a new deal with their 2014 first-round pick.

With Suggs set to join the Cardinals and fellow free agent Za’Darius Smith likely departing as well, the Ravens’ top remaining options opposite starting strong-side outside linebacker Matthew Judon are Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, a pair of 2017 Day 2 draft choices who have yet to live up to expectations at the next level.

Suggs started 16 games last season, collecting 34 tackles, seven sacks, seven pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a fumble return for a touchdown. However, he registered just 1 1/2 sacks over the last 10 games of the season, which included the home playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Pro Football Focus graded Suggs as the 36th-best edge defender in the NFL in 2018.

The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year and owner of seven double-digit sack seasons is first on the Ravens’ career sacks list with 132 1/2 while the next two on the list — Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary — combined for 121. Suggs’ 33 career forced fumbles also top the franchise career list.

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stewart

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Stewart, Diaz headline second wave of Orioles’ spring cuts

Posted on 10 March 2019 by Luke Jones

Former first-round pick and outfielder DJ Stewart headlined the Orioles’ second round of spring cuts with the start of the 2019 season just 2 1/2 weeks away.

Despite making his major league debut and performing well enough last September to put himself in the conversation for a starting job entering spring training, Stewart was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk Sunday while other young outfielders such as Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Joey Rickard, and the recently-acquired Dwight Smith Jr. remain in major league camp. The 25-year-old Stewart batted .250 with three home runs and an .890 on-base plus slugging percentage in 47 plate appearances for Baltimore last season, but his .267 average and .767 OPS in 33 plate appearances this spring didn’t distinguish him from the candidates vying for major league jobs. There are also concerns about Stewart’s throwing arm in right as he’s spent most of his professional career as a left fielder.

Stewart wasn’t the only outfielder cut on Sunday as top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz was reassigned to minor-league camp. Despite an impressive .333 average and .839 OPS in his first spring training with Baltimore, the 22-year-old Diaz was always expected to begin the 2019 season in the minors and was in camp as a non-roster invitee. The centerpiece acquisition of last July’s Manny Machado trade could make his major league debut at some point later this season, but Diaz has yet to play above the Double-A level and a rebuilding organization was in no rush to begin his service clock this quickly.

The Orioles also reassigned top infield prospect Ryan Mountcastle to minor-league camp. The 22-year-old saw extensive time at first base this spring after beginning his professional career as a shortstop and moving to third base two years ago. Mountcastle batted .286 with a homer and a .784 OPS in 31 Grapefruit League plate appearances.

Right-handed pitcher Dillon Tate was optioned to Double-A Bowie while right-hander Luis Ortiz was optioned to Norfolk on Sunday. Tate was acquired from the New York Yankees in the Zack Britton trade while Ortiz came from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop trade.

Catcher Martin Cervenka, left-hander Sean Gilmartin, and right-hander Bo Schultz were also reassigned to minor-league camp.

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Weddle quickly finds new home with defending NFC champions

Posted on 08 March 2019 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens safety Eric Weddle wasted little time finding a new home and may have improved his chances of winning that elusive Super Bowl championship to cap an impressive career.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection agreed to a two-year contract with the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Friday, ending a brief stay on the free-agent market. According to NFL Network, Weddle received a deal worth up to $12.5 million and $5.25 million fully guaranteed. The 34-year-old was scheduled to make a $6.5 million base salary in 2019 before being released on Tuesday, a move that saved Baltimore $7.5 million in salary cap space.

Weddle is a California native and still lives in San Diego after spending the first nine years of his NFL career with the Chargers, making his new team a good geographical fit as well. The Ravens are scheduled to travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams during the 2019 season.

“He is just the consummate football player, the consummate leader,” head coach John Harbaugh said on Thursday. “He will go down in history like that. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.”

How general manager Eric DeCosta plans to replace Weddle at safety remains to be seen, but there are several attractive options on the free-agent market. Six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas headlines the group, but Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins, Adrian Amos, Lamarcus Joyner, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are other notable safeties who will officially become available next week.

In another offseason move that was anticipated, the Ravens placed a second-round tender on restricted free-agent linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, according to ESPN. The tender carries a $3.095 million salary for the 2019 season, but any team wishing to pursue the 26-year-old would need to sign him to an offer sheet and surrender a second-round pick if the Ravens chose not to match the deal. His role would likely increase if four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley departs via free agency next week.

Restricted free-agent defensive tackle Michael Pierce is also likely to receive a second-round tender.

Upon tendering Onwuasor and Pierce and officially completing the trade of quarterback Joe Flacco to Denver on Wednesday, the Ravens will have roughly $30 million in salary cap space at the start of free agency. However, that number does not yet include the tendering of exclusive-rights free agents or the 2019 cap number for tight end Nick Boyle, who was re-signed to a three-year, $18 million contract on Thursday. The year-by-year terms of Boyle’s deal haven’t yet been reported.

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