Category Archives: 2014 NFL Free Agency

Ravens Move on Without Jimmy Smith

Chris Schisler

As if two consecutive division game losses wasn’t enough, the Ravens got devastating news today. Baltimore will be without one of their best players, Jimmy Smith, who had season ending surgery. Smith’s absence was felt majorly in the Ravens loss in Pittsburgh. The Ravens have quite the challenge in front of them. This was the one player the Ravens defense could not lose, as their secondary was already thin.

The Ravens have no answer in terms of personnel. They will lean on the players they have. Ladarius Webb is a good corner. The Ravens promoted Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad and signed Danny Gorrrer off waivers. These players will help with depth and fill the nickel position. There is no replacing a top tier corner like Jimmy Smith at this point in the season.

With no answer on the depth chart, it is up to Dean Pees to make up for it schematically. Expect a heavy dose of zone blitzing from Baltimore’s defense. The Ravens need to get pass rush to compensate for their struggling secondary. They also have very few players who can hold their own in man coverage with top NFL pass catchers.

The expectations should not be all that high for the Ravens defensive unit. The Ravens have to play Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill in the coming weeks. The schedule looks a little tougher, knowing Smith will miss each game. The offense will very likely have to carry the team.

The Ravens play in Baltimore this Sunday against Tennessee. We will certainly see how resilient this team is. They are definitely due for some good news.

NFL Draft Q&A

NFL Draft Q&A
-Chris Schisler
Question 1 is submitted by Joe Wedra (@JoeWedra): Thoughts on Bridgewater’s stock?

My Answer: Now that the draft is in May many players are victims of over analysis and nitpicking. Bridgewater is one of these victims. A month ago he was considered the cream of the QB crop, now some people see him as a second rounder. Fortunately for the Louisville quarterback I don’t think NFL decision maker’s evaluations have changed that dramatically. Players are evaluated mostly by what they do on the football field, when it matters. Bridgewater has more strengths and less problems in his game than Johnny Football or Blake Bortles in my opinion. Bridgewater has arm talent and was accurate on tape against tight coverage. He extends plays with his athletic ability, but maintains a passer looking down field. I also see him as a more pro-ready quarterback who forced less throws than Manziel and Bortles. If you told me that Bridgewater’s stock has fallen slightly below Manziel and Bortles, I can buy that. To say that he is not a first round quarterback however is ridiculous. The tape speaks for itself.
Question 2 is submitted by Tracy Cole (@Tracy_Cole65): Will the Ravens draft a quarterback and what round will they do it?
My Answer: The Ravens are in the market for a backup quarterback. It seems like they are done with Tyrod Taylor as he has shown to be incompetent under center. I am of the opinion though that the Ravens would rather add a veteran backup than a rookie. If I am wrong the Ravens would draft a quarterback in the later rounds. It seems likely that TJ Yates or David Carr could be free agent options- two former Houston Texans that know Kubiak’s system.
Question 3 is submitted by Greg Embert (@greg_embert): Have the Ravens done enough in free agency to allow them to draft best player available in round 1?
My Answer: Greg, I think so. The Ravens got quite a lot done in free agency. They resigned key players and added a weapon in Steve Smith as well as a reliable tight end in Owen Daniels. Going into the draft Baltimore has only two desperate needs, a right tackle and a free safety. I don’t think the Ravens are drafting a tackle in round 1; right tackles can be found later in the draft. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is available at 17 that would have to be the selection. There is however a more than likely chance that Clinton-Dix is taken before the Ravens pick. The Ravens could trade down if this happens. However I think they would have no problem picking the best player available. The Ravens may have only two pressing needs, but they could use good football players at a variety of positions. At pick 17 Baltimore needs value. They will draft the best player on their board to ensure they get it.
Question 4 is from Kristofer A. Nichols (KristoferA_): How far do you think Lewan drops because of off the field issues:
My Answer: I don’t think Lewan will fall far. From an athletic standpoint you could argue that Lewan is the second best left tackle prospect. Lewan is young and he made a mistake; I won’t crucify him for that. Will there be a team who won’t touch him because of it? Sure. But NFL ball clubs are about what can you do for me- Lewan can do a lot for them. I see Lewan as a first round pick however I think he falls outside of the top 10.
Question 5 is from Jim Brookshire (JDBrooks07): Do you see many first round trades?
My Answer: There are always a few trades in the first round; some years there are more than others. This does not look to be a trade heavy first round in my opinion. Houston seemingly wants to trade the first selection, but it’s hard to imagine them having any takers. There are several players worthy of a number 1 selection. I don’t see anyone desperate enough to make a big splash to get Clowney because it is such a good draft class. I could see trades in the middle of the first round. The 49ers, Patriots or Panthers may try to trade into the late teens to grab a stud receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. The Ravens may trade back if Clinton-Dix is unavailable. This is the most unpredictable part of the draft.
Question 6: Comes from Rob The Elite Wizard (@SupermanRob2914): If the Ravens trade down who would be their targets later in the first round?
My Answer: If the Ravens trade back I think they would target Calvin Pryor the safety out of Louisville. I think the Ravens would hesitate to draft Pryor at 17 but at pick 25 they’d do it with ease. They could also be targeting a guy like Devante Adams or Ra’Shede Hageman.
Question 7: Comes from Andrew Maas: (@AMAAS): Despite what Ozzie said at this week’s presser do you think Rice’s situation makes them draft a RB early in the draft?
My answer: Andrew, NFL GM’s are known to lie before the draft, especially the good ones like Ozzie Newsome. That said I don’t think the Ravens draft a running back until the third round. They have more pressing needs and I don’t think anyone will take a runningback until round two. The Ravens will draft one in the third or fourth round.

Ask Mud Dog Anything Ravens Offseason Edition

By Chris Schisler (@footballman58)

Question 1 comes from Orioles Rob (@SupermanRob2914): If the Ravens part ways with Ray Rice who is a possible draft replacement?
Rob, this is a very good question. First off let me say I doubt the Ravens part ways with Ray Rice. The Ravens have stood behind players in the past and it makes little business sense to let go of Rice. Rice however will be suspended. The Ravens will get some cap space back from the games Rice is serving his suspension. The reason that this is such a great question is that the Ravens may look for a replacement for Rice anyway. The Ravens veteran rusher is coming off his worst statistical season. With running backs it is always better to find a replacement sooner than later, as the position’s shelf life is so short. It is also good to have several backs with different skill sets to make a running back by committee situation.

Bernard Pierce is still young and has a promising career in front of him and it would seem like the bulk of the workload would fall to him. Here are three to be rookie rushers the Ravens may want to put in their backfield.

1.) Charles Simms, WVU: Simms was one of the few bright spots on the Mountaineer offense. He has great vision and is a natural runner. Simms was the sparkplug that West Virginia so desperately needed. This is a flat out playmaker.

2.) Bishop Sankey, Washington: Sankey averaged 5.8 yards per carry last season. Sankey is a physical runner who gets yards after contact. Sankey reminds me of a more shifty Marshawn Lynch.

3.) Terrance West, Towson: The Ravens drafting Terrance West would be such a beautiful moment. West walked on to the local Towson Tigers football program. Given nothing, Terrance West earned his place in college football. West is a hard runner and has an intriguing combination of speed and size. He is a very patient runner. It is hard not to be a fan of this local running back.

Question 2 comes from Dave S (@BaltimoreDaveS): What do you see the Ravens doing in the first round?

Dave, I think we have to get Joe Flacco a dominant pass catching machine of a player. This is the offense’s off season, there is little question of that. The selection is dependent on who is on the board. If Mike Evans is available it is hard to imagine the Ravens passing on him. If Evans is not on the board two players that would make sense would be Eric Ebron and Odell Beckham Jr. Eric Ebron is a freakishly gifted athlete and as a tight end is a matchup nightmare for any defense. Beckham Jr. is a speedy play maker with all the physical tools you look for in a wide receiver.

Question 3 comes from Regan Yant (@ReganFP). By the way everyone should check out Regan’s awesome site fakepigskin.com

Regan asks: Which player helped their draft stock at the combine?

Regan, I will give you three players, because I’m in a good mood.

1.) Devante Adams, WR Fresno St: Adams has a lot of competition in this year’s draft class. The combine is where Adams knew he needed to make a statement. Adams had a 38.5 inch vertical jump which was the third best among receiver prospects. NFL decision makers will be ecxited about what he can do in the red zone with a jumping ability like that.

2.) Taylor Lewan OT Michigan: Lewan ran the fastest 40 of any offensive lineman in this year’s combine. He also did well in the drills. There was some concern about Taylor Lewan because he is still a little raw as a tackle. I think the NFL saw what it needed to see from Lewan. He has too much physical talent to pass up on the opportunity to draft him.

3.) Michael Sam Pass Rusher Missouri: Going into the combine the biggest story was Michael Sam on his path to being the first openly gay football player. In uncharted territory the media was obsessed with this story. In his time at the podium Michael Sam was asked question after question about his orientation. Sam was poised and calm and answered the questions with a smile. It became very clear that the league did not care that he was gay but the media was desperate to make it an issue. Any notion that drafting Michael Sam would cause problems was put to rest as he came off as a very likable and focused young man. The way he handled himself was a huge thing for his draft stock in my opinion.

Regan also asks: What player hurt their draft stock at the combine?
Without a doubt this is Cyrus Kuandijo. The Alabama offensive tackle has been reported to fail multiple team physicals. His 40 time was horrible and his bench press numbers were uninspiring. This is the worst possible combine for the offensive tackle that many believed to be a first round draft pick.

@BBlack_9 asks: What free agent center do you think the Ravens will target?
I think if Alex Mack hits the open market the Ravens would want to go get him. Not only would the Ravens be getting a good player at a much needed position but they would steal him from their divisional rival the Cleveland Browns. Evan Dietrich-Smith would be the other option if he does not resign in Green Bay.

Robert Ellingsworth (@BY1959) asks: Does the raise in salary cap keep the Ravens from having to use the franchise tag, would they use it on Arthur Jones?

The cap raise of 5% helps, but it does not eliminate the franchise tag as an option. I do not think the Ravens would tag Arthur Jones. Jones is an expensive luxury when you have a lot of talent on the defensive line with or without him. I still believe the Ravens are reserving the franchise tag for Dennis Pitta, if they cannot agree to a long term contract. This whole WR/ TE dispute has complicated the matter. The Ravens best bet is signing Pitta to a long term deal before March 3rd.

Is Jonathan Martin An Option For Ravens?

By Chris Schisler

Jonathan Martin is eyeing a return to football following his controversial departure from the Miami Dolphins. It does not look like Martin could or would want to return to Miami. However he is still under his 4 year rookie contract that was inked in 2012. One way or another it looks like Martin could play for another team next season. The Ravens are desperate for offensive tackles. The question remains is Martin an option for the Ravens?

Martin’s contract would be affordable for the Ravens to take on. Martin would fill a gaping whole on the Ravens roster; assuming Michael Oher is not resigned to play right tackle. If Martin is allowed to pursue other NFL employment I would think he would be appealing to Baltimore.

Martin would come with some pretty heavy baggage. Many people question if Martin will ever be truly accepted in an NFL locker room. Martin who felt bullied by Richie Incognito and others in Miami, removed himself from the situation. Some see this as a man doing what he had to do to take care of himself. I would think the majority of NFL players thought Martin abandoned his team and caused trouble.

This is something I think the Ravens are built to deal with. John Harbaugh is a players coach. There is no situation he will shy away from- that is just not in the Harbaugh DNA. If players did not want to embrace Martin, Harbaugh would ease the situation. If Martin was an actual cause of problems Harbaugh would not tolerate it. The Ravens have had strong chemistry in the Harbaugh era. It is also worth noting that the Ravens are a model organization and the Dolphins have not been one for a long time.

I think Martin is misunderstood and troubled. I believe the relationships in the Dolphins team crossed the line. Martin felt uncomfortable and he removed himself from the problem. If Jonathan Martin did not feel safe going to work or was dealing with crisis, who are we to judge how he dealt with it?

I don’t believe this was a money grab. This situation is going to cause him problems on some level anywhere he goes. The good career move would have been to handle the bullying in house and play well. Jonathan Martin did not feel like he could manage that. Martin needed help and did not trust the organization to give it to him.

Bullying is something I believe can happen in any environment. We tend to think of it as something that goes extinct after we leave the middle school playground; forgetting that it can affect people of all ages. If I have learned anything in my short 23 years it is that the human condition is very fragile. The emotions associated with bullying can have dramatic impacts on health and can lead to depression and suicide.

I have no clue what happened. None of us really do. If Martin was bullied his actions made sense. He snapped after a long and constant exposure to being bullied. He felt isolated and trapped and he did not see any solution to his problem; depression tends to blind people to proper perspective. If he was in fact bullied his actions are not that hard to understand.

No matter what you believe happened you should be willing to give Martin a return into the NFL. The Ravens have always been willing to give second chances. The organization stood by Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis through legal issues. When they believe in a player the Ravens have no problem giving him a second chance. If general manager Ozzie Newsome values Martin he will not hesitate to get him in purple, at the right price.

Martin is a decent tackle, and would be a good tackle to play opposite of left tackle Eugene Monroe. He won’t break the bank. Why wouldn’t the Ravens at least be interested in Jonathan Martin? He would fill a void on the roster. For now it’s just an interesting option to consider.