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Ravens offensive lineman Hurst suspended four games for PED violation

Posted on 14 February 2020 by Luke Jones

Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst has been suspended for the first four games of the 2020 regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The league announced the ban Friday as Hurst will still be permitted to take part in all summer practices and preseason games before serving his suspension and being permitted to return to the team facility on the Monday after Baltimore’s fourth regular-season contest. How this impacts his roster status remains to be seen, however, as he’s scheduled to make $4 million in base salary and carry a $5.25 million salary cap number for 2020, lofty numbers for a backup who made two starts and appeared in 16 games last season. Entering the third season of a four-year, $17.5 million contract, Hurst, 28, wouldn’t be paid during his suspension with that portion of his salary being credited back to the Ravens’ cap.

This news brings sharper focus to general manager Eric DeCosta’s decision to re-sign Andre Smith to a one-year deal last week. The Ravens added the veteran offensive tackle to their 53-man roster the week of the season-ending playoff loss to Tennessee last month, but Smith was a healthy scratch for the game and graded as one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last season after starting five games for Cincinnati.

The suspension puts Hurst in a more vulnerable position as many had already begun speculating about the possibility of him being a cap casualty this offseason. The Ravens would save $2.75 million in cap space by releasing the veteran lineman, but he has started games at multiple positions along the offensive line in his career and has been a versatile game-day reserve over his six NFL seasons. Even if Baltimore elects to keep Hurst for the time being, his performance in the spring and summer — along with how Smith fares — could determine whether he makes the roster at the conclusion of the preseason.

Hurst played a career-low 195 offensive snaps last season, but he garnered strong Week 15 reviews playing in place of Pro Bowl selection Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, a position at which Hurst had struggled mightily in the past.

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Extending Stanley should be one of Ravens’ top offseason priorities

Posted on 10 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens tried to get the left tackle position right for a long time after Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden’s retirement more than a decade ago.

University of Maryland product Jared Gaither flashed some early promise before fizzling out due to injuries and work ethic concerns. Michael Oher was a versatile gamer, but he was better at right tackle, which wasn’t what the Ravens envisioned for their 2009 first-round pick. Veteran Bryant McKinnie played well in 2011 and had a terrific 2012 postseason run, but the 30-something was never a long-term solution. The lucrative contract awarded to former Jacksonville first-round pick Eugene Monroe after a half-season of good play in Baltimore was a disaster.

But the Ravens finally nailed it with the sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft, selecting Ronnie Stanley out of Notre Dame. It wasn’t a flashy choice as future Pro Bowl selections Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jalen Ramsey had just come off the board with the previous three picks and Baltimore had given Monroe a five-year, $37.5 million contract with $17.5 million guaranteed only two years earlier, but the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Stanley was rock solid from Day 1 and has only gotten better.

That was obvious in 2019 as Stanley took his above-average game to another level, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl — he was a second alternate in 2018 — and being a first-team All-Pro selection in his fourth professional season. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best left tackle in the NFL, first among all offensive tackles in pass blocking, and 10th among all offensive tackles in run blocking. Stanley’s overall PFF grade steadily improved over his first three seasons before rising to an elite level, the kind of bump many had wanted to see as he moved a year closer to free agency.

“He has improved in everything he does,” said offensive coordinator Greg Roman after Stanley was named to the Pro Bowl in December. “I think a big part of that is improving every aspect of his preparation. The knowledge he’s accrued over the last couple of years, he’s a very intelligent young man. He’s really putting it to use. His consistency this year has been outstanding, which makes him deserving of that honor.

“He’s a constant work in progress, but run, pass, communication, assignment, technique, everything, he’s just really pushing the envelope every day on. It’s really showing on the field, and he’s a very important, key contributor to what we do.”

The focus of any offseason is understandably on new additions and a team’s own free agents scheduled to hit the open market, but that doesn’t mean extending Stanley, who remains under contract through 2020, isn’t a top priority by the time the Ravens kick off their 25th campaign in Baltimore this fall. Even if eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda returns for a 14th season, Stanley’s superb play and leadership shouldn’t be taken for granted with the rest of the starting offensive line all 26 year old or younger. And despite dealing with some nagging injuries at different points, Stanley has missed just three games due to injury — two because of concussions — over the last three seasons combined.

But he won’t come cheap. It’s difficult to quantify just how much MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson helps his offensive line by putting dual-threat stress on defensive fronts, but Stanley surrendered only six pressures all year and had a pass-blocking win rate of 98.7 percent, according to PFF. Those numbers trumped his peers by such a margin that dismissing his elite play solely because of Jackson’s presence would be patently unfair.

In other words, Stanley’s representation has every right to ask that he become the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL, especially since he won’t even turn 26 until next month. If you’re looking for a negotiating starting point, Tennessee and Taylor Lewan agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract that included $34 million fully guaranteed in the summer of 2018 when the left tackle was also entering his fifth-year option season, had two Pro Bowls under his belt, and was a year older than Stanley is now.

With the salary cap having risen more than $20 million since 2018 and the NFL entering the final year of its current collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens allowing Stanley to hit the open market next offseason could yield a similar result to last March when the New York Jets turned the market on its head by giving ex-Raven C.J. Mosley an $85 million contract with a $17 million average annual value, numbers that demolished the previous bests at the inside linebacker position. Stanley is set to make $12.866 million this season after general manager Eric DeCosta exercised his fifth-year option last spring.

Of course, it takes two sides to make a deal, but the Ravens doing everything they can to lock up a franchise left tackle to continue protecting their MVP quarterback in the midst of his rookie contract sounds like a no-brainer. It will be expensive, but Baltimore can’t afford to risk losing such a key piece to its record-setting offense, especially with Yanda walking away sooner than later.

Stanley isn’t Ogden — no one playing today is — but he’s the closest the Ravens have come at left tackle since the Hall of Famer hung up his cleats more than a decade ago. That’s just not the kind of player you let go after searching for him for so long.

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Ravens re-sign veteran offensive tackle Andre Smith to one-year deal

Posted on 06 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens retained a veteran depth option for their offensive line by re-signing offensive tackle Andre Smith to a one-year deal on Thursday.

The 33-year-old has appeared in 116 contests (98 starts) in an NFL career spent primarily with Cincinnati and signed with Baltimore last month before being inactive for the divisional playoff loss to Tennessee. The sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft from Alabama, Smith has primarily played right tackle in his career, but he started five games at left tackle for the Bengals in 2019 and would have graded 74th among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus had he played enough snaps to qualify.

Veteran James Hurst served as the primary backup to Pro Bowl starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. last season, but the 28-year-old is scheduled to make $4 million in base salary and the Ravens could save $2.75 million in salary cap space by releasing him this offseason. Smith would be a cheaper option if he proves to be reliable enough in the spring and summer as he enters his 12th NFL season.

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound lineman had brief stops with Arizona and Minnesota in addition to having three different stints with the Bengals over his career.

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Examining Ravens’ top 10 salary cap numbers for 2020

Posted on 04 February 2020 by Luke Jones

Coming off the best regular season in franchise history, general manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens will try to take the next step in 2020 with NFL MVP Lamar Jackson entering only his third year.

We know the draft is the lifeblood of any organization wanting to find long-term prosperity, but teams need to receive appropriate production from their highest-paid veterans to maintain a balanced roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl championship. As of right now, the Ravens will devote just under $107 million in 2020 salary cap space to the 10 players possessing the highest cap numbers. The 2020 salary cap hasn’t yet been set, but it’s projected to rise from $188.2 million in 2019 to an estimated $200 million.

Below is a look at those 10 Baltimore players:

1. S Earl Thomas
2020 Week 1 age: 31
2020 cap number: $15 million
Synopsis: It may not have been a spectacular first season in Baltimore for the longtime Seattle Seahawk, but Thomas played well in the process of being named to his seventh Pro Bowl and being graded 16th among qualified safeties by Pro Football Focus. Another year in Wink Martindale’s defensive system should only increase his comfort level, but it’s always fair to wonder how the speed and range of any defensive back over the age of 30 will hold up, especially with Thomas owning the third-highest cap number among NFL safeties for 2020 and being signed through 2022.

1. CB Marcus Peters
2020 Week 1 age: 27
2020 cap number: $15 million
Synopsis: The acquisition of Peters from the Los Angeles Rams was probably the best in-season trade in the NFL this past year, but DeCosta signing the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback to a three-year, $42 million extension made the deal even better as Peters very likely would have done better on the open market. Grading fourth among qualified cornerbacks by PFF, Peters teams with fellow Pro Bowl selection Marlon Humphrey to give Baltimore one of the NFL’s best corner duos. Not resetting the market with Peters will help the Ravens’ future cap situation when it’s time to extend Humphrey.

3. DT Brandon Williams
2020 Week 1 age: 31
2020 cap number: $14.17 million
Synopsis: Projected to have the ninth-highest cap number among NFL interior defensive linemen in 2020, Williams hasn’t provided the best value on a five-year, $52.5 million contract that runs through 2021, but he remains one of the better run-stopping defensive linemen in the league. His presence will be even more important this coming season as the Ravens defense is likely to see much turnover with its front seven, which may include the free-agent exit of Michael Pierce. Williams’ cap number would be a bigger concern if not for the cap flexibility the Ravens have with a star quarterback still on a rookie deal.

4. OT Ronnie Stanley
2020 Week 1 age: 26
2020 cap number: $12.866 million
Synopsis: Widely regarded as the best left tackle in the NFL this season as a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection, Stanley remains a bargain even with his fifth-year option as he currently owns just the 12th-highest cap number among left tackles for 2020. Signing the 2016 first-round pick to a long-term extension should be the top priority of the offseason among Baltimore players still under contract for 2020, but that may require making Stanley the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL. His age and performance this past season would certainly warrant such a demand from his representation.

5. S Tony Jefferson
2020 Week 1 age: 28
2020 cap number: $11.657 million
Synopsis: A popular locker room guy and a solid player in 2018, Jefferson suffered a serious knee injury in early October and was replaced by Chuck Clark, who emerged as a key piece of the defense and was seen as an upgrade at a fraction of the cost. Even if Jefferson were completely healthy, his status would have been in doubt as the Ravens can save $7 million in both cash and cap savings by releasing him this offseason. It’s tough envisioning a scenario in which Jefferson returns at anything but a dramatically reduced rate as his four-year, $34 million deal signed in 2017 hasn’t worked out as Baltimore planned.

6. G Marshal Yanda
2020 Week 1 age: 35
2020 cap number: $11 million
Synopsis: The only question here is whether the eight-time Pro Bowl lineman will return for a 14th season as Yanda remains one of the best guards in the NFL and carries the sixth-highest cap number among right guards for the 2020 season. The 2007 third-round pick retiring would create $7 million in cap savings for the Ravens, but it would open up a significant hole on the offensive line for the league’s top-ranked scoring offense. Yanda graded fourth among all qualified guards by PFF and looks like an eventual Hall of Famer, whether he continues playing or not.

7. CB Tavon Young
2020 Week 1 age: 26
2020 cap number: $8 million
Synopsis: The slot cornerback has shown much potential when he’s been able to stay on the field, but he’s appeared in just 15 games over the last three seasons and will be returning from a neck injury that cost him the entire 2019 campaign, creating some understandable concern about his value after he signed a lucrative extension last offseason. Young’s presence will allow the Ravens to move Humphrey back to an outside cornerback spot, strengthening a secondary that was already very strong this past season. There’s still upside at work with Young that the Ravens need to see come to fruition in 2020.

8. CB Brandon Carr
2020 Week 1 age: 34
2020 cap number: $7 million
Synopsis: His transition to a versatile safety role in sub packages should help Carr extend his playing career, but whether the Ravens elect to exercise their 2020 option on the veteran defensive back remains to be seen. With fellow veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, his status figures to impact what happens with Carr as both returning would seem unlikely. Baltimore would save $6 million in cap space by declining Carr’s option, but a respected and versatile veteran role player still chasing a Super Bowl ring might be amenable to returning at a reduced rate.

9. TE Nick Boyle
2020 Week 1 age: 27
2020 cap number: $6.833 million
Synopsis: His unique fit in Greg Roman’s run-first offense makes Boyle challenging to value as it relates to the other 31 teams, but the Ravens have no complaints about his 2019 production as he set new career highs in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions after inking a three-year, $18 million contract last offseason. The 2015 fifth-round pick from Delaware remains one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, grading 11th overall among qualified tight ends by PFF. He’s fondly referred to as a sixth offensive lineman on the field and provides some leadership for a very young offense.

10. WR Willie Snead
2020 Week 1 age: 27
2020 cap number: $5.412 million
Synopsis: Snead was extended through 2020 despite his catches and receiving yards falling off substantially from his first year in Baltimore. His ability to make plays from the slot is compromised by the Ravens’ frequent use of tight ends over the middle of the field, but Snead’s veteran presence and blocking ability are valued in such a young and unique offensive attack. DeCosta would seemingly like to add another impactful wide receiver to go with 2019 first-round pick Marquise Brown this offseason, a development that could further impact Snead’s role.

Next up:
11. RB Mark Ingram ($5.333 million)
12. OL James Hurst ($5.25 million)
13. K Justin Tucker ($5.1 million)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of Super Bowl LIV

Posted on 23 January 2020 by Luke Jones

With a number of Ravens players and coaches at the Pro Bowl this week and the organization shifting into offseason mode, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The disappointment of an early playoff exit remains, but seeing Lamar Jackson interact with young fans and other players in Orlando is a reminder of how special this season was for the MVP quarterback. Even if it is just the Pro Bowl, the 23-year-old having that stage is pretty great.

2. Six weeks ago, Terrell Suggs was playing out the string for a last-place team and his former team was the clear Super Bowl favorite. The 37-year-old being the one to play for an NFL championship next week is your latest reminder that sports are weird sometimes.

3. After rushing for 297 yards and one touchdown from 2015-18, Raheem Mostert ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship game. There’s no need for an indictment of the Ravens or the five other teams with which the 27-year-old played before San Francisco to appreciate this story.

4. Eric DeCosta must prepare for life without Marshal Yanda, but the Ravens shouldn’t pressure the eight-time Pro Bowl guard into a decision anytime soon. Jonathan Ogden didn’t make his final call on retirement until June. You can always make room for an elite player’s return.

5. Job situations are fluid this time of year, but the coaching staff remaining intact is surprising. That really speaks to the working environment created by John Harbaugh and how the organization has taken care of its assistants.

6. I see no reason why Matthew Judon wouldn’t hit the market, but I’m curious how Baltimore’s need at outside linebacker and Za’Darius Smith’s performance in Green Bay might impact Judon’s valuation. Yes, we’ll hear “right player, right price,” but that’s always a moving target involving many variables.

7. Skepticism remains when it comes to wide receiver, but the goal should be an impact addition to help this offense play off schedule like it was forced to do in the playoff loss. Whether that’s a veteran or someone from a deep wide receiver draft class remains to be seen.

8. After finishing sixth or better for seven straight seasons in Rick Gosselin’s renowned special teams rankings, Baltimore fell to 27th. Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens 10th in special-teams efficiency and 24th in weighted efficiency, reflecting late-season struggles. There’s some work to do in that phase this offseason.

9. Harbaugh said the Ravens had their “best year” in terms of injuries, which is debatable after a really healthy 2018. Credit goes to their efforts revamping their strength, conditioning, and nutrition programs, but luck is also a factor, which picks at the wound of a 14-2 team not advancing further.

10. Nearly $30 million in salary cap space prompts much discussion about free agents, but extending Ronnie Stanley should be a top priority with Marlon Humphrey on deck. A new Jackson contract could come as soon as next year. Outside additions are great, but keeping this core together is paramount.

11. Harbaugh said he’d probably go the other way handling Week 17 if Baltimore is back in that spot. Correlation doesn’t imply causation. Rust was a possible factor, but Jackson taking the shots Pittsburgh gave Robert Griffin III and getting hurt in a meaningless game would have definitely been a factor.

12. Asked about any perception that Tennessee had solved his offense, Harbaugh said, “If you think anybody has the answer in football, just wait until the next week and you’ll find out.” The Ravens may not go 14-2 again or break records in 2020, but the future remains very promising.

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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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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) hands off to running back Mark Ingram (21) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 22 December 2019 by Luke Jones

The records and honors continue to pile up for the NFL’s best team, but the Ravens have a simple objective in the penultimate game of the regular season.

A win over Cleveland locks up the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, something the Ravens haven’t enjoyed in their accomplished history dating back to 1996. Topping the Browns would also give Baltimore its 13th win of the regular season, matching the 2006 team for the most in franchise history.

A victory is paramount, but the Ravens can continue to rewrite the record book Sunday as Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson is just one touchdown shy of setting a new franchise record for touchdown passes while running back Mark Ingram is 37 yards shy of giving Baltimore just the seventh 1,000-yard rushing duo in NFL history. Jackson and Ingram would be the first teammates to do that since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina in 2009.

As expected, Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start after missing the Week 15 win over the New York Jets due to a concussion. Stanley had been officially listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he was a full participant in practice all week, eliminating uncertainty about his status.

Reserve inside linebacker Chris Board (concussion) is also active after sitting out in Week 15.

There were no other surprises on Baltimore’s inactives list with an unusually healthy roster at this late stage of the season.

Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) is inactive for the sixth time in the last seven games, which doesn’t help a Cleveland front that’s already without suspended Pro Bowl pass rusher Myles Garrett. Tight end David Njoku was a healthy scratch for the Browns.

Sunday’s referee is Alex Kemp.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cleveland calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their white jerseys with black pants while the Browns don brown tops and brown pants for their home finale.

Sunday marks the 42nd all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with the Ravens enjoying a lopsided 30-11 advantage. Baltimore is 19-4 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, but the Browns are aiming to salvage a disappointing season with their first season sweep of the Ravens since 2007.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Anthony Averett
CB Iman Marshall
OL Parker Ehinger
DT Justin Ellis
G Ben Powers

CLEVELAND
DE Olivier Vernon
TE David Njoku
WR Taywan Taylor
S J.T. Hassell
OT Kendall Lamm
G Drew Forbes
TE Pharaoh Brown

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Ravens’ health “best we’ve been all year” ahead of trip to Cleveland

Posted on 20 December 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — December is often a month of attrition in the NFL as the grueling 16-game regular season winds down, but don’t ask the Ravens about that.

Riding a 10-game winning streak and needing a victory in Cleveland on Sunday to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Baltimore didn’t have a single player absent or even limited in practices for health-related reasons this week, the first time all season. That’s not to say the Ravens haven’t suffered their share of injuries along the way, but a 12-2 team already viewed as the Super Bowl favorite couldn’t ask for better health at this late stage of the regular season.

“The best we’ve been all year that way. Everybody is practicing [fully],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s pretty unusual. First time, I think it’s happened for us this year — I think. You guys will have to go back and make sure that’s true, but they’ve done a great job of taking care of themselves. A couple days [off after the Thursday game] did help us, and now we have to go make it matter on Sunday afternoon.”

The Ravens officially listed left tackle Ronnie Stanley and reserve inside linebacker Chris Board as questionable for Sunday’s game, but both practiced fully all week and are expected to make their return after missing the Week 15 win over the New York Jets due to concussions.

The Browns listed six players as questionable, but all practiced on at least a limited basis on Friday. Defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) is considered a game-time decision after missing five of the last six games, but starting defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (back) and starting center JC Tretter are expected to play for Cleveland.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cleveland calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report for Week 16:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: LB Chris Board (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion)

CLEVELAND
QUESTIONABLE: RB Dontrell Hilliard (neck), OT Kendall Lamm (knee), S Eric Murray (knee), DT Sheldon Richardson (back), C JC Tretter (knee), DE Olivier Vernon (knee)

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Ravens sport clean bill of health ahead of Sunday’s trip to Cleveland

Posted on 19 December 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILS, Md. — The Ravens haven’t been immune to injuries over the course of 2019, but they couldn’t ask for a much better bill of health entering the penultimate week of the regular season.

Needing a win in Cleveland to clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Baltimore hasn’t had a single player absent or limited during practice for a health-related reason through the week’s first two practices. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley and reserve inside linebacker Chris Board were full participants for the second straight day Thursday after missing last week’s 42-21 win over the New York Jets due to concussions sustained in Week 14.

Navigating their way through a short week for their 10th straight victory last Thursday, the Ravens had the reward of some extra rest last weekend, something that wasn’t taken for granted by even the best team in the NFL this late in the season.

“It’s definitely a positive for us, for any team,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s a plus to get a little bit of time to get healed up and get rested up a little bit. We’ll have to come back and get sharp and make sure we practice really well and just get ready to play the game on Sunday. But I would say all in all, it’s a benefit.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was the only Ravens player not on the practice field Thursday as he received a veteran day off.

The 6-8 Browns couldn’t say the same about their injury outlook as starting defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (back) and starting center JC Tretter (knee) were again absent from practice on Thursday. Both played in last Sunday’s loss at Arizona and appear likely to play against the Ravens.

Nine Cleveland players were listed as limited participants on Thursday, a list including starting wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) and Jarvis Landry (hip), starting right tackle Chris Hubbard (knee), and top cornerback Denzel Ward (ankle). Starting defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) was also limited and has missed five of the last six games.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Chris Board (concussion), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion), S Earl Thomas (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Sheldon Richardson (back), C JC Tretter (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin), LB Tae Davis (knee), RB Dontrell Hilliard (neck), OT Chris Hubbard (knee), OT Kendall Lamm (knee), WR Jarvis Landry (hip), S Eric Murray (knee), DE Olivier Vernon (knee), CB Denzel Ward (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Porter Gustin (neck)

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Jackson headlines list of record 12 Ravens selections for Pro Bowl

Posted on 17 December 2019 by Luke Jones

An NFL-record-tying 12 Ravens players were selected to play in next month’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, but they hope to be busy preparing for a more meaningful game further down the road in Florida the following Sunday.

To no surprise, MVP favorite and NFL leading vote-getter Lamar Jackson was selected as the AFC’s starting quarterback, continuing a historic season in which he currently leads the NFL in touchdown passes (33) and has already set the league’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,103). Jackson, 22, is the first Ravens quarterback to be named the Pro Bowl starter and only the second in their 24-year history to be a Pro Bowl selection, joining Vinny Testaverde in 1996.

Jackson needs one more touchdown pass to surpass Testaverde for the franchise single-season record and currently ranks first in the NFL in adjusted QBR (81.3), first in yards per carry (6.9), first in overall touchdowns (40), third in passer rating (112.8), and eighth in rushing yards. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to produce at least 2,500 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season, but Jackson hopes to lead the 12-2 Ravens to Super Bowl LIV in Miami in lieu of playing in the Pro Bowl.

“This honor is all about my teammates and our coaches, because without them, the success we’ve had as a team wouldn’t be possible,” Jackson said in a statement released by the team. “I’m also grateful for all the fans who continue to support us and who have helped make this season so special. Ultimately, it’s about winning, and we still have a lot of work to do before we accomplish our biggest goals.”

Right guard Marshal Yanda, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and fullback Patrick Ricard were also named starters for the AFC while kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox were named AFC specialists. Tight end Mark Andrews, running back Mark Ingram, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, and safety Earl Thomas round out Baltimore’s list of Pro Bowl selections as reserves.

Named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time in the last nine years, Yanda is now fourth on the Ravens’ all-time Pro Bowl selections list behind Hall of Famers Ray Lewis (13), Jonathan Ogden (11), and Ed Reed (nine). He has led an offensive line that’s blocked for the NFL’s top-ranked scoring and rushing offense as the Ravens have set franchise records for total touchdowns (58), points (472), and rushing yards (2,830). Pro Football Focus has graded Yanda fourth among all NFL guards this season.

“Being voted to the Pro Bowl is an entire team honor — not just the individual,” Yanda said. “And this year, we have a lot of guys who have worked extremely hard and are being rewarded.”

Yanda wasn’t the only Baltimore offensive lineman to make it as left tackle Ronnie Stanley received his first Pro Bowl nod and has graded first among NFL left tackles by PFF. Andrews and Ricard are also first-time selections representing the Ravens offense while Ingram was named to his third career Pro Bowl in his first season with Baltimore.

Ingram is on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards for the third time in his career and ranks fourth in the NFL with 14 total touchdowns scored. Andrews’ eight touchdown receptions lead all NFL tight ends and have set a franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season.

“This is an extreme honor, especially since I’m in my second year,” Andrews said. “I wouldn’t be here without my teammates, particularly our other tight ends — Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst — with everything that we all do on the field. They make my job easier, so this is not an individual award — it’s a team award.”

Humphrey and Judon also received their first Pro Bowl nods in helping lead a Baltimore defense that ranks in the top 10 in most major categories despite a slow start to the season. A 2017 first-round pick, Humphrey is one of six NFL defenders this season to post at least two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Judon has recorded team highs in sacks (8 1/2), tackles for a loss (13), forced fumbles (three), and quarterback hits (29) this season and is one of only three NFL defenders to have at least eight sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles. The honor comes in a contract season for the 2016 fifth-round pick, who’s taken on more of a leadership role after the free-agent departure of longtime Raven Terrell Suggs.

“I was overjoyed when I heard the news,” Judon said. “It was probably one of the most exciting moments of my career so far. We work so hard in this game — everybody on our team has — and it’s just so rewarding. We’ve put in the work, and for so many of us to get recognized like this, it’s a testament to our hard work and our great coaching staff.

“For the fans, the coaches, and the players to say you’re one of the best players in the league this year, it really means a lot.”

Thomas was selected to his first Pro Bowl as a Raven after being named to his first six with the Seattle Seahawks. Acquired in an October trade with the Los Angeles Rams, Peters was named to his third Pro Bowl after returning an NFL-best three interceptions for touchdowns — two with the Ravens — and tying for the third-most interceptions (five) in the league this season.

The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Tucker stands second in the league this season with a 95.8-percent success rate (23-for-24) and has made two game-winning field goals — one in overtime against Pittsburgh in Week 5 and the other coming against San Francisco in Week 13. This is Tucker’s third Pro Bowl selection.

This is Cox’s third Pro Bowl selection as he’s served as the Ravens’ long snapper since 2010. Long snappers were added to the player and coach balloting system for the first time this season after the head coach of each Pro Bowl team would previously select a long snapper as a “need” player.

Nine of Baltimore’s 12 Pro Bowl selections are homegrown players who were either drafted or signed as rookie free agents by the organization. That includes first-round picks selected in three consecutive years: Stanley (2016), Humphrey (2017), and Jackson (2018). The list is certainly headlined by the sensational Jackson, but Ricard may have been the most improbable choice at the beginning of the season since he didn’t appear to even be in the Ravens’ long-term plans at the end of 2018.

“I feel humbled and appreciative because a year ago at this time, I was inactive for the final month of the season and there was outside talk about me not even making the team in 2019,” Ricard said. “I want to give credit to [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman, first and foremost, for transitioning me to fullback three years ago when I was an undrafted defensive lineman.

“Additionally, [tight ends coach Bobby] Engram and [assistant tight ends coach Andy] Bischoff — none of this would be possible without their guidance. But ultimately, I want to thank all the fans and players who voted for me, and I give a great deal of credit to my amazing teammates.”

Punter Sam Koch and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. were named first alternates for the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

The Pro Bowl will be played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Jan. 26, but the Super Bowl takes place at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium a week later on Feb. 2. Any Pro Bowl players whose teams make it to the Super Bowl will be replaced for the exhibition game.

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