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Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Examining Ravens’ 2020 class of free agents

Posted on 15 January 2020 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is just under two months away with the Ravens entering the offseason sooner than anticipated after a franchise-record 14-2 regular season that ended with shocking disappointment in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Ravens currently have an estimated 2020 salary cap commitment of just over $166 million to 41 players (not including pending free agents or players recently signed to reserve-future contracts), according to OverTheCap.com. The 2020 salary cap has not been officially set, but it’s projected to rise from $188.2 million in 2019 to an estimated $200 million.

General manager Eric DeCosta seems likely to create additional cap space by extending, renegotiating, or terminating the contracts of a few veteran players. That list could include the likes of safety Tony Jefferson, offensive lineman James Hurst, and defensive back Brandon Carr, who all have 2020 cap numbers that may exceed how the Ravens value their services at this point. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a logical candidate for a long-term contract extension as he’s set to carry a $12.866 million cap figure in his fifth-year option season.

Below is a look at Baltimore’s 2020 class of free agents:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to extend any of the following unrestricted free agents before they may officially sign with any team beginning March 18 at 4 p.m.

LB Josh Bynes The 30-year-old was one of Baltimore’s best in-season signings in recent memory and graded sixth among linebackers by Pro Football Focus, but long-term solutions will be explored.

DT Justin Ellis The 350-pound run-stopping lineman was a healthy scratch in three of the last four regular-season games, but the status of other defensive linemen may help his chances for a return.

OL Hroniss Grasu His second stint with Baltimore led to him being a game-day reserve late in the season, but you’d expect the Ravens to aim to improve their interior offensive line depth.

OLB Matthew Judon The Pro Bowl selection will be paid lucratively by someone, but does the lack of depth at this position force Baltimore to step outside its financial comfort zone to keep him?

DB Anthony Levine – Though still a special-teams standout, the 32-year-old played in just 17 percent of defensive snaps as his particular role in the dime package diminished in 2019.

OLB Pernell McPhee A torn triceps ended what had been a productive start to his ninth NFL campaign, so McPhee returning in a situational role at a cheap price seems plausible.

WR Chris Moore – The 2016 fourth-round pick hasn’t developed into the deep-threat wide receiver some hoped he would be, but he’s been one of Baltimore’s best special-teams players since his arrival.

ILB Patrick Onwuasor Considered an ascending player poised for a 2019 breakout, Onwuasor struggled at the “Mike” and saw his role diminish as the year progressed, leaving his future in doubt.

DT Domata Peko The 35-year-old left open the possibility of playing a 15th NFL season, but Baltimore would probably prefer more youth and long-term upside for this position group.

DT Michael Pierce Pierce worked his way back into shape after well-documented weight problems in the spring and is in line for a substantial payday despite not having a standout contract year.

DB Jordan Richards Until being deemed a healthy scratch in the playoff loss to the Titans, Richards was a regular on special teams and only turns 27 later this month.

WR Seth Roberts He ranked third among Baltimore wide receivers in snaps and blocks well, but his costly drop in the first half of the playoff loss reinforces the need for more play-making ability here.

OT Andre Smith Signed as a depth piece last week, the former Cincinnati Bengal and 2009 first-round pick has 98 career starts under his belt and probably isn’t in the organization’s long-term plans.

CB Jimmy Smith In an ideal world, Smith would re-sign as part of an outside trio including Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, but his likely asking price and injury history are deterrents.

WR/RS De’Anthony Thomas – He showed little as a returner and was flagged for blocking after calling a fair catch in the playoff loss, a costly penalty he committed more than once this season.

S Brynden Trawick An elbow injury limited him to just six games, but the 30-year-old is a good special-teams player, which always leaves the door open for a return to Baltimore.

DE/OLB Jihad Ward Coaches and teammates spoke highly of the 25-year-old edge defender this season, making his return to be part of the rotation quite possible at a reasonable price.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that occurs, Baltimore has the right to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens elect not to match, they would receive compensation based on which restricted tender they offered that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2020 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($4.407 million in 2019) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($3.095 million in 2019) would fetch the competing team’s second-round pick, and a low tender ($2.205 million in 2019) would bring the competing team’s draft choice equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would only hold the right to match the competing offer sheet and would not receive any draft compensation if they chose not to.

With less-heralded restricted free agents, the Ravens often elect to forgo a tender and will attempt to re-sign them at cheaper rates.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

OL Parker Ehinger (fourth) – The 27-year-old was active in four of the last five regular-season games, but signing him to anything more than a league-minimum deal would be surprising.

C Matt Skura (undrafted) – The second-round tender seemed likely for the starter before a serious knee injury in late November, but the Ravens gambling with the low tender isn’t impossible now.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. The Ravens usually tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the idea that there’s nothing promised beyond the opportunity to compete for a spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.

OL Randin Crecelius After spending 2018 on the practice squad, the former rookie free agent sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on IR at the end of the preseason.

RB Gus Edwards The second-year backup to Mark Ingram averaged 5.3 yards per carry and would start for plenty of teams around the league, making him a great value to the organization.

DB Fish Smithson The 25-year-old Baltimore native was signed late in the preseason and ended up on IR just a few days later.

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Ravens acquire Green Bay running back Montgomery at trade deadline

Posted on 30 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome chose not to stand pat at his final trade deadline, acquiring running back Ty Montgomery from Green Bay on Tuesday afternoon.

Baltimore hopes Montgomery’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as to carry the ball will bring more versatility to an offense that ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per carry and averaged just 18.5 points per game in October. In a reduced role this season, Montgomery has rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and made 15 receptions for 170 yards. He first rose to some prominence in 2016 when he converted from the wide receiver position to running back to gain 457 yards on 77 carries and make 44 receptions for 348 yards in 15 games. Injuries limited the 216-pound Montgomery to eight games last season as he rushed for 273 yards on 71 carries and caught 23 passes for 173 yards.

The Ravens released veteran linebacker Albert McClellan to make room on their 53-man roster. It’s possible McClellan could be re-signed in the near future, especially with Baltimore currently carrying four running backs on the active roster. Still on injured reserve with a knee injury sustained in Week 1, running back Kenneth Dixon is eligible to begin practicing at any point now, which could further crowd the backfield.

To complete Tuesday’s trade, the Ravens sent a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to the Packers, who were apparently looking to move on from Montgomery after his critical fumble in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. An NFL.com report indicated the 25-year-old was unhappy about his reduced role and didn’t follow coaches’ instructions to kneel a kickoff for a touchback late in the second half, instead bringing it out of the end zone and fumbling. The turnover prevented Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from having another chance against the Rams defense in the 29-27 final.

Montgomery, a 2015 third-round pick from Stanford, will make the remainder of his $716,500 base salary for the 2018 season — roughly $379,000 — before becoming an unrestricted free agent. It’s unclear how he’ll fit into the offensive game plan or whether the Ravens will want him to return kicks, but Montgomery fumbled twice in his last four games with the Packers.

Many had clamored for Newsome to acquire help along the offensive line as three linemen — left guard Alex Lewis, right tackle James Hurst, and reserve Bradley Bozeman — did not play in Sunday’s 36-21 loss at Carolina due to injuries. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley also missed 19 snaps after quarterback Joe Flacco was driven into the back of his left leg in the third quarter. Head coach John Harbaugh would not discuss his status for this coming Sunday’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I’m not going to get into all that,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

It remains unclear whether Hurst (back) or Lewis (neck) will be ready to return to action after sitting out the last two games. Bozeman (calf) was active for the Panthers game, but he did not play as Hroniss Grasu took all 68 snaps at the left guard spot.

With Stanley sidelined, 2015 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor filled in at left tackle for a large portion of the second half.

“He did pretty well. It was mostly pass protection; he’s good in pass protection,” said Harbaugh about Eluemunor, who was promoted from the practice squad last week. “He’s stout and firm, and he handled the bull rushes really well — probably the best of all of our guys throughout the course of the game. I was very encouraged by that.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 36-21 loss at Carolina

Posted on 30 October 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens dropping to 4-4 in their 36-21 loss at Carolina, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The pass rush has produced a total of one sack since dropping Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota a team-record 11 times and didn’t take down Cam Newton once. Twenty-two of Baltimore’s league-leading 27 sacks came against Tennessee, Buffalo, and Cleveland. Is a bit more consistency too much to ask?

2. With the way the first half was going, the head-scratching Joe Flacco interception with no Ravens receiver even in the area felt inevitable. Pass protection wasn’t great and there were again too many drops, but Flacco went 0-for-9 with two picks on throws traveling 15 or more yards downfield. Yuck.

3. The running game was buoyed by three gains of 13 or more yards early on, but Baltimore averaged a season-best 5.6 yards per carry, one of the few positives from Sunday. I don’t see a successful playoff push without improvement on the ground. The October numbers support that.

4. According to Pro Football Focus, Jimmy Smith gave up five of six targets thrown into his coverage for 58 yards. He ranks 106th out of 110 qualified corners in PFF’s grading system. I’ll stand by what I wrote last week, but the Ravens really need to start seeing improvement.

5. It was a forgettable day for the league’s top-ranked defense, but slot cornerback Tavon Young played well, allowing only one catch for minus-two yards and making two tackles. He’s quietly played well since his rough outing at Cincinnati in Week 2.

6. Baltimore’s fake punt from its own 10 early in the first half was unmarked territory in the NFL for at least the last 25 years, but an illegal shift on Morgan Cox wiped out the conversion. Watching the all-22 replay, I’m with John Harbaugh in not seeing what Cox did.

7. Allowing the fourth-and-7 conversion to set up Graham Gano’s 54-yard field goal to end the first half was embarrassing for Wink Martindale and the defense. How no one thought to call a timeout there is a bad look for both the coaching staff and veteran players.

8. After knocking off early rust, Marshal Yanda has again settled in as one of the NFL’s best guards, ranking fifth among all qualified guards in PFF’s grading system. In addition to giving others plenty of help, Yanda has occasionally even pulled on play-action to protect Flacco’s blindside this season.

9. Considering the resources that have been devoted to the safety and inside linebacker positions, the Ravens’ inability to consistently cover tight ends and the middle of the field remains very frustrating. Sunday was a rough day for C.J. Mosley and Tony Jefferson in particular.

10. Some criticism for the Lamar Jackson short-arm incompletion to Willie Snead and praise for the rookie’s play in garbage time from fans and media seemed over the top. If Baltimore falls out of playoff contention, I’m all for evaluating for the future by starting Jackson. Until then, just stop.

11. The left-side combination of Jermaine Eluemunor and Hroniss Grasu for 19 plays gave off quite a preseason feel. Being down to your third-string options on the blindside is a sobering thought with Pittsburgh coming to town. Get well, Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis. And James Hurst and Bradley Bozeman.

12. In order to finish with the 10-6 record that usually makes a team a strong bet to at least secure a wild card, the Ravens will need six wins in their remaining eight games. Baltimore hasn’t pulled off a 6-2 stretch since going 9-2 to begin the 2012 season.

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Ravens offensive line, secondary again hurting for Carolina game

Posted on 26 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For the second straight week, the Ravens will be without at least one starter on the offensive line and in their secondary.

Starting right tackle James Hurst (back) and starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh) will miss a second straight game after officially being ruled out Friday while starting left guard Alex Lewis (neck) was designated as doubtful to play against Carolina. Lewis had practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out Friday’s closed walk-through, making it unclear whether he suffered a setback or if he simply hasn’t been cleared for contact since suffering a pinched nerve at Tennessee two weeks ago. Neither Hurst nor Humphrey practiced this week, but head coach John Harbaugh said they were “doing well” and “working hard” when asked about their progress on Friday.

Further complicating matters for the offensive line is the status of rookie guard Bradley Bozeman, who was listed as questionable with a calf injury after only returning to practice on a limited basis on Friday. Bozeman started in place of Lewis against New Orleans and battled through the injury to play 56 of 68 offensive snaps, but his potential absence would leave either Hroniss Grasu or the recently-promoted Jermaine Eluemunor to start at left guard against the Panthers. Should Bozeman be inactive, the Ravens would have only one reserve lineman — a risk they endured last week — unless they make a roster move by Saturday afternoon.

Another potential nightmare scenario would be an in-game injury to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is typically backed up by Hurst and then Lewis to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside.

The Baltimore secondary managed to hold Saints quarterback Drew Brees to just 212 yards while Humphrey was out in Week 7, but veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith struggled in his first start of the season and was nursing a groin injury earlier this week. After resting on Wednesday, Smith practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is expected to start, but his health will be something to monitor over the course of the afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rookie cornerback Anthony Averett (hamstring) logged limited practices for the second straight week and was finally upgraded to full participation on Friday, meaning he could be poised to make his return to action after a five-game absence. The 2018 fourth-round pick’s presence would give the Ravens some depth on the outside behind Smith and fellow veteran starter Brandon Carr.

The Panthers officially ruled out former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith with a knee injury sustained in last week’s comeback victory at Philadelphia. Smith had been hoping to play against the team that drafted him for just the second time since his free-agent departure after the 2014 season.

Carolina didn’t list three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton on the final game status report, but he was limited in practices all week with a sore right throwing shoulder, which will certainly be worth monitoring as the Panthers try to win their second straight game.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-60s with winds five to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), OT James Hurst (back)
DOUBTFUL: G Alex Lewis (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), G Bradley Bozeman (calf), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring), CB Jimmy Smith (groin)

CAROLINA
OUT: LB Andre Smith (hamstring), WR Torrey Smith (knee)
DOUBTFUL: S Rashaan Gaulden (ankle)

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Ravens waiting on injured players to return, add offensive lineman

Posted on 24 September 2018 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Tuesday 11:30 a.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning their attention toward their annual trip to western Pennsylvania, the Ravens hope to welcome at least a couple key players back to the field against Pittsburgh in Week 4.

Starting inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and top reserve defensive lineman Michael Pierce missed Sunday’s game against Denver, but head coach John Harbaugh said both were “really close” to being able to play in the 27-14 win over the Broncos. Mosley sustained a bone bruise in his left knee in the Week 2 loss at Cincinnati while Pierce missed the first game of his career with a foot injury.

“They just didn’t make it this week,” Harbaugh said. “Still, you have to say it’s ‘day-to-day’ because you don’t know. But I’m really hopeful.”

Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst and third-year defensive tackle Willie Henry have been sidelined since last month, but their return to the practice field could be just around the corner. Hurst had a screw inserted in his foot on Aug. 24 to help heal a stress fracture while Henry underwent surgery for an umbilical hernia around the same time.

The Ravens would certainly like to add Hurst, their first-round pick, to an improved aerial attack that entered Monday ranked ninth in the NFL in passing yards per game. Henry appeared on the verge of securing a starting role along the defensive line during the preseason.

“We’ll see. I don’t know yet,” said Harbaugh about the possibility of the two practicing this week. “There’s probably a better chance for Hayden. Willie is going to see a doctor here this week. It’s a little different with Willie because it’s not an orthopedic deal. The doctor — internist — has to clear him on that kind of stuff.”

After working out a number of free-agent offensive linemen two weeks ago, the Ravens signed former Chicago center Hroniss Grasu to their 53-man roster on Monday. A 2015 third-round pick out of Oregon, Grasu made four starts and appeared in six games for the Bears last season and has started 12 games in his career. He was waived by Chicago at the end of the preseason and gives Baltimore a third reserve offensive linemen again after 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor was waived over the weekend.

To make room on the active roster, the Ravens waived defensive back Robertson Daniel, who had just been promoted as an extra healthy body after rookie cornerback Anthony Averett suffered a hamstring injury late last week.

Harbaugh labeled new return specialist Tim White’s debut as “very solid” despite the rainy conditions, complimenting his ball security and decision-making with the Ravens holding a second-half lead. Baltimore waived returner Janarion Grant on Saturday after the rookie had fumbled a punt in each of the first two games.

“We’re very hopeful that we’ll get him back on the practice squad,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “I really think those guys were a tossup anyway. Janarion did a good job, a couple balls on the ground. That’s part of it probably, and he knows that. No way do I think he’s not going to be a really good player. He’s going to play certainly this year.

“But Tim was doing such a good job in practice. He’s been around, he’s more of a veteran guy, and we just felt that he should get a chance.”

Both Grant and Eluemunor cleared waivers and were re-signed to the practice squad on Tuesday morning.

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