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Twelve Ravens thoughts as virtual spring workouts continue

Posted on 27 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens and the NFL now in the early stages of the virtual offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After Gov. Larry Hogan gave permission, the organization entered “Phase I” for the opening of the Owings Mills facility, which permits returnees from the equipment crew, football video group, and the personnel department. Coaches and players still aren’t allowed in the building, but it’s a step in the right direction.

2. Those restrictions won’t prevent Baltimore players from working out together in South Florida as Lamar Jackson will hold informal sessions next week. The reigning MVP’s recent workouts with Marquise Brown highlighted on social media must have served as motivation for other teammates.

3. It’s been far from an ideal spring for players to keep in shape and prepare for the season, but the creativity has been fun to watch from afar such as the below example from Marlon Humphrey. I’ll be curious to see what technological and workout innovations stick beyond the pandemic.

4. Miles Boykin expressing confidence that he’ll “be able to play faster” in his second year reflects the steep challenge awaiting current rookies without a normal spring. Studying the playbook and virtual classroom work simply can’t replicate the challenging on-field application of concepts.

5. Ed Reed was the latest legend to speak with players virtually with Boykin describing his message as, “Take care of business — whatever it is.” The Hall of Famer discussed various topics, from finances and watching film to recovery and even locker room cleanliness. Reed remains one of a kind.

6. As Bill Belichick mentioned during the NFL 100 all-time team unveiling, Reed may have been the greatest punt blocker of all time, a cue rookies wanting to make a first-year impact should take. He was an absolute force on special teams before injuries eventually took him away from that realm.

7. Deep passing accuracy is still mentioned as a relative weakness for Jackson, but separate studies put him 16th (Pro Football Focus) and 12th (Football Outsiders) last season. With Brown and Boykin entering their second season, Jackson taking another step in the vertical game seems quite plausible.

8. Jamal Adams is a heck of a talent and drew trade interest from Baltimore last fall, but surrendering early draft picks and committing another market-setting contract to the secondary on top of the lucrative in-house extensions already on the horizon would make me take serious pause. You can’t pay everybody.

9. Speaking of safeties, this PFF piece on the three-safety defense in college is something to remember with the Ravens’ reputation for being ahead of the curve with innovations. Wink Martindale frequently used three safeties down the stretch last year, but not with the same principles as these college teams.

10. John Harbaugh was tied for 11th with 25-1 opening odds to win 2020 AP Coach of the Year, according to BetOnline. Dramatic improvement from the previous year usually prompts strong support for this award, so tangibly improving on a 14-2 regular season for him to repeat feels very unlikely.

11. As I get older, I more and more disagree with criticism for aging players who continue well past their prime. If they’re still competent enough in at least one team’s eyes, why walk away to appease anyone who isn’t their family? That goes for Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, or anyone.

12. There aren’t many stadiums where the Ravens haven’t won a game as they prepare for their 25th season in Baltimore, but they’ll have a chance to secure their first victories at Philadelphia and Indianapolis this fall. Of course, a road game could be quite different from what we’re used to.

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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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Ravens players adjusting to uncertainty with rest of sports world

Posted on 31 March 2020 by Luke Jones

April is a big month in the NFL offseason.

The draft and the schedule release dominate the headlines, but it’s also that time when players return to team facilities for the start of the offseason training program. For Ravens players coming off a franchise-best 14-2 season that ended in playoff heartbreak in mid-January, it was supposed to mark a reunion and the proverbial turning of the page with all sights toward the 2020 season.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic has already suspended the NBA and NHL seasons and postponed the start of baseball season with no end in sight, pondering the opening of an NFL season months from now brings more questions than answers. How could it not when stay-at-home orders, the closing of nonessential businesses, social distancing, and great concern for loved ones consume our everyday lives? The idea of more than 70,000 people packing a stadium for a game feels impossible — even dangerous — right now as we’re ordered to isolate from even family members and our closest friends.

“Nobody knows what’s going to go on, what’s going to come from this,” safety Chuck Clark said on a conference call with Baltimore media. “I would love to be able to play in a stadium again where fans are in there. That’s what we all live for — whether it’s basketball, baseball, football or hockey — playing in front of a crowd. And then even for the fans, for their enjoyment and having fun.”

But it’s one day at a time. Players have already adjusted their training routines over these last few weeks, but the scheduled April 20 opening of the Ravens’ offseason workout program clearly won’t be taking place at their Owings Mills facility. Team president Dick Cass has already expressed great doubt about organized team activities and spring minicamps being held, meaning the earliest return to the team facility for players may not be until training camp in July.

Tight end Mark Andrews said he hasn’t yet received details from Ravens coaches or staff members about how a spring program limited to at-home participation and remote communication will work.

“I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going to happen,” said Andrews, who described his current training setup at his Arizona home as a “prison workout” with free weights in his backyard. “There’s a ton of uncertainty right now with timelines and when people are going to report and when things are going to start up, so we’re not sure at the moment.

“But at the end of the day, we’re all going to be on the same playing field.”

Unlike teams with new head coaches and significant changes to their staffs, however, the Ravens benefit from stability as John Harbaugh enters his 13th season as head coach. Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will remain as coordinators despite interviewing for head coach positions in January, a development with even greater significance now for a team with championship aspirations.

With team meetings expected to be cyber sessions this spring, that familiarity will be important.

“Obviously, there are a ton of guys on the team that already know the system, the schemes and whatnot,” Andrews said. “It definitely helps, but we’re all professionals and even the guys that have new coaches and things like that, those guys are going to get that playbook down as fast as they can. That’s our job.”

Of course, thoughts of football are accompanied by the more serious problems and concerns we’re all facing to varying degrees. Being a Type-1 diabetic, Andrews initially wondered if he was at greater risk to the virus.

“The word right now is that there’s not too much more of a danger for me than anybody else,” said Andrews, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. “Just like everybody else, I’m staying smart, I’m staying inside, I’m social distancing myself from other people. That’s all you can do.”

Like the rest of the sports world, Ravens players are trying to adapt and follow altered workout routines while waiting for that “all clear” message we all want sooner than later.

But unlike other sports and events, the NFL has time on its side with the scheduled start of the regular season still more than five months away, reason for cautious optimism. Still, it’s impossible to know what to expect as the pandemic has already disrupted the league’s pre-draft process, challenged the free-agent signing period, pushed the schedule release back to May, and very likely wiped out all on-site workouts this spring.

No one wants to dwell on the possibility of a lost season, but there’s much we’d rather not think about these days.

“It crosses your mind, but at the end of the day, at some point this will all clear up and it will get better,” Clark said. “When it’s over, you’re a professional athlete, and that’s what you’re asked to do. You have to be in tip-top shape to be ready to play.”

At some point.

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O, say can you see a real lease for Orioles at Camden Yards by the dawn’s early light?

Posted on 01 October 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

It was the rarest of occasions in Baltimore sports history: the two kingpins and decision-makers of the prime downtown, big-league franchises coming together for a P.R. event to promote tourism in our city via the good folks at Visit Baltimore, who power the area of the Inner Harbor in zip code 21202 where I currently reside and pay (exorbitant) taxes.

The Orioles and the Ravens have co-existed in Baltimore since 1996. I live three blocks from both stadia, which my generation along with our parents and grandparents built with state tax dollars and Baltimore civic pride to bring our community together and stimulate business and industry throughout the region – but primarily downtown, which relies on tourism and local people and businesses participating.

The “leaders” of the two financially spoiled rotten sports franchises in Baltimore have never, ever shared a stage of any kind.

Just think about how awful that relationship must really be for that to not happen over a quarter of a century until last week?

Art Modell and Peter Angelos never shared the same oxygen after an early insult. Steve Bisciotti has attended many Orioles games over the years but has never shared a dais in any public setting with any Angelos to even discuss crab cakes or the parking lot between them.

I have covered sports for 35 years in Baltimore. I spent almost a decade trying to bring together the Orioles and the Ravens for an event called the “Nice Guy Awards” back in the 1990s. Every year, Art Modell or David Modell or Brian Billick or Ray Lewis or Jon Ogden would come from the Ravens. And every year, the Orioles would send Elrod Hendricks, who would be the last person standing at Michael’s 8th Avenue.

When Elrod died, the event died.

So the fact that John Angelos walked into a room full of non-payroll people from Baltimore representing the Orioles after 108 losses is a massive step up from his father. But I have no illusions about that media pass “olive branch” coming because he answered a legitimate question he was forced to answer under duress and would’ve never wanted to be asked publicly.

John Angelos only answered my very reasonable question because he had to in front of 500 people. He has no history with accountability.

And let’s be honest, there hasn’t been an Angelos found in a public role of accountability since the old man was booed off the field at the Cal Ripken 2131 game in September 1995.

These visitor center public backrubs take place all over the country, as do “forum” setting panel discussions with civic and sports business leaders attempting to share expertise, wisdom and provide some public accountability for the money that the citizens fork over as an investment in the city.

Despite the unique nature of this event with the Orioles and Ravens and their respective poohbahs seated 10-feet apart, the real backdrop for this luncheon was to promote the CIAA Tournament coming to Baltimore in February 2021 for three years of (hopefully) filling some hotel rooms and bringing some sports energy to downtown as well as tourist hoops dollars.

But the real local sports journalism story is that we are now at the part of this quarter-of-a-century old Orioles family movie where John Angelos feels the need to front his “out of the picture” father’s franchise to local hoteliers and tourism businesses while seated next to Dick Cass (who really does work 15 hours a day, virtually every day running the Ravens as legitimate team president), who was showing off his shiny privately-renovated purple stadium and having a panel discussion with CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, moderated by legendary USA Today columnist and venerable journalist Christine Brennan.

He didn’t show up at the event thinking anyone with a microphone would be asking about the future of the Orioles.

Let’s start with this: if anyone less professional than Brennan was moderating the panel, I wouldn’t have been allowed a question to John Angelos, let alone the one I did, to which his hollow answer has made him a local hero among the few people left who somehow still truly believe he’s going to be a competent part of resurrecting the franchise from the depths of hell brought on by his father’s mismanagement of emotional intelligence and public trust for 25 years.

I found it rich with irony that as a citizen who lives downtown, I believe the Orioles are truly the No. 1 villain in the story of how the city of Baltimore has emptied TWO MILLION people out of downtown every summer since Angelos took over the franchise and began using Camden Yards as a personal ATM in 1993.

Now, somehow, with no real actions or deeds and rumors floating about the future of the franchise because there are two years left on the lease plus 108 more losses and many more empty Camden Yards nights ahead, the son of the owner is suddenly John Angelos Key – dropper of word bombs bursting in the air o’er the land of the free!

 

And without my banned media status and my bird (watching) dog efforts to ask him a simple question, John Angelos would not have won his empty sales off season with his empty

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Ravens to announce concession price reductions at M&T Bank Stadium

Posted on 15 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Continuing their efforts to reconnect with a disenchanted fan base, the Ravens will lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of the 2018 season.

Team president Dick Cass will discuss the details of the changes during a Thursday press conference at the stadium. The move follows owner Steve Bisciotti’s suggestion that the Ravens could follow in the footsteps of the Atlanta Falcons, who lowered food and drink prices by 50 percent and still saw fans spend more money on concessions in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year.

One of the obstacles to such a move was the organization’s contract with Aramark, the concessions vendor at M&T Bank Stadium.

“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” said Bisciotti in early February. “I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waving. I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”

The Ravens have been aggressive responding to the increasing number of empty seats at home games last season, putting individual game tickets on sale earlier than ever this year and continuing their $120 million stadium renovations project that will include escalators and more elevators being installed. Select fans and sponsors have also been invited to take part in question-and-answer sessions with the team’s brass this offseason.

Much frustration stems from Baltimore missing the playoffs four times in the last five seasons, but a vocal portion of the fan base also took issue with the dozen or so Ravens players who knelt during the national anthem when the team played in London last Sept. 24. The declining attendance last season prompted Cass to write a letter to personal seat license holders in which he acknowledged the protest being a factor in fans staying away from games.

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Ravens owner Bisciotti scheduled to meet with media next Friday

Posted on 26 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The annual “State of the Ravens” press conference will apparently be a solo act this year.

Owner Steve Bisciotti will meet with reporters in Owings Mills next Friday afternoon, but a release announcing the press conference made no mention of team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, or head coach John Harbaugh being available as in past years. This is the latest the Ravens have held their season-ending press conference after a non-playoff season during the Harbaugh era, but the head coach did meet with reporters several days after the shocking season-ending loss to Cincinnati.

With there being thousands of empty seats for games at M&T Bank Stadium this past season, Cass would likely be a more popular target for questions than in past years. Newsome has never been one to regularly talk to the media and is expected to be available at next month’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, but he hasn’t taken part in a press conference with local reporters since Jacoby Jones’ retirement ceremony in late September and hadn’t fielded questions before then since the final day of the 2017 draft.

Perhaps we’ll see a blunter version of Bisciotti without him being flanked by the rest of the team’s brass during the press conference, but it’s certainly interesting to see the Ravens deviate from their typical structure after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

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Chapter 2: High Standards, Low Profile of Steve Bisciotti

Posted on 13 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“Steve (Bisciotti) is straightforward and that makes it easy. He’s not a prima donna. He’s direct. He’s upfront. If there’s something he doesn’t like, he tells you. If he feels strongly about something, he tells you. There’s no secret agenda. There’s nothing you have to discover. Steve is a great believer in direct communication and he runs the business that way.”

— Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass (March 2013)

 

IN MANY CITIES IN AMERICA the owners of sports franchises can still somehow stay or hide in the shadow of their local investment and create nary a stir when they enter a room. Being anonymous has its privileges and benefits, a thought Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti would certainly echo. But in Baltimore, where the owners of the local professional teams have been true newsmakers and iconoclasts for the better part of a half a century, owning the NFL franchise that a community treats like family or a personal treasure can be like carrying the collective weight of the civic mood on your shoulders.

Bisciotti did his best to remain a private citizen after taking over the Ravens from Arthur B. Modell in early 2004, but you can’t be invested in the most significant sports soap opera in the community and stand at the top of the pyramid making the most important decisions for the fan base without becoming a public figure of the highest order.

If you are a sports fan from Baltimore, Maryland, you have endured your fair share of abuse. In the 1970’s, the Baltimore Bullets were dragged down I-95 to the Washington suburbs by owner Abe Pollin, professional hockey went into hibernation with the Clippers and there were strong whispers of the Orioles going to D.C. to replace the departed Washington Senators. It got no better in the 1980’s. There was always the ominous and omnipresent shadow of Robert Irsay, the man who acquired the Baltimore Colts from Carroll Rosenbloom in a swap for the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 and later moved them to Indianapolis in a convoy of Mayflower moving trucks in the middle of a snowy, teary night for the Charm City on March 28, 1984 after a decade of tyranny and threats to the community of the inevitable move.

Since the turn of the century, both the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles fan bases’ have been tormented and tortured by disastrous moves on the field and big moves downward in the standings since the involvement of Daniel Snyder and Peter G. Angelos have fallen upon the I-95 corridor. These two have shined a bright light on what can go wrong when poor decisions are consistently being made from the top of the organization and how quickly decades of support for enduring brands can erode and deteriorate when fans and customers smell the stench of poor ownership.

The reality in the 21st century is that with the scarcity of teams available and the cost of buying a sports franchise for hundreds of millions of dollars, no one wants to pony up the kind of money to be an owner without having a strong desire to be heavily involved in strategy and a strong desire to win – whether it’s on the field or at the cash register. Many of these thrill seekers have lacked proper training, background and the feel for sports ownership especially with such a public light illuminating every decision that is made in real time on the internet. What sounds like fun in the beginning becomes an albatross and a public nuisance once it becomes apparent how specialized each league, sport and business is from an ownership standpoint.

It was no secret that Art Modell was struggling financially in Cleveland and those ghosts of burgeoning debt followed him east to Baltimore in 1996. By 1999, the NFL and his debtors with the banks demanded that he find a partner to buy the team and help him find the exit door with the class and dignity that his departure from Cleveland clearly lacked.

The same man who found Modell in Cleveland and brokered the deal for the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore in the Fall of 1995 was the same man who found a buyer four years later: local attorney and sports franchise expert John Moag. After Modell made the move to Baltimore, Moag became a trusted confidant and had all of the institutional knowledge that would be necessary to assist in finding a new owner for the Baltimore Ravens.

Moag knew Bisciotti and was privy to most of Modell’s financial struggles. The rest is history.

By any account, Steve Bisciotti is a sports nut. He’s long been a fiercely loyal University of Maryland supporter, close confidant of legendary Terps basketball head coach Gary Williams and a Ravens and Orioles season ticket holder at the time. At worst, he would’ve been a very educated sports radio talk show caller before he got involved in the purchase the Baltimore Ravens in 1999.

Bisciotti, born April 10, 1960 in Philadelphia, came to the Severna Park area of Anne Arundel County in 1961 when Bernard and Patricia Bisciotti moved from Philadelphia for Bernard’s new sales executive job. He was 8 years old when the Colts lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets. He was a huge Paul Blair fan during the heyday of the Earl Weaver-led Orioles in his adolescence. He journeyed with his friends up Richie Highway to Memorial Stadium in the 1970’s and loved the Bert Jones-era of the “Shake and Bake” Colts.

Bisciotti’s father died of leukemia when he was in elementary school leaving his sports-crazed widowed mother, who raised him by preaching faith, hard work, determination and manners. Nicknamed “Shots” by his college pals at Salisbury State, where he earned a Liberal Arts degree, Bisciotti became obsessed with making enough money by the age of 35 so that his wife and kids wouldn’t have to work if his father’s fate befell him. He had the early jobs of a kid who worked hard and learned the world: pumping gas, mowing lawns, and building piers in Anne Arundel County, where he graduated from Severna Park High School. He founded a staffing firm called Aerotek in his basement with $3,500 of seed money at age 23 during the Colts final season in Baltimore. He now owns a massive stake in Allegis

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Before The Knee in Wembley and SOBs of Donald Trump there was left hook of Ray Rice

Posted on 21 December 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

PART 2: The Ghost of Baltimore Football Present

The fact that the Baltimore Ravens have lost some fans this year is indisputable.

It’s also a fact that after 22 years of consistent sellouts and mostly competitive football – unprecedented in the modern post-expansion NFL world – the Ravens have certainly been the best thing about Baltimore to come along during my adulthood.

By any measurement of its 32 teams and their successes on and off the field, any student of the National Football League considers the Baltimore Ravens a “model” franchise.

And I make no excuses or hide from this transparent fact – other than my parents, son and wife (and her miracle donor) to coming along in my 49 years on earth, the Baltimore Ravens have been the best thing to ever happen to my life. Professionally. Socially. Spiritually. Whatever I’ve ever been able to do, see, accomplish, contribute, build or have the ability to make a small positive difference in the world of local sports and media and charity has come because that purple football team came to Baltimore.

I have respected that opportunity and have worked tirelessly to make it a big part of my life and business and legacy.

So, I have no shame in admitting that Art Modell changed my life when that team miraculously landed here in October 1995. Everything good that has happened during my journey on life’s highway since that fateful day can be pinned back to Baltimore having an NFL team. The gratitude I have for having the privilege to be a vested fan with a voice and a major investment in a local AM radio station, thriving web and social media outlet and the ability to feed my family moving forward relies on local sports thriving and blossoming in my hometown. I own a sports media company here. My business partner is the former head coach of the only first Super Bowl title there will ever be in Baltimore on behalf of the Living Classrooms Foundation. I own a company in Towson, Maryland. I live in downtown Baltimore.

I pay taxes here.

I care a lot.

The Baltimore Ravens have been much more than a football team for many people here since their arrival and their incredible arc of success on the field and in the community.

The Ravens have consistently been the one common ground – a centerpiece for everyone with pride in our community to rally around and support unilaterally in a world that seems in a constant attempt to divide us.

On its best day and at its actualized pinnacle, sports universally brings people together and can be a shining example for society in regard to fairness, hard work, sacrifice, competition, strategy and perseverance. We’ve all heard and used those axioms and realize that sports teaches teamwork and teamwork builds strong

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Ravens remain in holding pattern with Flacco resting back

Posted on 28 July 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

But it’s complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bisciotti call helped push Brandon Williams deal across finish line

Posted on 13 March 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if trumping the massive deal awarded to New York Giants nose tackle Damon Harrison last year was his goal, Brandon Williams acknowledged reality before then trying to defer to his agency’s role in negotiating his five-year, $52.5 million contract with the Ravens.

He didn’t say it verbatim at his Monday press conference in Owings Mills, but the 28-year-old was aiming to become the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.

“Obviously, it was a starting point, I guess,” said Williams of Harrison’s five-year, $46.25 million contract that included $24 million guaranteed. “You look at his deal, and I guess you kind of go from there.”

It’s hardly surprising, of course, but what was interesting was general manager Ozzie Newsome pulling back the curtain on the sequence of events that resulted in Williams ultimately receiving $27.5 million guaranteed. Newsome has often referenced Baltimore’s process of determining a value for a player and staying true to that final number during the negotiating process, but an audible was apparently called last week, a reflection of how badly the Ravens wanted to keep their fifth-year nose tackle and maintain their long-held desire to be strong up the middle defensively.

A Thursday morning conference call with owner Steve Bisciotti that included Newsome, team president Dick Cass, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and head coach John Harbaugh paved the way for the sides to get a deal done later that evening. Regardless of their many needs on both sides of the ball, the Ravens made it clear that they weren’t going to let their man get away.

“We came to a number [in January] that we felt like would be fair for Brandon and fair for us,” Newsome said. “But then, there is always an adjustment that has to happen based on, No. 1, how high the cap went, which went up $12 million [from 2016]. Then, [we considered] some of the deals that were made in the early part of the day and the early part of the week.

“Before the deal got completely done, I got another call from Steve early Thursday evening basically saying to me, ‘Do what you have to do to get the deal done.’ Having an owner like that really helps myself and [senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty] to be able to put together a deal that can keep good players on our football team.”

In the end, perhaps the owner couldn’t stand the thought of seeing another talented young player find big money somewhere else like guard Kelechi Osemele did a year ago, but his final call appeared to push negotiations across the finish line.

That revelation may provide some ammunition to those arguing that the Ravens overpaid to keep a run-stopping nose tackle, but we may never know whether another team was prepared to go as high as the Ravens did to sign Williams. Newsome reiterated on Monday that he’s comfortable with the organization’s remaining resources to address its many other needs, but only time will tell whether that proves to be the case.

For Williams, the lucrative deal brings the expectations of leading a young group of defensive linemen as well as living up to the title previously held by Harrison.

“He tweeted me out and said, ‘Good job. Looks like you’re the best now. See you on the field,'” Williams said. “Now, I’ve got to prove my worth, so I’m ready to do that.”

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