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Sizing up the 2019 Ravens’ 90-man roster following rookie camp

Posted on 08 May 2019 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Thursday 2:30 p.m.)

The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players for nearly four more months, but the draft and rookie free-agent signings offer a much better idea of what John Harbaugh and his coaching staff have to work with for the 2019 season.

This exercise will carry more meaning as we advance into the preseason, but my all-too-early look at the roster is based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than anticipating improvement or regression from any given player. We’ll get a much better idea of where players stand beginning with the snap distribution during organized team activities later this month.

In other words, don’t read too much into who might be deemed a bubble player now as much will change before the Ravens even get to training camp in July. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking as much quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Eric DeCosta, Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pinpoint a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens always look for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their individual position groups when filling out the back of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate how many players are currently on the roster at that position. As we move deeper into the spring and summer, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the preseason.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: Jalan McClendon
Skinny: How the coaching staff uses McSorley and how he develops will determine whether Baltimore carries three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for a second straight year and only the second time in the last decade. Comparisons to New Orleans’ Taysom Hill — who is much bigger — will continue.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
BUBBLE: Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner
LONG SHOT: Christopher Ezeala, Tyler Ervin
Skinny: Suggesting someone who averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year could be on the bubble speaks to the great backfield depth. Dixon could also be a trade chip entering the final year of his contract, but a history of injuries and suspensions could prompt a tough decision. Don’t sleep on Turner either.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
IN: Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley
LONG SHOT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Sean Modster, Jaylen Smith, Antoine Wesley, Joe Horn Jr.
Skinny: With Baltimore expected to again use multiple tight ends and run the ball so frequently, the brass won’t feel compelled to keep more than four or five receivers unless others prove deserving of a spot. This is a critical preseason for Scott and Lasley, who played zero snaps as rookies last year.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Cole Herdman, Charles Scarff
Skinny: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman may prefer having another blocking tight end in the mix to replace Maxx Williams, but it’s premature to handicap the chances of these candidates. Keizer spent much of last year with the organization, giving him a slight experience edge over the two rookies.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman
BUBBLE: James Hurst, Alex Lewis, Jermaine Eluemunor, Greg Senat
LONG SHOT: Randin Crecelius, R.J. Prince, Patrick Mekari, Marcus Applefield, Darrell Williams, Patrick Vahe
Skinny: Bozeman’s ability to play center makes him a safe bet while Hurst’s $4.75 million cap number and injury-riddled 2018 leave his status in at least some question until he proves his back problems are behind him. Time could be running out for Lewis, who just hasn’t been able to stay on the field.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Daylon Mack
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Gerald Willis, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: Kalil Morris
Skinny: This is a tough group to handicap after the duo of Williams and Pierce, but Henry is the best interior rusher on the roster despite missing most of 2018. Sieler is a good bet to make it as a 5-technique end, but the talented Willis could be the wild card after surprisingly going undrafted.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
IN: Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board
BUBBLE: Matthew Thomas, Alvin Jones, Otaro Alaka, E.J. Ejiya, Silas Stewart
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: Board leading the team in special-teams tackles as a rookie leaves him safe at this point. The competition for a potential roster spot behind him is wide open, however, with Thomas, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, headlining a group lacking experience. They’re listed as bubble players by default.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Matt Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser
BUBBLE: Tim Williams
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, Markus Jones, Michael Onuoha
Skinny: Contributions on special teams and the shortage of strong-side or “Sam” backers give Bowser a clear edge over Williams, who appeared in only seven games in 2018 and was a healthy scratch by season’s end. There should be opportunities for the long shots to try to put themselves on the radar.

CORNERBACKS (11)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Justin Bethel, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall
BUBBLE: Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady
LONG SHOT: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrell Bonds
Skinny: There isn’t a deeper group of corners in the NFL, leaving the Ravens with a good problem trying to decide which ones to keep. Jones returning kickoffs in addition to punts would cement his spot — he only did the latter last year — while the oft-injured Canady is in the final year of his rookie deal.

SAFETIES (6)
IN: Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott
LONG SHOT: Bennett Jackson
Skinny: Elliott is the one to watch in this group as he showed promise before breaking his forearm in the preseason last year and could potentially push Clark for some playing time in sub packages. Levine’s positional versatility remains an invaluable part of Wink Martindale’s defense.

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Matthew Orzech
Skinny: The Ravens will hope Vedvik kicks the football like he did last summer to improve his trade value at the end of the preseason. Beyond that, there’s little to see here.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following rookie camp

Posted on 06 May 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens completing their rookie camp this past weekend, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Marquise Brown is studying the playbook, but not having the first-round pick on the field took away some luster from rookie camp. He’ll still have extensive summer reps, but overcoming the learning curve at wide receiver on the heels of the foot injury presents a challenge that shouldn’t be dismissed.

2. Miles Boykin revealed he worked out with Brown prior to the combine and the two roomed together during rookie camp. History says Baltimore should be excited if just one of them makes a real impact, but it’s exciting having two young talents with such upside at the receiver position.

3. Pro Football Focus tagged Boykin with only three drops on 62 catchable targets last season, and he credited the catching improvement to the health of his fingers. The 6-foot-4 wideout said he dealt with broken fingers in each of his first two collegiate seasons.

4. It always strikes me how enjoyable rookie camp must be for John Harbaugh and the coaching staff working with so many players who won’t wear a Ravens uniform again beyond that weekend. Harbaugh coaching vise technique on punt return to unknowns had to take him back to his roots.

5. From Joe Flacco’s younger brother to Jerry Rice Jr., rookie camp has brought interesting tryout names to Owings Mills over the years with wide receiver Joe Horn Jr. joining that list this spring. The Missouri Western product drew Harbaugh’s praise, but there were no flip-phone celebrations to be found.

6. Trace McSorley garnered more attention, but former Baylor quarterback Jalan McClendon threw some impressive passes during Saturday’s workout open to reporters. You’d expect the Ravens to add a fourth quarterback to the 90-man offseason roster, whether it’s McClendon or someone else.

7. The most notable of the Ravens’ rookie free-agent signings, defensive tackle Gerald Willis limped off the field Saturday before later deeming himself OK on social media. The Miami product and younger brother of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins has potential if the off-field issues are behind him.

8. Otaro Alaka, E.J. Ejiya, and Silas Stewart were just getting their feet wet, but Baltimore has to hope one will be the latest rookie free agent to stick as an inside linebacker. Former Raven and assistant coach Zach Orr was among those watching closely this past weekend.

9. Beginning Tuesday afternoon, teams are permitted to sign unrestricted free agents without it counting against the compensatory pick formula. As we’ve noted more than once, the cap space is there for Eric DeCosta to make another notable signing or two.

10. Iman Marshall expressed infectious enthusiasm answering questions Friday, but I didn’t know whether to be impressed or offended that he didn’t return to the theater to finish watching “Avengers: Endgame” upon receiving the call that he’d been drafted. I guess that’s why I never made it to the NFL.

11. Haloti Ngata and his family visited the team facility Saturday with the recently-retired five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and Super Bowl XLVII champion taking some time to chat with rookies. The next stop for the 35-year-old should be the Ravens Ring of Honor this fall.

12. Hollywood, Sack Daddy, Biggie, and Mack Truck. Time will tell how successful the 2019 draft class is, but the nickname game is strong. Even McSorley — whose real first name is Richard — was nicknamed after former NFL defensive lineman Trace Armstrong.

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Ravens sign four draft picks, announce rookie free-agent signings

Posted on 03 May 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their rookies hitting the practice field for the first time this weekend, the Ravens wasted little time signing half of their 2019 draft class to four-year contracts.

On Friday, general manager Eric DeCosta signed fourth-round picks Justice Hill, Ben Powers, and Iman Marshall as well as fifth-round selection Daylon Mack, leaving only wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, and quarterback Trace McSorley unsigned. Contracts are slotted based on the salary cap and rookie compensation pool, eliminating virtually all of the common holdouts that would occur prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.

Baltimore also announced the signing of its rookie free agents, a list headlined by Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis and Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith. Despite racking up 18 tackles for a loss during his senior season and being viewed by some as a potential Day 2 pick, Willis went undrafted largely because of off-field concerns, which included a reported fight with the son of former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg that contributed to his dismissal from the University of Florida. Smith, a four-year starter for the Cardinals, had a disappointing senior year after catching a combined 13 touchdowns in his previous two years playing with current Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the pair worked out together in Florida this offseason, making the 6-foot-2 wideout a logical addition.

Of the 17 undrafted players signed, three are inside linebackers — Otaro Alaka of Texas A&M, E.J. Ejiya of North Texas, and Silas Stewart of Incarnate Word — after the Ravens did not draft a player at that position of need last weekend. At least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore’s 53-man roster for 15 straight seasons, making the Ravens an attractive destination for many talents believing they were overlooked during the draft.

Below is the full list of rookie free-agent signings as well as the jersey numbers assigned to the Ravens’ eight draft picks:

ILB Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M — No. 50
OT Marcus Applefield, Virginia — No. 62
ILB E.J. Ejiya, North Texas — No. 57
TE Cole Herdman, Purdue — No. 88
OLB Markus Jones, Angelo State — No. 96
G Patrick Mekari, Cal-Berkeley — No. 65
WR Sean Modster, Boise State — No. 14
DT Kalil Morris, Kent State — No. 91
OLB Mike Onuoha, Texas A&M Commerce — No. 90
LS Matthew Orzech, Azusa Pacific — No. 59
TE Charles Scarff, Delaware — No. 85
WR Jaylen Smith, Louisville — No. 16
ILB Silas Stewart, Incarnate Word — No. 59
C C.J. Toogood, Elon — No. 61
WR Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech — No. 84
DT Gerald Willis, Miami — No. 92
S Evan Worthington, Colorado — No. 30

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma — No. 15
OLB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech — No. 45
WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame — No. 80
RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State — No. 43
G Ben Powers, Oklahoma — No. 70
CB Iman Marshall, USC — No. 37
DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M — No. 94
QB Trace McSorley, Penn State — No. 7

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2019 NFL draft

Posted on 30 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the 2019 NFL draft now in the rear-view mirror, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After undergoing their biggest roster turnover on defense since the offseason after Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens still went offense with four of their first five picks. That’s quite a change from the 2013 draft when their first four selections were defensive players. I approve for Lamar Jackson’s benefit.

2. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young were winners of the weekend with none of Baltimore’s eight picks being used on an inside linebacker. With Eric DeCosta having just over $15 million in salary cap space, however, a veteran addition could still be in the cards at some point.

3. Another winner was Matt Skura despite many predicting the Ravens would come away with an early-round center. There’s certainly room for improvement and Bradley Bozeman could push him with a strong offseason, but I don’t get the sense the organization is as down on Skura as some outsiders.

4. DeCosta said the visit with edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah was “great,” but a potential signing likely won’t come until after May 7 when unrestricted free agents no longer impact the compensatory pick formula. Ansah visiting Seattle Monday should dismiss any idea of a handshake agreement being in place.

5. Fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack was considered a disappointment entering his senior year at Texas A&M as a five-star recruit who hadn’t yet become a starter, but 5 1/2 sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for a loss changed that perception. That “sneaky” inside rush ability could be a nice addition.

6. Orlando Brown Jr. attending the draft party for fourth-round guard Ben Powers had to be a cool moment for the reunited Oklahoma teammates and speaks to their close friendship. You’d assume the Ravens had a great scouting report on Powers, who is expected to compete at left guard initially.

7. I’ll be curious to see how the Ravens handle Marquise Brown as he recovers from a Lisfranc injury that could keep him off the practice field until training camp. You don’t want to rush what can be a tricky foot ailment, but developing on-field chemistry with Jackson will be crucial.

8. The Ravens haven’t yet made their undrafted rookie signings official, but the addition of Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith made too much sense, especially after he worked with Jackson this offseason. At the very least, it’s a nod to your starting quarterback giving his college teammate a look.

9. Jaleel Scott was a forgotten man after a disappointing summer that ended with him on injured reserve, but the 2018 fourth-round pick has turned some heads this spring with improved speed and fitness. The 6-foot-5 wideout from New Mexico State needs a big preseason to secure a roster spot.

10. Joe Flacco has more important things to worry about after Denver selected Missouri quarterback Drew Lock in the second round, but it’s crazy the Ravens drafted as many wide receivers for Jackson in the first three rounds this weekend as they did over Flacco’s entire 11-year run.

11. Watching the inspiring Miles Taylor and Mo Gaba announce draft picks this weekend was a reminder of how superb the Ravens’ community outreach continues to be. The efforts of so many in the organization really make a lasting impact, including plenty of examples that aren’t publicized.

12. Despite Steve Bisciotti ceremoniously switching the seats of DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome at the conclusion of last year’s draft, the two kept their old spots. I hear Newsome enjoyed himself while DeCosta didn’t let the pressure of running his first draft stop him from playing a practical joke or two.

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DeCosta, Ravens take swings to get up to speed in today’s NFL

Posted on 29 April 2019 by Luke Jones

First-year general manager Eric DeCosta followed through after stating more than once over the last calendar year that the Ravens needed to take more swings at the wide receiver position in the NFL draft.

Having lost five notable members of his top-ranked defense this offseason, DeCosta could have made the safe play by loading up on defensive players early while waiting until Day 3 to pluck a wide receiver or two off the board. It was the playbook often used by predecessor Ozzie Newsome — winner of two Super Bowls, mind you — to an almost maddening degree in recent years and for much of the history of the franchise.

DeCosta was quick to state it wasn’t deliberate, but the Ravens drafted two wide receivers — Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown and Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin — in the first three rounds, equaling the total selected in the opening three rounds by Newsome in the previous 11 drafts combined. Even if it was “just kind of how the board fell” as DeCosta put it, the Ravens were the first team to draft a wide receiver in the first round — one regarded as the fastest in the draft — and then traded up nine spots in the third round to take a 6-foot-4, 220-pound wideout who ran a surprising 4.42-second 40-yard dash.

The Ravens weren’t just drafting any wide receivers to aid in second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson’s development, but there was a specific trait in mind, which became even more evident when DeCosta selected Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill with his first pick on Saturday.

“One of the main common denominators is speed. It makes it tough on a defense,” said DeCosta, citing the best opposing offenses he’s watched from the press box in recent seasons. “As good as our defense has been, it’s a challenge for a team to face speed when you have multiple guys on the field at the same time who can run and make explosive plays. It’s challenging. We got a chance to see what Lamar can do this past year, and I think our collective vision for the offense is to add more guys like that to make it really challenging on the defense.”

These picks do carry substantial risk as the history of wide receivers taken with the final 10 picks of the first round in recent years hasn’t been pretty. Brown’s potential speaks for itself if you’ve watched any of his video game-like highlight videos, but we’re still talking about a 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver currently recovering from a Lisfranc injury. Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith has acknowledged that same injury still giving him problems years later, but the difference is how much more reliant an undersized receiver like Brown will be on that unique speed.

Boykin could carry more upside than any wide receiver the Ravens have ever drafted — admittedly a low bar — but he registered only 18 receptions before his senior season at Notre Dame, which is often a predictor of underwhelming production at the next level. Still, his physical traits and good catch rate last year were too enticing for the Ravens to overlook.

History says Brown and Boykin are more likely to both be busts than both be draft successes, but having too great a risk-averse mindset leaves one standing on the sideline wondering why the Ravens never get better at the position. Without a top-five pick — and even that isn’t always foolproof — you have to roll the dice from time to time to find dynamic play-making ability, especially if you want to maximize your investment in a first-round quarterback. And that needed to be a priority in this draft.

“Those two guys have [play-making ability] many times over,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You have a big, fast guy (Boykin), who’s a powerful guy, who can catch and get upfield with the ball with his stride length and his stiff arm, and he goes up and makes catches. He’s a developing player. He’s kind of a younger, developing player. He’s only really had one year in the offense.

“Then, you have the smaller, faster guy (Brown) with quick feet that can make people miss in a short area, in a tight area. He can catch and run in crossing routes. But the bottom line is, these are two really fast guys that make plays, and that’s what we were looking for.”

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman couldn’t have been happier this weekend as he now has some speedy toys to use on the perimeter to complement his dynamic running game and collection of tight ends to make plays over the middle. In addition to what Brown and Boykin bring, Hill posted the fastest 40 time of all running backs at this year’s scouting combine, making him an intriguing change-of-pace option to starter Mark Ingram and the physical Gus Edwards in the backfield.

No, the draft didn’t bring some seismic shift in philosophy as the offense’s foundation will continue to be the ground game, but DeCosta’s early picks made clear the Ravens’ intentions to expand their approach beyond simply running the ball 50 times per game and minimizing Jackson’s passing opportunities. Baltimore addressed its need to get faster, something that had become more apparent watching some of the best offenses in the league in recent years.

There’s no guarantee this will all work to perfection as so much will hinge on Jackson’s development as a passer, but credit DeCosta and the Ravens for taking some risks to improve his chances of succeeding. If nothing else, it should be fun watching opponents try to combat an unconventional offensive attack.

“The idea of adding speed with Lamar is just an exciting thing to think about teams having to defend,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “I know Greg is excited about it and John is excited about it. It’s a chance to really put fear into opposing defenses. I think it really gets you excited.”

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What to expect from Ravens’ 2019 draft picks

Posted on 28 April 2019 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2019 draft, so what can we now expect from the Ravens’ eight selections?

Below is the early look at how each rookie fits now and in the future:

WR Marquise Brown
Drafted: First round (25th overall) from Oklahoma
2019 projected role: We may not see “Hollywood” on the practice field until training camp as he recovers from a foot injury, but the explosive and shifty receiver will immediately compete for a starting role.
Long-term view: His small 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame and the Lisfranc injury raise concerns — ask Jimmy Smith about the latter — but Brown looks the part of the home-run hitter this offense has lacked for years. If he becomes the next DeSean Jackson, the Baltimore pass game could be very fun to watch.

OLB Jaylon Ferguson
Drafted: Third round round (85th overall) from Louisiana Tech
2019 projected role: With the exits of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ferguson will compete for the rush linebacker job and extensive snaps in the pass-rush rotation.
Long-term view: You love the college production as Ferguson broke Suggs’ Division I record for career sacks, but he’ll need to expand on his pass-rushing technique as his bull rush won’t overwhelm opposing linemen as frequently at the next level. Ferguson has the traits to be a productive starting edge defender.

WR Miles Boykin
Drafted: Third round (93rd overall) from Notre Dame
2019 projected role: Given the Ravens’ lack of outside receivers, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin will have the chance to compete for meaningful playing time right off the bat, especially if he blocks well.
Long-term view: The combination of size and athleticism makes you think Boykin is just scratching the surface of his potential after his breakout senior year at Notre Dame, but improving his route running and finding more consistency will be keys. Few Ravens wide receivers have ever had as much upside.

RB Justice Hill
Drafted: Fourth round (113th overall) from Oklahoma State
2019 projected role: Hill joins a backfield that includes Mark Ingram and two others — Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon — who averaged over 5.0 yards per carry last year, meaning touches could be scarce early.
Long-term view: A 5-foot-10, 200-pound frame doesn’t scream every-down back, but Hill had the fastest 40-yard dash of any back at the combine and showed big-play ability in college. His development as a receiver out of the backfield will likely be an X factor in determining his ultimate role at the NFL level.

G Ben Powers
Drafted: Fourth round (123rd overall) from Oklahoma
2019 projected role: A three-year starter for the Sooners, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Powers will compete for the starting left guard spot with the likes of James Hurst, Alex Lewis, and Bradley Bozeman.
Long-term view: Powers earned attention for his WWE-like proclamation of “taking a grown man’s dreams and crushing it,” but his physicality and pedigree coming from a major program is what excites Baltimore. Like close friend Orlando Brown Jr., Powers has the chance to become a starter very quickly.

CB Iman Marshall
Drafted: Fourth round (127th overall) from USC
2019 projected role: Joining the deepest position group on the roster, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Marshall’s only realistic hope of seeing the field this season — injuries aside — is as a special-teams contributor.
Long-term view: With Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith both over 30, the Ravens taking a Day 3 corner made sense and Marshall’s size and physicality make him an interesting prospect at corner or safety. Penalties were an issue at USC and he isn’t the fastest, but Marshall could be a sleeper in this class.

DT Daylon Mack
Drafted: Fifth round (160th overall) from Texas A&M
2019 projected role: The 340-pound defensive lineman’s best chance of cracking a deep rotation early will be showing off the pass-rush ability that resulted in his 5 1/2 sacks during his senior season.
Long-term view: With Baltimore possibly needing to choose between keeping Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce next offseason, this pick makes sense, especially if Mack builds on a strong 2018 that followed an ordinary first three years with the Aggies. The Ravens know how to find defensive tackles.

QB Trace McSorley
Drafted: Sixth round (197th overall) from Penn State
2019 projected role: The undersized and developmental quarterback will very likely need to contribute in other ways — think of Taysom Hill with New Orleans — to stick on the 53-man roster.
Long-term view: McSorley has the athleticism to play in Baltimore’s run-based offense and showed passing ability two years ago to make you believe he could be an NFL backup before a rough senior year. This is an interesting low-risk flier on a “tough-ass competitor” as John Harbaugh labeled him.

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Ravens reach four-year extension with two-time Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

Posted on 24 April 2019 by Luke Jones

In an offseason largely defined by key veteran departures, new Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta made sure two-time Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker wasn’t going anywhere.

The sides agreed to a four-year extension Wednesday that runs through the 2023 season and makes Tucker the highest-paid kicker in the NFL. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal includes $20 million in new money, which includes $12.5 million fully guaranteed and an $8 million signing bonus. Tucker was already scheduled to make $3.05 million in base salary in 2019, the final season of the four-year, $16.8 million contract he signed in 2016 after receiving Baltimore’s franchise tag.

The most accurate kicker in NFL history at 90.1 percent and the consensus best in the game, Tucker is the first kicker in league history to produce six seasons  of 30 or more field goals, illustrating how critical he’s been to Baltimore’s success upon arriving as a rookie free agent in 2012. Tucker also owns 13 career game-winning field goals, which includes his dramatic overtime winner in the 2012 divisional round at Denver. Since 2012, he leads the NFL with 237 field goals made and is second in points (952).

The 29-year-old also owns a record seven games with two or more field goals of 50 or more yards and is 20-for-24 from 50-plus yards since 2016.

Despite missing just the first extra point and first postseason field goal of his career this past year, Tucker was a 2018 first-team All-Pro selection and twice named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. He went 35-for-39 on field goals with two of the misses being blocked and the other two coming from 53 and 65 yards. The Texas product and Super Bowl XLVII champion also tied his own single-season franchise record with 141 points scored for the third consecutive season.

A fan favorite known for his quirky personality and impressive singing voice, Tucker is the fifth-longest-tenured Raven behind only punter Sam Koch, guard Marshal Yanda, long snapper Morgan Cox, and cornerback Jimmy Smith. That continuity with Koch and Cox — a trio long nicknamed the “Wolfpack” — has given head coach John Harbaugh one of the top special-teams units in the NFL for years now.

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Ravens officially pick up fifth-year option for left tackle Ronnie Stanley

Posted on 23 April 2019 by Luke Jones

Two days before the start of the NFL draft, the Ravens took a logical step to keep their earliest selection of the last 19 years by picking up the fifth-year option for left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

The move that keeps the sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft under contract through 2020 was expected as Stanley has started 42 regular-season games in his career and has anchored the left side of the offensive line. The 25-year-old earned Pro Football Focus’ third-highest pass-blocking grade and 36th-highest run-blocking grade among qualified offensive tackles last season.

Stanley is now scheduled to make just shy of $13 million in 2020, a salary guaranteed only for injury right now. The option year becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2020 league year, meaning the Ravens could still have the option of releasing Stanley if he were to have a poor 2019 campaign.

“I think he’s playing extremely well, and I love the way that he finished the season this year,” general manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL scouting combine in February. “He really built on the successes that he had two years ago, and we’re excited about him moving forward. He’s a great young man. He’s motivated. He’s a good player at a really, really important position.”

Stanley is the first Baltimore first-round pick to have his fifth-year option exercised since former Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, which presents an interesting question about the left tackle’s future. The Ravens arguably waited too long to ramp up contract negotiations with Mosley before ultimately losing him to the New York Jets, a disappointing outcome even with their understandable reluctance to pay him $17 million per year. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Stanley has played well in his first three seasons and was named a second alternate for last year’s Pro Bowl, but the Notre Dame product has been graded no higher than 17th overall among offensive tackles by PFF in any of his first three seasons.

Many of the arguments Mosley’s critics made against re-signing the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker to a lucrative contract could also apply to Stanley, who hasn’t received as much acclaim to this point in his career. Of course, teams value left tackles more than inside linebackers in today’s NFL, but it’s fair to wonder what the right price would be to extend Stanley beyond 2020 and whether that will match what he ultimately asks for when he’s scheduled to hit the market at age 27.

Either way, DeCosta would be wise to engage in contract talks sooner than later in hopes of avoiding another lose-lose predicament of being forced to reset the market at a position or losing a valuable player.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of 2019 NFL draft

Posted on 23 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens making final preparations for the start of the 2019 NFL draft on Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We’ll finally have a resolution after months of mock drafts, but this is the first time the Ravens own just one pick in the top 80 since 2004, the year after they traded up to select Kyle Boller. Lamar Jackson should be considered as part of this draft class indirectly.

2. Saturday marked 23 years since Ozzie Newsome made Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis the first picks in franchise history while a 25-year-old Eric DeCosta held an entry-level position filling various roles, including getting the oil changed in Ted Marchibroda’s car. This week represents the true changing of the guard.

3. If the Ravens don’t trade back from No. 22 to accumulate more picks, my prediction — really a guess — is they’ll select Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, which means he’ll probably be long gone by the time they choose. As others have noted, he feels like a Baltimore kind of pick.

4. Why Ferrell? If you count draft bust Craig Powell — Art Modell’s final first-round pick in Cleveland — the Ravens have always had a first-round edge defender on the roster as they took Peter Boulware in 1997 and Terrell Suggs in 2003. You can’t do much better than those two.

5. Then again, inside linebacker has been manned by a first-round pick — Lewis from 1996-2012 and C.J. Mosley from 2014-18 — for all but one year of their existence when the Ravens still took Arthur Brown in the 2013 second round. Michigan’s Devin Bush figures to be gone, however.

6. I’m a broken record talking about wide receiver, but this is a reminder that the Ravens have drafted only two in the first three rounds in the entire John Harbaugh era. They can’t repeat the mistakes they made with Joe Flacco if they want to maximize Jackson’s development.

7. Cornerback is the roster’s deepest position group, but Brandon Carr will be 33 next month and Jimmy Smith turns 31 in July and is entering the final year of his contract. In other words, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the Ravens take a corner in the middle rounds.

8. With multiple needs on both sides of the ball, is there a position you’re strongly against the Ravens drafting early? Unless you’re convinced Alabama’s Josh Jacobs is the next Saquon Barkley, a running back is a tough sell. Defensive tackle is another spot where they’ve found good value much later.

9. The Ravens entered Tuesday with $13.649 million in salary cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a weekend trade for a veteran or a notable signing after the draft. It’s unrealistic to expect this draft to address all of their needs.

10. Looking at draft capital in the AFC North, Cleveland has two picks in the top 80 (49th and 80th), Pittsburgh three (20th, 52nd, and 66th), and Cincinnati three (11th, 42nd, 72nd). Of course, the Browns traded their first-round pick for Odell Beckham Jr. last month. This division should be fun.

11. Picking up the fifth-year option on Ronnie Stanley was a no-brainer, but determining his value and working out a long-term extension could be tricky. He’s been solid to good over his first three seasons, but I’d be uneasy resetting the market at left tackle to keep him.

12. I wish the draft didn’t coincide with the “Avengers: Endgame” opening, but it prompts an important question. Who would be your top pick from the Marvel superhero team? I’d consider Thor — he’s a god! — or Black Panther and the resources of Wakanda, but I just can’t pass on Iron Man.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering start of offseason workout program

Posted on 15 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their offseason workout program in preparations for the 2019 season this week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The faux enthusiasm for players running and lifting weights dissipates quickly, but the start of the “voluntary” offseason program is a welcome checkpoint on the way to a new season. We’re less than five months away from kickoff for Week 1.

2. We know Lamar Jackson was again working with personal quarterback coach Joshua Harris and have seen some videos on social media, but I’m fascinated to hear him discuss his offseason and to see what he’s specifically focused on improving.

3. Until we see the terms of the one-year deal extension for Marshal Yanda, I’m not making too much out of it beyond the removal of any doubt about his status for 2019. The 34-year-old has to have many of the same questions we all do about a team in transition.

4. Yanda will have a compelling case for Canton, but I can’t help but remember the start of his career when he missed most of 2008 and moved between guard and tackle for four years. He didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his fifth season, which won’t help his chances.

5. Count me among those believing Eric DeCosta would prefer trading back from 22nd overall to accumulate more picks, but you ultimately need to have a willing partner. If the draft’s value is truly on the second day and early in the third, other teams are aware of that as well.

6. Baltimore’s positional needs are clear, but don’t forget the 2015 draft if you’re more concerned about DeCosta checking those boxes than maximizing value. It looked great on paper to pick Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, and Carl Davis to “replace” Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, and Haloti Ngata. Reality was different.

7. I enjoy the team projections put out by ESPN’s Mike Clay to gain a universal picture of where the league stands at this point in the offseason. Ravens fans won’t like seeing 7.6 projected wins, but I couldn’t strongly argue a bigger number at this point, illustrating how critical this draft will be.

8. Michael Pierce has deservedly received high praise and appears on his way to a good payday at some point in the next calendar year, but he’s played 400 snaps only once in his three seasons. How does a bigger workload translate if you’re considering giving him lucrative money?

9. With much conversation about the offensive line, James Hurst feels like a forgotten man after a back injury limited him to 10 games last year. He carries the roster’s 10th-highest cap number, so the pressure is on Hurst to show he’s fully recovered.

10. The Seth Roberts signing was a typical Ravens move and carries little risk, but the last former Oakland Raider with issues catching the football didn’t work out so well here. Roberts has dropped 23 of the 182 catchable passes in his career, according to Pro Football Focus.

11. The regular-season schedule should be released this week with the Ravens set to play five playoff teams from a year ago. It’ll be interesting to see how the league and its TV partners perceive Jackson and a run-heavy offense in terms of the number of scheduled prime-time games.

12. Strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders isn’t a household name, but countless players have praised his work over the last couple offseasons. Luck is a greater variable than we admit, but the Ravens had only seven players finish last season on injured reserve.

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