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Ravens return man De’Anthony Thomas opts out of 2020 season

Posted on 27 July 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have revealed at least one of their players will opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Wide receiver and return specialist De’Anthony Thomas was officially placed on the reserve/voluntary opt-out list on Monday, meaning he will receive a $150,000 salary advance while his contract will carry over to the 2021 season. The 27-year-old re-signed with Baltimore in March on a one-year deal worth $935,000 and was expected to compete with the likes of wide receivers James Proche and Chris Moore and running back Justice Hill for return duties.

Thomas joined the Ravens last November, appearing in eight regular-season games and averaging 7.2 yards per punt return and 16.6 yards per kick return. The 5-foot-8, 176-pound receiver played only three offensive snaps for Baltimore, carrying the ball one time in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. In six seasons with Kansas City, Thomas caught 65 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

After Kansas City offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the season last week, Thomas was among a handful of others to make their intentions known Monday. That group also included former Ravens cornerback Maurice Canady, who signed with Dallas in March.

The Ravens placed rookie tight end Jacob Breeland on the active non-football injury list as the Oregon product continues to work his way back to full strength from a torn ACL suffered last season. When healthy, Breeland is expected to compete with 2019 practice-squad member Charles Scarff and fellow undrafted rookie Eli Wolf from Georgia for the No. 3 tight end spot behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.

In an effort to trim the preseason roster from the normal 90 players to 80 because of social distancing challenges, general manager Eric DeCosta waived offensive linemen Evan Adams, Daishawn Dixon, R.J. Prince, and kicker Nick Vogel. The Ravens waived edge rusher Michael Onuoha over the weekend.

Undrafted rookie safety Nigel Warrior was placed on the reserve/COVID list on Monday, which means he either tested positive for the coronavirus or has been quarantined after exposure to an infected person. Warrior will not count against the roster limit while on the list.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on training camp preparations and other topics

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twelve Ravens thoughts in early part of June

Posted on 04 June 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens moving into the final weeks of virtual workouts and coaches on the verge of returning to the team facility in Owings Mills, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Steve Bisciotti’s latest of many donations in a difficult year was $1 million for a group of former and current Ravens to distribute to social justice reform efforts. Some have fairly noted the organization not signing Colin Kaepernick three years ago, but actions accompanying team-released statements are what’s needed now.

2. As they did with Terrell Suggs in 2008, the Ravens working out a compromise with Matthew Judon for his franchise tag tender always made sense. What doesn’t make sense is the NFL still using generic position labels like “linebacker” and “offensive lineman” in this system.

3. Ronnie Stanley made no reference to becoming the league’s highest-paid left tackle, but he wants “to get paid my value and what I’m worth” and expressed happiness for Laremy Tunsil’s record contract. Why wouldn’t he expect at least as much as what Houston is paying another 2016 draftee?

4. With uncertainty surrounding the season and how that could hurt the salary cap in the next year or two if fans can’t attend games or the schedule is condensed, teams are seemingly in no rush to do extensions right now. Tagging Stanley next March would be a no-brainer anyway.

5. I’ve always believed way too much is made of player-organized offseason workouts, but seeing clips of Lamar Jackson throw to some teammates in South Florida is another step toward some sports normalcy. I’m all for that.

6. The NFL requiring teams to stay at home facilities for training camp was hardly surprising, but you now wonder if we’ve seen the last of off-site camps, which were already disappearing rapidly. The 2011 lockout was the dagger for the Ravens training in Westminster.

7. New Carolina coach Matt Rhule revealed Wednesday that the Panthers were set to have joint practices with the Ravens in Owings Mills before the third preseason game until the pandemic erased those plans. More of these sessions still feel like the future for summer preparations.

8. Bradley Bozeman went from being perceived by many as the weak link who needed to be replaced early last season to someone already counted as a 2020 starter at either guard or center by his head coach. Of course, some continuity inside is critical with Marshal Yanda now retired.

9. In revealing Chuck Clark would likely continue to relay the calls in the defensive huddle and wear the “green-dot” helmet, John Harbaugh said, “He’s bold, he’s brilliant, and he’s brief.” Few Ravens have been praised for their football intellect like Clark in recent years.

10. I certainly would have endorsed the Ravens adding an elite talent like DeAndre Hopkins, but there’s something to be said for continuity at wide receiver while adding rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche to the mix. A revolving door of veterans makes it difficult for a passing game to grow.

11. In handling great expectations for the upcoming season, Harbaugh said, “We’re going to be everyone’s most important game.” I can’t wait to see what Greg Roman comes up with to counter 2020 opponents who’ve been brainstorming all offseason to try to slow Jackson and this offense.

12. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my top 25 Ravens regular-season moments countdown as much as I’ve liked putting it together. It’s been a fun trip down memory lane at a time when many of us need that, and we still have quite a few to go.

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Ranking paths to prominent first-year roles for Ravens draft picks

Posted on 25 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the draft having taken place a month ago, we normally begin gaining a better feel for where Ravens rookies stand when organized team activities begin and are open to local media.

Of course, full-team workouts are expected to take place until training camp because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving more guesswork and a greater need to temper expectations for draft picks and rookie free agents alike. With those realities understood, I’ve ranked the path of Baltimore’s 10 draft picks to prominent playing time from most likely to least likely:

1. ILB Patrick Queen (first round)
Skinny: The absence of a normal offseason program will hurt even first-round picks around the NFL this year, but the shortage of veteran options at the inside linebacker position should give the LSU standout a direct path to a starting job. The Ravens love Queen’s athleticism, vision, and ability to play in coverage, so something will have likely gone wrong if he’s not starting Week 1.

2. ILB Malik Harrison (third round)
Skinny: For the same reasons spelled out for Queen, Harrison could have an easier road to the field than any other Day 2 pick despite him being the fifth player selected by the Ravens in the draft. Questions about Harrison’s pass coverage could make a platoon with veteran L.J. Fort the most likely outcome, but his physicality playing the run and ability to blitz could lead to substantial playing time.

3. RB J.K. Dobbins (second round)
Skinny: The perceived starter of the future has the talent to push for significant playing time sooner than later, but some have been a bit too quick to dismiss Pro Bowl starter Mark Ingram and top backup Gus Edwards, who both averaged over 5.0 yards per carry last season. There’s a ton of competition for carries in this offense — especially with a record-setting rushing quarterback — so time will tell here.

4. DT Justin Madubuike (third round)
Skinny: The third-round pick is stuck behind Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe, but all three are over age 30, making it likely that Wink Martindale will need to rely on Madubuike more heavily at some point, especially if the pass-rushing ability he showed at Texas A&M translates to the pros. That said, snaps are at a premium for defensive linemen in this multi-look system.

5. WR Devin Duvernay (third round)
Skinny: The organization has raved about Duvernay’s hands and physical running style, but the presence of Willie Snead and Mark Andrews — who plays more as a slot receiver than as a traditional tight end — complicates his path to early playing time. The way San Francisco used Deebo Samuel in its running game last year could offer clues for offensive coordinator Greg Roman using Duvernay.

6. S Geno Stone (seventh round)
Skinny: The seventh-round pick being this high on the list sounds odd, but there could be some earlier-than-expected playing time for the Iowa product if Martindale uses the three-safety dime package as often as he did in the second half of 2019. Of course, Stone would still be competing with DeShon Elliott and Anthony Levine for the No. 3 safety job in that scenario.

7. WR James Proche (sixth round)
Skinny: A sixth-round wide receiver lacking blazing speed or dynamic physical traits doesn’t look like a strong candidate for immediate playing time on offense, but Proche should compete for the punt returner job. There’s also the fact that Eric DeCosta traded a 2021 fifth-round pick to draft the very productive SMU product, which elevates his first-year standing a bit.

8. G Ben Bredeson (fourth round)
Skinny: A four-year starter at a Big Ten program like Michigan shouldn’t be ruled out in a crowded interior offensive line competition, but you rarely see Day 3 offensive linemen start as rookies and an abbreviated offseason only heightens that reality. A technician and competitor like Bredeson should fit well with offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, but his road to immediate playing time will be tough.

9. OL Tyre Phillips (third round)
Skinny: The 6-foot-5, 345-pound mauler brings upside that made him a late third-round pick, but questions about his pass protection and inexperience at guard won’t help him in the interior battle. With Andre Smith being the only veteran offensive tackle on the roster behind Pro Bowl starters Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., Phillips may vie for James Hurst’s old role as the swing tackle.

10. DT Broderick Washington (fifth round)
Skinny: The Ravens liked what they saw from their fifth-round pick at the Senior Bowl, but Washington didn’t show enough as a pass rusher at Texas Tech to predict a clear path to rotation snaps as a rookie. At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, he profiles as more of an option at the 3- and 5-technique spots where the competition is pretty tough.

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Ravens officially add Oregon tight end Breeland to list of UDFA signings

Posted on 06 May 2020 by Luke Jones

General manager Eric DeCosta didn’t select a tight end in last month’s draft, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens haven’t pondered replacing former first-round pick Hayden Hurst.

In the process of signing four more rookie free agents on Wednesday, Baltimore officially added one of its most intriguing undrafted options in Oregon tight end Jake Breeland. The 6-foot-5, 252-pound senior made 26 catches for 405 yards and led all Pac-12 tight ends with six touchdown receptions in just six games before sustaining a season-ending injury last year.

“We thought he was a strong prospect,” DeCosta said in a conference call with Ravens season-ticket holders. “We thought he was one of the best tight ends in the draft this year prior to his ACL injury that he suffered in October. We’re very, very excited to get him. I think that was a great job recruiting throughout to get him.”

Regarded as a better receiver than blocker over 30 career games with the Ducks, Breeland finished with 74 receptions for 1,225 yards and 13 touchdowns in his collegiate career with 24 of those catches going for 20 or more yards.

After trading Hurst to Atlanta in March, the Ravens will need a third tight end to complement 2019 Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews and standout blocker Nick Boyle. In the midst of praising Breeland, DeCosta also mentioned fellow undrafted rookie Eli Wolf, who caught 13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown at Georgia last season after transferring from Tennessee.

“He’s probably not as household of a name as Jake, but he’s another guy that we felt was a draftable prospect,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got two guys that we think have a realistic chance to possibly make our team. As you all know, tight end is a very important position on our offense, so we feel very, very good about that.”

The Ravens also announced the undrafted signings of James Madison outside linebacker John Daka, Wake Forest punter Dom Maggio, and Iowa linebacker Kristian Welch. Eighteen rookie free agents are now officially under contract.

Baltimore also signed three more draft picks to four-year contracts on Wednesday: third-round defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, fourth-round guard Ben Bredeson, and sixth-round wide receiver James Proche.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts with virtual offseason program underway

Posted on 05 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. Don Shula was the winningest coach in NFL history and won two Super Bowls, but he’s remembered in Baltimore for 1964 NFL championship game and Super Bowl III losses in which the Colts were heavy favorites. There’s probably a lesson in there not to judge early postseason failures too harshly.

2. In a statement released on Shula, John Harbaugh shared the memory of being able to work with the legendary Miami coach when he served as a mentor coach with the Philadelphia staff for a week in the early 2000s. What an experience that had to be for an aspiring coach.

3. I’d rather watch paint dry than keep tabs on Antonio Brown, but his Photoshopped post of him wearing a Ravens uniform created more buzz. I take Steve Bisciotti at his word on his domestic abuse stance, but the longer Eric DeCosta gives non-answers on Brown, the longer unnecessary speculation persists.

4. The NFL releasing the 2020 schedule will be fun, but this feels premature with the uncertainty of the pandemic. With the draft, we know those players will definitely be playing football at some point. In this case, waiting another month or so would provide a better picture of reality.

5. Am I the only one who wonders if the value of a full 90-man offseason roster outweighs the challenge of trying to keep an even larger group of players and coaches coronavirus-free during an eventual training camp? Of course, we’re still at least 2 1/2 months away from that.

6. Rookie fourth-round guard Ben Bredeson said he sees “a lot of glaring similarities” between the Harbaugh brothers. We’ll see if Bredeson, a four-year starter for the Wolverines, works out better than other recent Michigan draft picks Willie Henry and Chris Wormley.

7. The list of notable seventh-round picks for the Ravens is a short one with DeAngelo Tyson, Ralph Staten, and Michael Campanaro, and Anthony Allen being the best ones. The field vision and pedigree of Iowa safety Geno Stone make him more interesting than the usual seventh-rounder.

8. Both Bredeson and Stone expressed excitement and relief that J.K. Dobbins, a former Big Ten rival, is now on their side after giving both of their schools problems. You don’t have to sell them on what the Ravens are getting with the standout running back.

9. Sixth-round wide receiver James Proche says he’s learning the Ravens playbook by adopting some helpful study habits from his mother, who’s currently in nursing school. That’s just another example of the unique circumstances created by this pandemic.

10. Proche admitted he was tracking how many catches Devin Duvernay made last season. Proche tied for first in the nation with LSU’s Justin Jefferson at 111 while Duvernay was third at 106. I suspect the competition between the two will carry over to training camp.

11. The signing of veteran Jake Ryan became official Tuesday, but the landscape of the inside linebacker position sure changed with the selections of Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. Ryan still has a chance to stick if he can shine on special teams.

12. The idea of getting to be Lamar Jackson in a virtual reality game sounded like a blast until I began wondering what that might mean for the well-being of my ACLs.

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What to expect from Ravens’ 2020 draft picks

Posted on 25 April 2020 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2020 draft, so what can we expect from the Ravens’ 10 selections?

Time will tell whether the NFL will have anything resembling a regular training camp and a 2020 season starting on time, but below is an early look at how each rookie fits now and in the future:

LB Patrick Queen
Drafted: First round (28th overall) from LSU
2020 projected role: Joining Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley as the only inside linebackers to be drafted in the first round by the Ravens, Queen should start from Day 1, most likely as the weak-side backer whose coverage ability will keep him on the field for virtually every defensive snap.
Long-term view: Queen’s slight 6-foot, 232-pound frame brings questions, but a big defensive line in front of him should allow the athletic linebacker to effectively show off his speed to make plays. The growth shown over his one full season as a starter at LSU makes it reasonable to believe Queen has only scratched the surface of his potential and could eventually develop into a Pro Bowl linebacker.

RB J.K. Dobbins
Drafted: Second round (55th overall) from Ohio State
2020 projected role: Selected in the same spot as Ray Rice in the 2008 draft, Dobbins enters a crowded backfield behind 2019 Pro Bowl selection Mark Ingram, but his workload eclipsing Gus Edwards’ 133 carries from a year ago seems quite plausible.
Long-term view: The real value of this pick begins in 2021 when Ingram will be entering his 11th season and scheduled to earn $5 million, factors that could shorten Dobbins’ path to the starting role. A 796-touch workload in college shouldn’t prohibit the 212-pound back from thriving for at least a few seasons in a Lamar Jackson-led offense using the pistol looks from which he ran very effectively as a Buckeye.

DT Justin Madubuike
Drafted: Third round (71st overall) from Texas A&M
2020 projected role: The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman will compete for a rotational role behind a veteran starting group, particularly as a situational pass rusher after collecting 5 1/2 sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for a loss last season.
Long-term view: With Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, and Justin Ellis all age 29 or older, Madubuike could move into a starting role as early as 2021, especially if he more consistently channels the dominance flashed at the collegiate level. The Ravens haven’t had many pass-rushing defensive tackles in recent years, but Madubuike has the tools to be a complete player as a 3-technique.

WR Devin Duvernay
Drafted: Third round (92nd overall) from Texas
2020 projected role: One of the best slot receivers in this year’s draft class, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Duvernay has sure hands and an uncanny ability to gain yards after the catch that could prompt offensive coordinator Greg Roman to work him into the offensive mix sooner than later.
Long-term view: Built like a running back, Duvernay has drawn comparisons to the likes of Golden Tate and Albert Wilson, but how he adapts to press coverage will be key in his development, especially working from the slot. The creativity of this offense suits unconventional players, and veteran slot man Willie Snead only being under contract through 2020 could clear a path to an even bigger role.

LB Malik Harrison
Drafted: Third round (98th overall) from Ohio State
2020 projected role: A downhill tackler at 247 pounds, Harrison will have the chance to compete for an early-down starting job as the “Mike” linebacker next to Queen.
Long-term view: Harrison plays exactly how one used to view the inside linebacker position, but his limitations in pass coverage and the propensity with which the Ravens use sub packages may prevent him from ever becoming a three-down linebacker in the modern game. However, there remains a place for run-stopping options, making him a rock-solid pick at the end of the third round.

G Tyre Phillips
Drafted: Third round (106th overall) from Mississippi State
2020 projected role: Spring workouts being canceled by the pandemic won’t help his immediate development, but the former tackle could still put himself in the mix for the starting right guard spot.
Long-term view: Phillips’ 6-foot-5, 330-pound frame makes him an impressive mauler as a run blocker, but the big question will be his pass blocking as he transitions to the inside. The Ravens like his size and physicality and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has the teaching reputation to make you believe Phillips can develop into a starter while possibly remaining a backup option at offensive tackle.

G Ben Bredeson
Drafted: Fourth round (143rd overall) from Michigan
2020 projected role: In the same boat as Phillips this spring, Bredeson was a four-year starter at left guard in the Big Ten and should have the chance to compete for a starting job right off the bat.
Long-term view: An impressive technician as a pass blocker, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound guard isn’t considered as strong a run blocker despite his extensive experience against high-level competition. With the way guys like Matt Skura and Bradley Bozeman have developed under D’Alessandris, however, Bredeson seems like a reasonable bet to become a starter eventually.

DT Broderick Washington Jr.
Drafted: Fifth round (170th overall) from Texas Tech
2020 projected role: A run-stopping 3-technique option and a three-year starter in college, Washington will compete for a spot as a rotational contributor behind the likes of Williams and Ellis.
Long-term view: Washington looks the part at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, but his lack of pass-rushing ability will probably limit his odds of becoming much more than a rotational piece. However, the current age along the starting defensive line helps his chances of sticking around as he tries to develop under defensive line coach Joe Cullen.

WR James Proche
Drafted: Sixth round (201st overall) from SMU
2020 projected role: Cracking the wide receiver mix won’t be easy in such a run-heavy offense, so Proche’s ability as a punt returner seems to be his best chance to see action right away.
Long-term view: The 5-foot-11, 201-pound slot man doesn’t stand out from an athletic standpoint, but his excellent hands and ball skills don’t reflect a sixth-round billing in what was a deep draft class of wide receivers. He caught a whopping 204 passes and 27 touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons, making him an interesting late-round pick for whom the Ravens moved up to draft.

S Geno Stone
Drafted: Seventh round (219th overall) from Iowa
2020 projected role: His path to a 53-man roster spot and playing time as a rookie will be as a special-teams contributor, which is how current starter Chuck Clark began as a sixth-round pick in 2017.
Long-term view: Evaluations of his play are mixed, but the Ravens like Stone’s ability to quickly process what’s happening on the field, a crucial trait for a safety. Odds say his best best to eventually secure a defensive role will be as a dime safety as he saw time in the box, covered the slot, and played deep zone at Iowa, experiences that should help his development at the next level.

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