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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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No Raven brought same excitement as newest Hall of Famer Ed Reed

Posted on 02 February 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have provided no shortage of exciting players in more than two decades in Baltimore.

Some local fans would describe the pre-game dance of Ray Lewis, the greatest player in team history and face of the franchise, as something resembling a religious experience. A pair of Pro Bowl running backs, Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice, were legitimate threats to score every time they touched the ball. Two All-Pro return specialists — Jermaine Lewis and Jacoby Jones — shined on the most critical stage the NFL has to offer. Many others have brought thrills for an organization with two Super Bowl championships in its trophy case.

But none quite compare to nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who was officially elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. The first-ballot selection was perhaps the most anticlimactic achievement in a career that made observers anticipate the most unexpected of feats.

Fellow first-ballot Hall of Famers Lewis and Jonathan Ogden are the greatest players in team history on their respective sides of the ball, but the ball-hawking Reed is the most exciting we’ve witnessed. Unlike running backs, wide receivers, or kick returners who regularly touch the ball when in the game, Reed would seemingly come out of nowhere, even after the opposing coaching staff would preach all week about not letting him do it.

The sight of Reed with the ball brought emotions ranging from euphoria as he’d turn the game’s outcome with an unlikely touchdown to occasional horror as he’d inexplicably lateral the ball in traffic, sometimes giving it right back to the opposition. Reed unquestionably moved to the beat of his own drum, but you couldn’t ask more of an entertainer and play-maker over 11 seasons in Baltimore.

The simplest objective of the safety position is to prevent an opponent from wrecking the game with an explosive pass play, but there was nothing “safe” about the way Reed stalked in the secondary, creating nightmares for quarterbacks and often doing the very thing the opponent was trying to accomplish against the Baltimore defense — score. When arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history felt compelled to put “Find 20 on every play” on his wristband, what else really needed to be said about his case for Canton?

Reed’s 64 regular-season interceptions rank seventh on the NFL’s career list while he’s the all-time leader in interception return yards. No player has more postseason interceptions (tied with three others with nine), and Reed became the first man in league history to score return touchdowns off an interception, a fumble, a punt, and a blocked punt. He set the NFL record with a last-second 106-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal a tight game against Cleveland in 2004 before breaking that mark four years later with a 107-yard interception return to put away a win against Philadelphia.

In all, 46 passers were intercepted by Reed in his career with half of that group going to at least one Pro Bowl and six being the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl winner.

Though Reed was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, the greatest of his individual achievements came late in the 2008 season when he registered an extraordinary 10 interceptions over a seven-game stretch that culminated with two — one returned for a touchdown — in a playoff victory at Miami. For context, the entire Baltimore defense from this past season had only 12 in 17 games.

The 2002 first-round pick from Miami is tied for 19th on the Ravens’ all-time touchdowns list (13) despite having the football in his hands far fewer times than anyone else — all offensive players — in that top 20. The number of actual planned times Reed touched the ball was even lower as he registered a modest 30 punt returns in his career and never caught a pass or recorded a rushing attempt as an offensive player.

Not only one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game, Reed had an extraordinary ability to block punts before coaches eventually kept him out of potential harm’s way in his later years. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed blocked four punts over the first 27 games of his career and frequently drew holding flags as opponents tried to account for his explosive jump off the line of scrimmage.

So often praised for his football instincts, Reed’s preparation was exceptional as he followed Lewis’ initial lead when it came to watching film and studying the playbook. That enabled Reed to so often be in the right place at the right time as he knew where the ball was going before the quarterback even threw it. Later in his career, he passed on those study habits to younger teammates, quietly exhibiting strong leadership in the shadows of Lewis’ camera-friendly methods.

Even his closest confidants acknowledged Reed’s personality ran hot or cold with the position of the hood of his sweatshirt often signaling whether you could engage in spirited conversation or should probably steer clear that day. He could ruffle feathers with comments about even his own teammates, but his intentions usually came from a good place. And while dealing with injuries late in his career, the veteran safety would both ponder retirement and campaign for a new contract in the same breath.

That was Reed.

A nerve impingement suffered late in the 2007 season zapped him of the underrated physicality he displayed early in his career and left him with neck and shoulder pain, but he played through it and did so at the highest level, making five more Pro Bowls while picking his spots to deliver the occasional hit. Even while sporting a red jersey to signal no contact during practices, the veteran safety would light up an unsuspecting young wide receiver from time to time, again reflecting that eccentric personality.

Super Bowl XLVII is most remembered as the culmination of Joe Flacco’s historic 2012 playoff run and Lewis’ last ride, but it was the night Reed finally raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy after years of playing with offenses that couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. It would be Reed’s final game in a Baltimore uniform — he’d play one more season split between Houston and the New York Jets — but Ravens fans shared in his joy a couple days later as he bellowed out the words to Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise” at the victory parade.

It was one last thrill in a career that was long before destined for a gold jacket and the football paradise that is Canton.

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Ravens guard Yanda aiming for another chapter of greatness

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season was supposed to be the continuation of Ravens veteran Marshal Yanda’s reign as the best guard in the NFL.

His six straight Pro Bowl selections had tied Ray Lewis for the third-longest streak in franchise history behind only Jonathan Ogden (11 straight from 1997-2007) and Ed Reed (seven in a row from 2006-12). That exclusive company began prompting some discussion about Yanda’s chances of joining that trio — and perhaps current teammate Terrell Suggs — in Canton one day, especially if he were to add a few more years of elite play to his impressive resume. The Hall of Fame is certainly rare territory for a guard, but momentum had been building as analytic sites like Pro Football Focus touted his excellence and Yanda was even profiled by a national website last summer.

Then, his 2017 season was over soon after it started when he fractured his left ankle in Week 2, an injury that required surgery to repair the damage. After battling through countless ailments to play all but five games in the previous eight seasons, Yanda would sit out the final 14 contests and the Ravens would miss the playoffs for the third straight year, in part because of an offensive line that struggled to gel without its best player in the first half of the season. The 2007 third-round pick has shown little interest in individual accolades over the years, but the thought of not being there for his team was difficult to take.

“It was a heart-breaking deal. I thought I was going to maybe miss some time but be able to find some way to fight through it and get back on the field,” Yanda said. “But to have the news that it was season-ending was really tough. It was really hard for me being away, but that’s part of football. You have to deal with it.”

The frustration didn’t end there as Yanda hurt his shoulder lifting weights just as he was winding down his ankle rehabilitation last December. Instead of risking further damage to his rotator cuff by trying to push through the injury, the 2007 third-round pick chose to have surgery early this offseason, a move that further delayed his return to the practice field.

There was no doubt that Yanda would return to action in 2018, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll regain his elite playing status as he turns 34 next month and comes off his third shoulder surgery — each arm has been worked on — in the last five years. Of course, he need look no further for inspiration than Suggs, who has recorded a total of 19 sacks in two seasons since suffering the second torn Achilles tendon of his career in 2015. At the time of that injury, many thought a 33-year-old Suggs might be all but finished, but he’s only strengthened his case for an eventual place in the Hall of Fame.

It isn’t difficult envisioning the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman following a similar script to put himself in the conversation at the very least.

Yanda swats away any mention of him eventually being worthy of such a historic honor, but he has every intention of again being the leader and linchpin of the Baltimore offensive line after returning to the practice field this week for the first time in 11 months.

“You understand that guys can definitely come back from [injuries], and even though they’re older players, they can still be productive,” Yanda said. “They can still do everything they want to do, so I’ve just attacked [rehab] every single day. I feel like, as you get older as a player, this game means more to you every single year that you play.

“I obviously understand that it’s a young man’s game, but I’m going to be fighting every single day to be ready to roll and to be productive.”

Whether it was returning from emergency leg surgery in days to help the Ravens clinch a division title in 2011 or switching from right guard to left guard because of a serious shoulder injury and still making the Pro Bowl in 2016, Yanda has proven time and time again not to doubt him. His place among the top 10 players in franchise history is cemented, but his toughness is second to none in the 22-year history of the franchise.

How much longer Yanda will play remains to be seen as his current contract runs through the end of next season. With more than a decade in the NFL under his belt, the Iowa native is taking a year-by-year approach to his career.

“Me not playing pretty much at all last year, there was no question I definitely wanted to play this fall and get after it and be a part of it,” Yanda said. “You reassess and reevaluate. I’ll take my time after the season, but right now I’m focused on this year and doing my part.”

The Ravens are hoping it’s that same gigantic part as before.

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Ray Lewis one of 27 semifinalists for 2018 Hall of Fame class

Posted on 21 November 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has taken the next step toward football immortality.

The 13-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was named one of 27 semifinalists for the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class on Tuesday. He is one of six in their first year of eligibility, joining defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Considered one of the best middle linebackers in NFL history, Lewis is expected by most to be a first-ballot selection and would become the second lifelong Raven to be inducted after left tackle Jonathan Ogden was enshrined in 2013. The 15 modern-era finalists will be announced in January with no more than five of those tabbed for induction in Minneapolis on Feb. 3, the day before Super Bowl LII.

The enshrinement ceremony will take place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio next August.

Lewis retired after the 2012 season with his brilliant 17-year career concluding with a win in Super Bowl XLVII. In his fifth season, he was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXV after leading one of the best defenses in NFL history to a championship.

The 1996 first-round pick out of the University of Miami is the Ravens’ all-time leader in tackles and ranks second in interceptions behind only Ed Reed and second in forced fumbles behind Terrell Suggs. Reed will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction after the 2018 season.

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Stanley pick solid despite feeling like bummer for Ravens

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — All signs point to first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley being a rock-solid pick for the Ravens.

A three-year starter at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman had been linked to the Ravens as an option throughout the pre-draft process and head coach John Harbaugh has a lengthy relationship with Fighting Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The debate will continue whether general manager Ozzie Newsome passed on a superior talent in Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but you could hardly blame the Ravens if they did shy away from the latter’s off-field baggage that was on display to the entire world via social media on Thursday night.

Some draft pundits considered Stanley the better prospect anyway and the Ravens apparently agreed.

“Our scouts get a lot of information,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome when asked if the released Twitter video of Tunsil smoking from a bong influenced his decision. “When things happen, a lot of the time we’re not surprised. We took the best player, the player that was rated the highest on the board at that point. But I cannot neglect the importance of the work that our scouts do in the fall and in the spring getting information for us.”

You can understand the Ravens’ desire to move on from incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe as he’s been held to just 17 starts over the last two years and appears more interested in medical marijuana advocacy than football these days. It’s also never a bad idea to emphasize protecting the blindside of your franchise quarterback coming back from a serious left knee injury.

But the night still felt like a bummer.

Maybe it’s because the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted to trade up to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey before he was claimed by Jacksonville just a pick before they were on the clock. Top pass-rushing target Joey Bosa also came off the board immediately after the two quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks of the night.

It’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens could have traded down a few spots and still tabbed Stanley while picking up an additional pick or two, but the opportunity didn’t come to fruition — Newsome said he didn’t receive a single call while Baltimore was on the clock — and it’s not as though the 22-year-old tackle was viewed as unworthy of a top 10 choice.

Drafting Stanley may have been the prudent move, but the organization still had to use its earliest pick since 2000 at a position where they invested a five-year, $37.5 million contract — $17.5 million of it guaranteed — just two years ago. It still feels more like fixing a mistake than dramatically improving your football team, even if Stanley can adjust more quickly to the NFL than other top 10 left tackles who have struggled in recent years.

“When you watch his maturation throughout his career and his ability to adapt to the different things they do, you just feel confident in his ability to be able to pick things up,” said director of college scouting Joe Hortiz about Stanley coming out of Notre Dame. “They run a multiple offense, they do a lot of different things, and they change it up in the middle of the games and series of what they’re doing. [Stanley] really adjusts well. I think from intelligence, maturity, and the way he’s grown, he gives you confidence going forward.”

If we’re being completely honest, left tackle just isn’t a pick that will fire up a fan base whose team is coming off a rare losing season and needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But that’s when the Ravens will remind you that they were in a similar position 20 years ago when they took a left tackle out of UCLA named Jonathan Ogden, who was far from the most exciting choice for a team in a new city. It proved to be a home-run decision, of course, and the organization has been trying to find the 2013 Hall of Fame inductee’s long-term replacement since his retirement after the 2007 season.

Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Monroe all proved to be no better than temporary placeholders. The Ravens hope they’ve finally found their long-term solution in Stanley.

To expect him to be another Ogden would be unfair, but he needs to be a player the Ravens can pencil in at left tackle and not have to worry about for a long time if this is to be a successful pick at sixth overall. At the very least, you hope Stanley can be closer to Ogden than Oher, who didn’t cut it at left tackle despite being a first-round pick in 2009.

“We’re going to have high expectations for him, but it’s going to be up to him to get the job done,” Harbaugh said. “He has to win the job just like anybody else would have to.”

No, Stanley may not have been the best-case scenario for the Ravens, but they think he can finally anchor the position that was the least of the franchise’s worries for more than a decade and has now been a headache for nearly as long now.

That’s a long-term outcome that would easily outweigh any lingering disappointment from Thursday night.

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Ravens must hit home run in this year’s draft

Posted on 06 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When you draft two future Hall of Fame players with the first two picks in franchise history, the standard is going to be impossible to live up to.

But that didn’t stop general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens from coming very close for the better part of the next decade. After Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in that franchise-defining 1996 draft came Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister, Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed (another future Hall of Famer), Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ben Grubbs in first rounds over the next 11 years, all of them Pro Bowl selections.

Sure, there were a couple misses along the way, but you simply expected the Ravens to find a Pro Bowl player in the first round of the draft every year. Those emphatic early hits began to dissipate, however, and Baltimore has seen just one first-round pick — C.J. Mosley in 2014 — make the Pro Bowl since 2008.

The previous home runs and triples have been replaced by more singles and doubles — and a few more strikeouts — in recent years, which are still better than other teams in the NFL, but that decline came into focus this past year when a lack of playmakers and a rash of injuries led to a 5-11 season.

“If you look at [recent] drafts compared to ’96 to 2004, I would say that they didn’t measure up to those drafts,” Newsome said. “From ’96 to 2004, we drafted three Hall of Famers, but I will also say that during that time early on when you’re picking in the top 10 of the draft, you have a chance to be a lot more successful than it is when you’re picking anywhere from 20 to 32, which [are] the positions that we’ve been in.

“But I would say it was not up to my standards.”

Newsome’s point is fair as the Ravens have been a victim of their own success in that way after making the postseason 10 times in the last 16 years. They haven’t picked in even the first half of the first round in a decade and the sixth overall pick in this month’s draft will be the organization’s earliest since 2000.

As much as the Ravens were blessed to be able to land Hall of Fame talent when they took Ray Lewis 26th overall in 1996 and Reed 24th in 2002, the final 10 picks of the first round and the early second round typically aren’t littered with All-Pro talent everywhere you look. As if Lewis and Reed weren’t enough, the Ravens also found future Pro Bowl selections in Heap and Grubbs very late in the first round, but such success shouldn’t fool anyone into assuming you should find a Pro Bowl player that late every single year.

Yes, there have been some ugly first- and second-round picks in recent drafts as Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Matt Elam, and Arthur Brown immediately come to mind, but other maligned choices such as Michael Oher and Courtney Upshaw were still more positive than not — even if they weren’t Pro Bowl players.

The drafts haven’t been all bad as Pernell McPhee, Brandon Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Rick Wagner have been impressive middle-round finds over the last five years, but they just need to be better, especially in the early rounds. Recent drafts have been solid — for the most part — but rarely special.

“Have we drafted a ton of Pro Bowlers? No, we haven’t, but I’m proud of the players we’ve drafted,” said assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, who cited the big free-agent money other teams have spent on Ravens picks such as McPhee, Torrey Smith, Arthur Jones, and Kelechi Osemele in the last few offseasons. “I think we’ll get back to being a really good team soon. I’m not going to stress out about it.

“Can we do better in certain instances? Of course we can. You’re dealing with human emotion people, but I think our scouts and coaches have done a really good job. I think we’ll get back to prominence.”

If serious contention is in the cards for 2016, the Ravens need to hit a couple long balls and triples, not just with the sixth overall pick but with their six other selections in the top 134 spots. A successful draft isn’t only about the first round as Newsome has shown in finding Pro Bowl-caliber players and starters in the middle and late rounds over the years.

Expecting the Ravens to find their next future Hall of Famer later this month would be unfair, but they do need to find the next pillar around which to build. If it isn’t a Ray Lewis, Ogden, or Reed, drafting the next Suggs, Ngata, or Jamal Lewis is a reasonable expectation when picking so early.

DeCosta acknowledged Tuesday that the money in Vegas would be on the Ravens taking a defensive player with the sixth pick as there are five or six “elite” ones in his mind, but the executive also said there are three or four offensive players who might be the best fit depending on how the first five picks play out in a few weeks.

Whether it’s a player like Jalen Ramsey of Florida State unexpectedly falling into their laps or a regular mock-draft target such as Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, UCLA’s Myles Jack, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley or even another name being discussed less frequently such as running back Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State, the Ravens must come away with a special talent.

They need to find the next player who will one day be in the Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium.

That would go a long way in not only helping them bounce back from a 5-11 season, but such a player would be a good step in preventing the Ravens from being back in this position for another 16 years.

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Ted Talk: My chats with Marchibroda – a Baltimore football icon

Posted on 16 January 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

So many memories of Ted Marchibroda. They started with me on Bank Street in Dundalk taking the No. 22 bus to Memorial Stadium to see his Colts teams play in 1975-76-77. Then, watching as our team was gone as he led the K-Gun offense in Buffalo.

Then, of course, I got to know Ted Marchibroda when he was named the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens and had a press conference on February 15, 1996.

Marchibroda called my show that day and the audio is here and in the Buy A Toyota Audio Vault.

He also spent an entire evening with a group of fans at The Barn in May 1997. That chat is also here and will be presented on WNST.net & AM 1570 radio this week.

We join everyone associated with both the Colts and Ravens organizations in wishing Ted Marchibroda an eternity of peace and happiness in football heaven.

Ted Marchibroda passed away on January 16th, 2015, at the age of 84.

Marchibroda coached the Baltimore Colts from 1975 through 1979, the Indianapolis Colts from 1992 through 1995, and was hired to coach the newly relocated Baltimore Ravens in 1996. He coached in Baltimore for three years, and was considered by many Baltimore football fans as the perfect head coach to serve as a bridge as the team transitioned from Indianapolis to Baltimore. Known as an offensive innovator, Marchibroda is a highly respected figure in the game.

My first chat with Ted Marchibroda in February of 1996 before the Ravens had ever played a game in Baltimore – before they even had a name!

Hear us discuss Vinny Testaverde, Art Modell, expectations for the Ravens in year 1, and look ahead to the draft which ultimately produced Ray Lewis and Jon Ogden.

Listen here:

In May of 1997, Ted sat down with me once again after having coached the Ravens to a 4-12 record in their inaugural season in Baltimore.

Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of their conversation here:

 

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Ravens continue chasing ghost at left tackle position

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has used high draft picks, made trades, and even handed out long-term contracts, but the same pursuit continues beyond a stopgap or two.

He’s still chasing the on-field ghost of Jonathan Ogden, the Hall of Fame left tackle and the first player selected in the history of the franchise with the fourth pick of the 1996 draft. With every passing year, appreciation grows deeper for what Ogden did for more than a decade as they complete their eighth season since his retirement at the end of the 2007 campaign.

Finding a future Hall of Famer at the position is one thing, but Newsome and the Ravens would settle for a guy who they can pencil into the lineup for the next four or five years and be able to sleep well at night.

Not counting backups filling in due to injuries, there’s been Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Eugene Monroe, none holding down the position for more than a season or two before concerns resurface. Fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele has become the latest man to receive a shot as he started his first NFL game at left tackle in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Osemele will remain at left tackle for the final three games of 2015, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“I thought he looked good. There are some things that he can do better,” Harbaugh said. “Sometimes the sets and the angles and the timing the movement, sometimes it’s something that he’ll get a feel for more and more as he plays. But he had lots of good blocks [in] pass protection and the run game. I thought he was a bright spot.”

A left tackle at Iowa State before being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Osemele expressed his enjoyment for the position after Sunday’s 35-6 loss, but the Ravens may only be enhancing the lineman’s value on the open market instead of finding a long-term solution for themselves. With a less-than-enviable salary cap situation going into the offseason, Newsome signed four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a four-year extension earlier this fall, leading many to believe that Osemele will receive a big payday elsewhere.

Even if the above-average guard looks the part of a long-term left tackle over these final three games, there’s still the matter of what the Ravens will do with Monroe, who is only in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that clearly hasn’t worked out. Placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury over the weekend, Monroe has started just 17 games over the last two seasons and finished only three of the six contests he started this season.

Though he’s generally been solid when he’s played over the last two years, his performance still hasn’t been as strong as it was in 2013 when the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville to acquire him in early October of that season. After concluding that Oher, their 2009 first-round pick, wasn’t suited for the blind side and having concerns about McKinnie’s commitment to the game, the Ravens felt Monroe would finally be the long-term answer they had sought from the time that Ogden retired.

After missing only four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe has missed 17 starts in the last two years, including two playoff games last season. After he left the Nov. 22 game against St. Louis with a shoulder injury, backup James Hurt rolled into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

In addition to Monroe reportedly refusing a simple contract restructuring that would have provided some salary-cap relief this past offseason, his inability to stay on the field at such an important position has frustrated the organization.

“It’s just disappointing, because here’s a guy that you’re counting on, we trade two picks for him, and he has played well,” Harbaugh said. “As he said, he was playing the best football of his career this year when he came back for two or three weeks or whenever he was back. I think that was the most crushing thing for him, because he felt like he was really playing really good football.

“It’s not what we hoped for. We hoped that he’d be in the lineup and playing, and that’s not what he hoped for [either]. Nobody works harder. This guy trains like you can’t believe, so it’s a tough deal.”

Many fans are clamoring for Monroe to be released in the offseason as he is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and carry an $8.7 million figure for 2016. Cutting him with a pre-June 1 designation would save $2.1 million in cap space while leaving $6.6 million in dead money, a sizable chunk considering the many weaknesses Baltimore will need to address on both sides of the ball before next season. A post June-1 designation would push most of that dead money to 2017, but the Ravens would not be able to take advantage of that cap space until most free-agent activity would long be over.

Even if Newsome and the Ravens elect to move on from Monroe, it remains unclear whether Osemele would be within their price range, making it possible that they could turn to the draft to find their answer. Currently set to pick in the top five of April’s draft, the Ravens may find Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley as attractive — and more affordable — options at left tackle with their first pick.

Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Ravens find themselves back in an all-too-familiar position.

They’re still trying to replace No. 75.

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An important #WNSTSweet16 during an important week for the Ravens

Posted on 06 May 2014 by Luke Jones

After taking a look at the rare not-so-great draft moments in the history of the Baltimore Ravens a week ago, this week’s #WNSTSweet16 recognizes an abundance of riches in ranking the most important draft picks in franchise history.

Though recent years have produced more singles and doubles than triples and home runs as they relate to the work of general manager Ozzie Newsome and his talented front office, the Ravens’ immense success over the first 18 years of their existence should be attributed first and foremost to the draft and an ability to recognize talent to fit their vision of a winning franchise. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said last week that luck is a significant factor in finding impact talent year after year, but a simple look at this week’s list shows that 11 of the 16 choices came in the first round, a reflection of just how rarely the Ravens have missed early in the draft.

It’s important to reiterate this week’s list covers the most important — not necessarily the best — draft picks as certain selections came at critical junctures for a franchise that already boasts two Super Bowl championships in its young history. A simple question to ask in determining a draft pick’s importance was, “How critical was this player to winning a championship or at least enjoying an extended run of success?”

Cracking the top five is no easy task as the Ravens already claim one Hall of Fame player selected with their first ever draft pick while two other first-round choices are slam dunks for Canton in the not-so-distant future.

Without further ado, I present the #WNSTSweet16 Most Important Draft Picks in Ravens History:

Continue to next page for No. 16

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Modell left off Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist list

Posted on 21 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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After being included in the list of finalists for only the second time last year, late Ravens owner Art Modell will wait at least another year for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Modell, who passed away in 2012, did not make the list of semifinalists for the Class of 2014 revealed Wednesday night. He had been named a semifinalist in eight of the previous nine years and was also a finalist in 2001. Despite being regarded as a pioneer in envisioning television playing a major role in taking the NFL to unprecedented heights, Modell’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame has been thwarted on multiple occasions in the past because of the controversial move from Cleveland to Baltimore.

Former Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden was inducted last season, an announcement that came in New Orleans the night before the Ravens won their second Super Bowl title in early February.

Here’s the list of 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2014:

Morten Andersen, Steve Atwater, Jerome Bettis, Derrick Brooks, Tim Brown, Don Coryell, Roger Craig, Terrell Davis, Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Marvin Harrison, Joe Jacoby, Jimmy Johnson, Walter Jones, John Lynch, Karl Mecklenburg, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Michael Strahan, Paul Tagliabue, Aeneas Williams, Steve Wisniewski, George Young

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