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Twelve Ravens thoughts on training camp preparations and other topics

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Luke Jones

With Ravens coaches returning to the Owings Mills headquarters this week and the NFL releasing protocols for training facilities, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The July 28 report date for training camp is seven weeks away, but much work remains regarding COVID-19 protocols. The recent expansion and renovations of the team facility helps, but spacing lockers six feet apart for a 90-man roster will be quite a challenge by itself.

2. NFL Network’s report on the possibility of the preseason schedule being shortened was hardly a surprise since there was growing support for that long before the pandemic. The bigger question might be whether that sparks permanent change to the exhibition schedule.

3. Pittsburgh moving its camp to Heinz Field raises a fair question for teams that already struggled to find space for 90 players before even factoring in social distancing. A shorter preseason makes you wonder if that high number is absolutely necessary if you want to minimize health risks. Difficult questions.

4. Patrick Queen, Devin Duvernay, and Malik Harrison are the only 2020 Ravens draft picks yet to sign, but we’re approaching the time when you’d expect those rookie deals to get done. Of course, the pandemic could always complicate that timing.

5. Social media hardly provides a complete picture of the work so many players are putting in right now, but James Proche has logged recent workouts with Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Trace McSorley. Good for the sixth-round rookie wide receiver getting acquainted with Baltimore quarterbacks.

6. You won’t find a more respected person in the organization than tight ends coach Bobby Engram, who was nominated for the PFWA’s George Halas Award for overcoming adversity to succeed. I recommend this piece from The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec if you’re unfamiliar with the Engram family’s story.

7. The value of the return specialist isn’t what it used to be due to rule changes in the game, but I can’t recall the last time we weren’t talking about that spot being a question mark around this time of year. The days of Jacoby Jones?

8. In contrast, Sam Koch is the only player to have any punts for the Ravens since 2006 and Justin Tucker is the only one to make a field goal since 2012. That continuity is just remarkable compared to most teams. Tennessee had four different kickers last season alone.

9. We’ve talked so much about inside linebacker the last couple years that I couldn’t help but notice Ravens coaching analyst and former player Zach Orr celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday. He thankfully escaped football without serious injury, but you wonder how much better he might have become.

10. Dick Cass, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Ray Rice, Steve Smith, Calais Campbell, and Queen were among the current and former Ravens joining over 1,400 sports figures in signing a letter to Congress requesting an end to qualified immunity. I applaud them for making their voices heard.

11. Have you ever imagined what might have happened if Baltimore signed Colin Kaepernick? Does he replace a Joe Flacco who had a bad back in 2017? Reunited with Greg Roman, does Kaepernick thrive and keep the starting job? Does Lamar Jackson then wind up elsewhere? Quite the potential butterfly effect.

12. Kudos to the Ravens for putting out the following video for high school and college graduates. We all had different school experiences, but I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy those final weeks or to celebrate these accomplishments with friends and family.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Posted on 20 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the NFL’s virtual offseason program rolling on, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Team president Dick Cass confirmed again this week that the organization aims to be able to conduct training camp and has no expectation of the 90-man roster being at the Owings Mills facility before then. Time remains on teams’ side with the usual start to camp still two months away.

2. Two-time Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen said he wouldn’t have made it in the NFL had the pandemic taken place when he went undrafted in 2013. With Baltimore already having a deep roster and 10 draft picks, rookie free agents are missing out on valuable opportunities to impress.

3. Opinions vary on playing football this fall, but Dr. David Chao, former team physician of the San Diego Chargers, discussed key considerations in this video ranging from what to do about team meetings and locker rooms to considering face shields on helmets and alternatives for huddling. Really interesting stuff.

4. With Rooney Rule changes making headlines, the lack of diversity in NFL hiring remains disappointing with Ozzie Newsome going from a Hall of Fame playing career to becoming one of the best general managers of all time serving as the best example one needs. The league must do better.

5. Some have mentioned the peculiarity of having two preseason games against regular-season opponents (Dallas and Washington), but teams just don’t show enough in these exhibition contests for this to really matter anymore. Conducting joint practices with a regular-season opponent would be a different story.

6. A superb secondary and Wink Martindale’s propensity to blitz should ease short-term concerns at edge rusher, but Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, and Tyus Bowser are only under contract through 2020. Even if Jaylon Ferguson takes a step forward, something will have to give.

7. Calais Campbell has wasted no time making an impact locally as his foundation announced an initiative to provide 100 laptops to disadvantaged students. His superb play is a given, but adding a veteran like him during such unusual times will pay off even more on and off the field.

8. The recently retired Eric Weddle taking time to speak to Ravens players virtually was hardly surprising. He’ll relish more time with his family, but it’s difficult imagining him staying away from the game for very long.

9. Many have already dunked on the following tweet, but the 2012 defense did come up big in some critical spots despite its mediocre overall profile. Still, I would put at least 15 Ravens defenses ahead of that one without even needing to look up any stats. What an odd pairing.

10. Terrell Suggs had a forgettable Arizona homecoming, but he recently drew praise as a mentor from Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones, who led the NFL in sacks in 2017 and had 19 last year. It’s unclear whether he’ll return for an 18th season, but the ex-Raven became an underrated leader.

11. If you felt old hearing Ray Lewis turned 45 years old late last week, perhaps you’ll take consolation learning Cal Ripken will be 60 in August. You’re welcome.

12. I really could have gone without reading the latest example of what’s made Tom Brady so insane great over the years. At least Ryan Mallett learned something from the six-time Super Bowl champion?

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2020 draft

Posted on 29 April 2020 by Luke Jones

With the 2020 NFL draft in the books and the Ravens shifting attention toward an unprecedented virtual offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore’s draft haul has been widely praised as it is, but Eric DeCosta also used 2020 fifth-round picks to acquire Pro Bowl selections Marcus Peters and Calais Campbell. We know many draft choices don’t pan out, of course, but the Ravens sure took advantage of value.

2. Marlon Humphrey’s fifth-year option being exercised was elementary as he’s projected to make $10.244 million in 2021, but he’s already been a team MVP and a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection prior to turning 24. He’s one more big year away from commanding top-of-the-market money at cornerback.

3. The career of D.J. Fluker has been pedestrian compared to first-round expectations, but his signing is a reminder of keeping expectations in check for rookies, especially without normal offseason workouts. Ideally, a young guy with a higher ceiling seizes the right guard job, but Fluker raises the position’s floor.

4. Whenever anticipating a position battle, I remember how much angst there was about the Ravens making no meaningful addition to replace right tackle Michael Oher in 2014. Rick Wagner, who had barely played as a fifth-round rookie, stepped in as an immediate upgrade for the next three seasons.

5. Speaking of competition, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser had to be pleased to see no edge defenders taken in this draft class. Ferguson will compete to start and was in no roster danger, of course, but players like Bowser in the final year of their contract are always vulnerable.

6. J.K. Dobbins will try to break this post-Super Bowl XLVII run of second-round picks: Bowser (2017), Kamalei Correa (2016), Maxx Williams (2015), Timmy Jernigan (2014), and Arthur Brown (2013). Talk about “meh,” but I suppose the Ravens did OK trading their 2018 and 2019 second-rounders.

7. How the ground game shakes out with four running backs and the greatest single-season rushing quarterback in NFL history will be interesting — there’s only one football — but there’s no shortage of motivation. Mark Ingram was essentially put on notice and Gus Edwards and Justice Hill dropped down the pecking order.

8. Devin Duvernay will be an interesting wild card with good hands and an uncanny ability to gain yards after the catch. Considering how many screens he ran at Texas, I wouldn’t be surprised to occasionally see him lining up in the backfield and also motioning into jet sweeps.

9. After drafting exactly one wide receiver (Breshad Perriman) in the first three rounds from 2012-2018, the Ravens have selected three (Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Duvernay) in the last two drafts. Somewhere, Joe Flacco shrugs his shoulders.

10. Not only is Mike Tomlin getting inside information from Maryland wide receiver Dino Tomlin, but former Terps interim head coach Matt Canada became Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks coach in January. Anthony McFarland and Antoine Brooks landing with the Steelers was hardly a shock.

11. The gap is sizable between the Ravens and the rest of the AFC North on paper right now, but Cincinnati and Cleveland had strong drafts and Pittsburgh appeared to do OK despite trading its first-round pick for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick last fall. Much talent was added to the division.

12. I’m not going to pretend to have any great insights into the Ravens’ reported (and unofficial) class of rookie free-agent signings, but I just hope the addition of Kennesaw State fullback Bronson Rechsteiner means his uncle shows up in Owings Mills at some point.

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Union between Wolfe, Ravens feels like it was years in making

Posted on 03 April 2020 by Luke Jones

Defensive end Derek Wolfe thought he’d be drafted by the Ravens before then-general manager Ozzie Newsome selected outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with the 35th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.

Denver took Wolfe one spot later, leading to a fruitful eight-year run that included 108 starts and a Super Bowl 50 championship. The 30-year-old is very complimentary about his time with the Broncos, but he sensed his time there was coming to an end last season when the organization didn’t approach him about a contract extension. With the Broncos starting 0-4 and falling out of contention early, Wolfe even pondered asking for a trade to the Ravens, saying he always believed he’d “fit into that organization really well” from the time the Cincinnati product and northeast Ohio native took a pre-draft visit to Owings Mills eight years ago.

But when the Ravens agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers at the start of free agency last month, Wolfe thought he’d missed his chance, wondering if the dislocated elbow that sent him to injured reserve last December worked against him. Of course, the Brockers deal fell through over concerns about his ankle, opening the door once again for Wolfe.

Fully recovered from the elbow injury, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman didn’t want to waste any time getting in touch with general manager Eric DeCosta.

“I immediately called my agent and said, ‘What’s going on with the Ravens?'” Wolfe said in a conference call on Friday. “He said, ‘I’m already on the phone.’ And I was like, ‘Yes! I really don’t care about the money. At this point, I just want to get on that team. That’s the team I want to get on, I want to be on.'”

His respect for the Ravens didn’t stem solely from his pre-draft experience or several head-to-head encounters, which included the “Mile High Miracle” classic. He ate breakfast with Joe Flacco at the Broncos facility regularly last season, and the former Baltimore quarterback spoke glowingly of the organization, describing it as “one big family.”

Wolfe also sought input from former Broncos teammate Elvis Dumervil, who spent four seasons with Baltimore and was selected to two of his five Pro Bowls with the Ravens.

“‘Doom’ was like a mentor for me my rookie year, like a big brother to me,” Wolfe said. “Anything he says I usually listen to and I take it to heart because he’s a very straightforward guy. If he doesn’t like it, he’s going to tell you, and he had nothing but good things to say about the organization. He said I’m a perfect fit there. He’s like, ‘You’re going to love it.'”

Settling for a one-year, $3 million deal worth up to $6 million with incentives, Wolfe is eager to prove himself after a career-high seven sacks in 12 games last season. He’s already spoken of wanting to earn an extension with the Ravens as he enters his ninth season and owns 33 career sacks.

Arriving with five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell as part of a revamped defensive line, Wolfe knows the first objective is to strengthen a run defense that was exposed in the playoff loss to Tennessee and ranked just 21st in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (4.4) last season. But Wolfe has even greater expectations for himself, a pass rush that relied heavily on the blitz last season, and his new team coming off a franchise-best 14-2 record and a record-setting offensive season led by league MVP Lamar Jackson, saying he’d “love to bring another ring to the city.”

“I think that we’re going to be able to shut that run game down,” Wolfe said. “Then, when it comes to our offense keeping us up by 10, 20 points a game, it’s going to get ugly for these quarterbacks.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts as free agency slows down

Posted on 30 March 2020 by Luke Jones

With free agency slowing considerably and teams beginning to turn even more attention to the upcoming NFL draft, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Derek Wolfe may not be the same player and brings durability questions, but I prefer one year and $3 million guaranteed for him to the reported $21 million Eric DeCosta planned to guarantee Michael Brockers before concerns surfaced about his ankle. Sometimes the best deals are ones you don’t make.

2. The Brockers situation conjured memories of the Ryan Grant deal falling through two years ago, but the skepticism over that case — involving a contract that was widely panned — isn’t fair to apply this time around when teams can’t conduct their own physicals. It’s never ideal in a big-picture sense, however.

3. Based on the reaction of former teammates and Denver reporters over the weekend, Wolfe should be a good fit in the Ravens locker room. He also brings championship experience to a roster with fewer and fewer Super Bowl XLVII holdovers. Only four Ravens who played in that game remain.

4. Calais Campbell said his agent wasn’t thrilled with the extension he accepted that included $20 million guaranteed, but the 33-year-old took less to play for the Ravens than potentially maxing out with other teams interested in acquiring him. It helps having the reigning MVP and a 14-2 record last year.

5. I was surprised to see Josh Bynes accept a one-year deal with Cincinnati that isn’t believed to be much money. It’s easy to say the Ravens will just draft Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray, but relying too heavily on youth is what got them in trouble last season.

6. We’re only three weeks away from what was supposed to be the start of the offseason program. With spring activities at facilities unlikely to take place, organizations will have their technological mettle tested and players will be trusted to prepare on their own more than ever.

7. The re-signing of Jimmy Smith alleviates short-term concern about the depth at cornerback, but he’s signed only through 2020 and Tavon Young has missed two full seasons in the last three years. A late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick at that position would still make plenty of sense.

8. I was surprised over some of the negative reaction to the one-year deal for Chris Moore. He’s a reliable contributor for a special teams group that wasn’t very special last year. Moore isn’t viewed as an answer at wide receiver or a lock to be on the 53-man roster.

9. OverTheCap.com currently projects the Ravens to receive a fifth-round compensatory pick next year due to Michael Pierce’s departure since the Wolfe signing cancels out Seth Roberts’ contract with Carolina. Of course, any player cut by his previous team doesn’t apply to the formula.

10. The Ravens are — and should be — heavy favorites to win the AFC North, but their division rivals all made solid free-agent additions and the health of Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow is a big wildcard. The division should still be Baltimore’s, but it may not be quite the same cakewalk it was last year.

11. The sports shutdown has brought more attention to esports as thousands watched Marquise Brown play Madden online last week and NASCAR’s iRacing broadcasts have fetched good ratings. Maybe we’re just really bored, but that’s interesting data as sports always strive for offseason engagement.

12. On the 24th anniversary of Art Modell revealing his relocated franchise from Cleveland would be renamed the Baltimore Ravens, the team’s official Twitter account revealed a 25th season logo. I assume we’ll see a jersey patch for 2020 like we saw in 2005 and 2015 (see below).

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Ravens add former Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe

Posted on 28 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens thought they had a deal with Michael Brockers, pursued five-time Pro Bowl selection Ndamukong Suh, and concluded their turbulent week of defensive line activity by landing Derek Wolfe.

The former Denver Bronco could prove to be a strong consolation prize after agreeing to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $6 million and $3 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports out of Denver. Wolfe, 30, is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he registered a career-high seven sacks before missing the final four games with an elbow injury. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman has started every game in which he’s played in his eight-year career, but he’s played all 16 contests just once in the last five seasons with injuries taking a toll.

Wolfe has been widely regarded as one of the better run-stopping defensive linemen in the NFL for years, but he should also serve as an upgrade in the pass-rush department with 33 career sacks and four seasons with five or more sacks in his career. Pro Football Focus graded the 2012 second-round pick from Cincinnati as the 46th-best interior lineman in the NFL last season, but he finished 28th among qualified interior linemen in pass-rush grading, registering 22 quarterback pressures.

Much like the Ravens envisioned with Brockers before their three-year, $30 million agreement fell apart due to concerns over the health of his ankle, Wolfe’s arrival should allow defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to move Brandon Williams back to nose tackle. Wolfe would likely handle 3-techinique duties with five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell manning the 5-technique spot in the base 3-4 defense, but those two would serve as legitimate interior rushers in passing situations, something the Ravens lacked last season.

Baltimore has undergone much change on its defensive line since the end of the 2019 season with the free-agent departure of nose tackle Michael Pierce and the trade of defensive end Chris Wormley, but the combination of Campbell and Wolfe should serve as a substantial upgrade as the Ravens try to boost a pedestrian run defense that ranked only 21st in the NFL at 4.4 yards per carry allowed. Interior defensive linemen were also responsible for just four of Baltimore’s 37 sacks last season, but the two veteran newcomers have combined for 121 sacks over 20 combined NFL seasons.

Signing Wolfe at a cheaper price eases the disappointment of missing out on Brockers, but the Ravens will likely still be in search of more defensive line depth in next month’s draft as each of their top four current options — Wolfe, Campbell, Williams, and reserve Justin Ellis — is 29 or older. The Ravens are projected to have roughly $12 million in salary cap space once Wolfe’s deal is officially signed.

Highly respected in Denver, Wolfe confirmed his departure from the Broncos and expressed his excitement joining his new team in a post on his verified Instagram account.

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Deal between Ravens, defensive end Brockers falls through

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ offseason has hit a significant snag after their original agreement with free-agent defensive lineman Michael Brockers fell through on Friday.

After agreeing to a three-year, $30 million contract including $21 million guaranteed early last week, the sides were unable to strike a modified deal after concerns rose over the high ankle sprain sustained by Brockers in the 2019 season finale. The 29-year-old will instead return to the Los Angeles Rams on a three-year contract worth a maximum of $31.5 million, according to NFL Network.

Brockers’ agent, Scott Casterline, told NFL Network Wednesday that he was “very confident” a deal would be announced this week, but the Ravens’ reported interest in free agent Ndamukong Suh — who elected to re-sign with Tampa Bay — made it clear there was concern since an announcement hadn’t been made more than a week after the opening of free agency. In a tweet posted early Friday morning, the Ravens said they would not sign Brockers “after being unable to come to an agreement on terms of a contract.” 

It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic has complicated the start of the new league year as training facilities have been closed and teams have been prohibited from meeting with free agents and completing their own physicals, instead relying on outside exams to be conducted. That reality didn’t prevent general manager Eric DeCosta from completing a trade for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, but the 33-year-old defender described a more complicated process from the time he received word from Jacksonville until the swap was officially announced a few days later.

Those challenges make it easy to see how a concern over a physical exam could sink an agreement.

“I was in Arizona when the trade went through, and I had to go to get a physical at the Mayo Clinic, which is independent,” Campbell said in a conference call on Thursday. “The process of getting the medical records to them, doing all the paperwork, it was just a little bit trickier than it normally would be. That process was very unique.”

The Brockers news comes after former Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce signed with Minnesota and the Ravens dealt fourth-year defensive end Chris Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick to Pittsburgh for a fifth-round selection in next year’s draft. Now dangerously thin behind Campbell and Brandon Williams on the defensive line, Baltimore could turn to another veteran on the open market such as Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris or simply put a higher priority on strengthening the defensive line in next month’s draft.

It’s quite a turn of events after the Ravens had clearly prioritized beefing up their run defense with the trade for Campbell and the expected signing of Brockers as the two are among the best run-stopping linemen in the league. According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens have just over $16 million in salary cap space, which gives DeCosta the flexibility to make another substantial move — for the defensive line or at another position — if the right opportunity presents itself.

Brockers confirmed his return to the Rams in a post from his verified Instagram account on Friday.

This marks the second time in three years in which the Ravens have had a free-agent agreement fall apart due to a problem with the physical exam. Baltimore agreed to a four-year, $29 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed for veteran wide receiver Ryan Grant in 2018 before backing out due to an ankle injury that prompted a failed physical. That situation sparked scrutiny with some even accusing the organization of negotiating in bad faith due to buyer’s remorse, but Brockers was an early target in free agency and it seems unlikely the Ravens would have dealt Wormley if they didn’t have every intention of executing their deal with a standout defensive lineman who’s missed a total of five games over his eight seasons.

This was the second NFL free-agent agreement to fall apart in the last 24 hours after veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard’s reported deal with Jacksonville fell through on Thursday.

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Looking at updated 2020 slate of draft picks for Ravens

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has been busy at the start of the new league year with three trades executed in the last week in addition to a handful of signings.

Baltimore traded tight end Hayden Hurst and a fourth-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for a second-round pick and a fifth-round selection, sent that same fifth-round choice to Jacksonville for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, and finally swapped defensive end Chris Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh.

With the draft only a month away, the Ravens are scheduled to have nine picks overall and seven in the top 150 spots. This could mark the sixth time in the last seven years Baltimore makes at least six picks in the top 150 selections. With lucrative contracts on the horizon for the likes of MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, DeCosta must continue to inject young and cheap talent into organization.

The following are the picks the Ravens currently own in the 2020 draft:

Round 1: 28th overall
Round 2: 55th overall
Round 2: 60th overall
Round 3: 92nd overall
Round 3: 106th overall (compensatory)
Round 4: 129th
Round 4: 143rd overall (compensatory)
Round 5: 170th overall
Round 7: 225th overall

Just for fun, below is a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those spots (or as close as possible) over the years:

28th overall: G Ben Grubbs (29th), 2007
Skinny: The first round will probably be too early for the Ravens to draft an interior lineman in the wake of Marshal Yanda’s retirement, but Grubbs was a five-year starter and made a Pro Bowl before moving on in free agency, the kind of result with which you’re perfectly content with a late first-round pick.

55th overall: CB DeRon Jenkins, 1996; RB Ray Rice, 2008; TE Maxx Williams, 2015
Skinny: This slot has produced quite a range of outcomes with Rice being one of the better players in team history and Jenkins and Williams not living up to expectations. Two second-rounders were dealt to move up for Lamar Jackson, but recent Ravens players picked in this round have been underwhelming.

60th overall: G/OT Kelechi Osmele, 2012
Skinny: Seeing action at three different positions, Osemele started every game he played in his four years with the Ravens before breaking the bank with a big-money deal in Oakland. Finding an offensive lineman of this quality in this part of the draft would be a major success.

92nd overall: C Casey Rabach, 2001
Skinny: Rabach didn’t step into a full-time role until his last season with the Ravens after being stuck behind veteran center Mike Flynn, but he would go on to be a six-year starter for Washington. That makes him a pretty decent pick in the big picture.

106th overall: WR Marcus Smith, 2008
Skinny: Smith appeared in just 21 games over three seasons with Baltimore and is one of the many Day 3 wide receivers selected by the organization not to work out over the years. Considering the hype surrounding this year’s batch of receivers, the Ravens could take a swing at the position here.

129th overall: G Edwin Mulitalo, 1999; OLB John Simon, 2013
Skinny: One of the best fourth-round picks in team history, Mulitalo was a starter for parts of eight seasons and formed a dominant left side of the line with Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Despite lasting just one year in Baltimore, Simon has played seven NFL seasons and has 19 career sacks..

143rd overall: DT Aubrayo Franklin (146th), 2003; S Dawan Landry (146th), 2006; OLB Matthew Judon (146th), 2016
Skinny: Franklin would play 11 seasons in the NFL despite a nondescript four-year run with the Ravens, but Landry and Judon are two of the organization’s great late-round stories. Finding multiyear starters this late in the draft is far from the norm, but the value is terrific when a team hits.

170th overall: TE Nick Boyle (171st), 2015
Skinny: Few would have believed Boyle would still be going strong as a critical cog in the offense after twice being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in his first year in the NFL. Boyle has outlasted Crockett Gillmore, Williams, and Hurst, who were all drafted much earlier than the Delaware product.

225th overall: RB Anthony Allen, 2011
Skinny: Many seventh-round picks don’t even make it out of their first training camp, but Allen played 21 games over two years with the Ravens and was a decent special-teams contributor for the Super Bowl XLVII team. You’re not likely to do much better at this late stage of the draft.

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Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Josh Bynes is introduced onto the field prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Revisiting Ravens’ positional needs after first week of free agency

Posted on 23 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens didn’t begin the offseason in the way many anticipated.

The defensive line was identified by most as an area to address, but few figured it would be the top priority with the acquisitions of five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Michael Brockers headlining general manager Eric DeCosta’s start to the new league year. The versatile Campbell addresses the much-discussed pass rush in a different way than a traditional edge defender, but there is more work to be done with the front seven as well as other positions on a team with visions of winning the Super Bowl next season.

Below is how I rank those needs a week into free agency:

5. Depth

This descriptor applies specifically to the defensive line and tight end. The defensive line is much improved, but Campbell, Brockers, Brandon Williams, and Justin Ellis are all 29 or older and the trade of Chris Wormley leaves the Ravens thin behind the starters. The Ravens received good value in the Hayden Hurst trade, but tight end is too critical to Greg Roman’s offense to dismiss the need to replace his 457 regular-season snaps with a quality option. Each of these positions could be covered in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft, of course.

4. Outside linebacker

The position’s overall value and long-term outlook still makes it a priority, but the decisions to place the franchise tag on Matthew Judon and trade for Campbell ease short-term concerns about both the pass rush and setting the edge. The concern is Judon only being under contract for next season and Campbell turning 34 by Week 1. The Ravens went 14-2 last year with the quartet of Judon, 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson, Jihad Ward, and Tyus Bowser at outside linebacker — without a pass-rushing talent like Campbell up front, mind you — but Ferguson is the only one of those four under contract after 2020. A veteran like Clay Matthews or Pernell McPhee could make sense at a low price, but the Ravens need to find a long-term answer, especially if they’re not comfortable giving Judon a lucrative multiyear deal.

3. Wide receiver

At the beginning of the offseason, I believed this to be more of a want than a dire need when keeping the proper perspective in evaluating last year’s record-setting offense, but the decision to trade Hurst — who ranked third on the team in receiving yards and first among non-running backs in catch percentage — likely signals some shift in target distribution. Expecting more from a fully healthy Marquise Brown is more than fair, but the Ravens need another high-ceiling option to compete with Willie Snead and Miles Boykin for targets. The free-agent wide receiver market being so slow to develop reflects just how much talent evaluators believe in this year’s draft class. With seven selections in the top 143 spots of next month’s draft, DeCosta should have no problem taking a meaningful swing or two at a receiver.

2. Interior offensive line

Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has done a good job developing the likes of Matt Skura, Ryan Jensen, and Bradley Bozeman and Lamar Jackson’s presence makes the offensive line’s job easier, but you can’t lose a generational player like Marshal Yanda without having concerns about any replacement and the impact on the rest of the unit. Skura’s rehabilitation from a serious knee injury makes it more critical for the Ravens to add a legitimate option to the interior mix. I never figured Baltimore would spend big money on a free agent like Graham Glasgow, but the Ravens haven’t seen enough of 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers to simply hand him the job. Whether it’s with a value signing like Kelechi Osmele or an early draft pick, replacing Yanda will be an unavoidable question going into the season.

1. Inside linebacker

The Ravens don’t need to find the next Ray Lewis here as last year showed the value of this position probably isn’t what it used to be in Baltimore’s defense, but the presence of a three-down linebacker would make Martindale’s life easier using his various sub packages. Veteran free-agent options such as Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert were always going to be unrealistic from a financial standpoint, but L.J. Fort, Chris Board, and Otaro Alaka are the only Baltimore inside linebackers currently under contract for 2020, making at least one viable or proven addition a clear need. Bringing back Josh Bynes or perhaps even Patrick Onwuasor on a short-term deal could make sense at the right price, but, just like the outside linebacker position, some long-term stability is needed.

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Ravens find surprising trade partner for defensive end Chris Wormley

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Luke Jones

As if the world weren’t strange enough these days, the Ravens have made a trade with their biggest rival.

Defensive end Chris Wormley has been traded along with a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth-round selection in next year’s draft. It marks only the second time these AFC North rivals have executed a trade and the first since Baltimore acquired offensive lineman Bernard Dafney for a seventh-round pick in 1997.

The deal is pending a physical.

Despite making seven starts and playing 448 snaps last season, Wormley, 26, was likely to see a diminished role with general manager Eric DeCosta acquiring standout defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers this week. The 2017 third-round pick from Michigan was entering the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.133 million in base salary, an amount that will now be credited to Baltimore’s salary cap.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Wormley recorded 33 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and two pass breakups last season and collected 54 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, and seven pass breakups in 39 games over his first three seasons.

The Ravens have done extensive work improving their defensive line over the opening week of free agency, but the new starting trio of Campbell, Brockers, and nose tackle Brandon Williams as well as reserve Justin Ellis are all 29 or older. Baltimore also has fullback and defensive line hybrid Patrick Ricard and 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack in the mix, but adding another defensive lineman or two for both depth and long-term development purposes figures to be an objective in next month’s draft.

Wormley wasted no time playfully showing his new allegiance after Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon responded to Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward’s Twitter welcome.

With Wormley’s departure, just three players remain from the Ravens’ 2017 draft class: Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey, reserve outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, and starting safety Chuck Clark.

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