The Ravens made the biggest news of the league’s first-round of cuts Sunday when they announced their decision to release 2010 Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff in favor of rookie free agent
While Cundiff would have liked to remain a Raven, he now looks forward to an opportunity with another NFL team and wants to help that city win a Super Bowl.
“I’m disappointed in the decision, but I’m excited about what lies ahead," Cundiff said in an email to The Baltimore Sun.
"On a professional level, I had my best training camp to date and feel that I am kicking with more power and confidence than 2010. I was looking forward to helping the Ravens in their pursuit of a Super Bowl. However, now I will take that same drive and focus to my next team.
"On a personal level, my family and I will miss Baltimore. The people of Baltimore made playing for the Ravens a truly memorable experience. We got to enjoy the Charm City for three years and are better for it.
"I’m thinking about the future now and I’m going to put all my energy into preparing for what lies ahead.”
These decisions always affect more than just the player – their families also endure the NFL’s roller coaster ride.
Cundiff's wife, Nicole, reacted with class to the news on Twitter:
"We will miss the charm city and all the wonderful people, but we are excited about what's to come."
Despite missing a 32-yard, game-tying field goal in the AFC championship loss to the New England Patriots in January, Cundiff’s agent, Paul Sheehy, expects a strong market for his client.
"Billy is a true pro's pro," Sheehy told The Sun. "He shouldered the burden of the AFC title game loss without wavering. Billy is 53 of 59 inside the 50-yard line the past two years and 12 of 13 in the playoffs and was in the Pro Bowl two years ago.
"He had the best camp of his career. We can't control what the teams are going to do. That's at their discretion. He's a great kicker. He'll be fine."
No Reaction From Tucker Yet
Tucker, the rookie out of Texas, has yet to comment about his huge feat in unseating the eight-year veteran, but that is expected to come today after practice.
Tucker, who is an active participant on Twitter, only tweeted this on the day of his big news (which was posted a few hours before the move was announced):
“I wish every week was Shark Week. That is all.”
Did Ravens Make Right Decision?
Everyone has their opinion on the Ravens’ biggest decision thus far of the 2012 season. Let’s take a look at who agrees and disagrees with choosing Tucker over Cundiff:
It’s a gutsy move, but the correct move. “[R]eleasing him is the gutsiest move made by the Ravens this year,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “I would have made the same move as the Ravens. I wasn't sure Harbaugh would make the change because of recent history. In 2009, the Ravens chose to go with undrafted Steven Hauschka instead of re-signing veteran Matt Stover. Two months into the season, the Ravens released Hauschka after he missed four field goals, including a would-be game winner at Minnesota. That's how Cundiff ended up with the Ravens' kicking job in the first place. The only thing I question in the Ravens' handling of the kicking situation is not bringing in a veteran kicker to compete with Cundiff.” (Just a side note, the Ravens did invite veteran kickers to compete, but they turned the Ravens down thinking they couldn’t actually defeat Cundiff.)
Ravens made a “big mistake.” “Sorry, I still don't think it's a good move,” wrote The Sun’s Kevin Cowherd. “Not unless Tucker totally out-performed Cundiff the past few weeks, which he didn't. … Here's my other problem with the move. I have this image in my mind: Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, third week in November, wind blowing, 65,000 black-and-gold-wearing maniacs howling into the night, Terrible Towels waving, national TV audience tuned in. Ravens line up for a field-goal attempt with the game on the line. Welcome to the NFL, Justin Tucker.
“Me, I want a veteran trotting on the field in that situation. No, there's no guarantee Billy Cundiff makes that kick if he's still a Raven. But as I wrote in the blog, everything else being equal, I'll take the veteran over the rookie every time.”
Ravens make bold move. “They rolled the dice. They gambled. They took a shot. Come up with any phrase you like, but it’s still the same thing – the Ravens made a bold move on Sunday,” wrote CSNBaltimore.com’s Jeff Seidel.
Decision more calculated than bold: “So here’s the point about why this wasn’t necessarily such a bold move. Tucker has displayed a stronger leg — Cundiff ranked near the bottom of the league in field goals from 50-plus yards — and he’s younger and cheaper,” wrote CSNBaltimore.com’s Ray Frager. “And the key thing about how this wasn’t a huge gamble: If Tucker doesn’t work out, there are certain to be veteran NFL kickers on the street available to bring in. And no matter who that is — say, somebody like former Terp Nick Novak — he won’t be all that different from Cundiff. So this was a logical move, but the Ravens aren’t really going too far out on a limb.”
Cundiff has fallen. “Some teams may show interest in the 32-year-old Cundiff as a free agent, but that AFC Championship game-ending miss will be fresh in many teams’ minds, and so will the fact that Cundiff has made only one of his last ten field goal attempts from 50 yards and beyond. Cundiff has fallen a long way since playing in the Pro Bowl a year and a half ago,” wrote PFT.com’s Michael David Smith.
Tucker saves money. Billy Cundiff was due $2.2 million base salary before being cut. Justin Tucker is due $390,000 salary, so financial element, too,” tweeted Aaron Wilson. “Thing about Justin Tucker is his maturity was unusual for a rookie. He earned this job.”
Tucker won it, Cundiff didn’t lose it: “Say what you want about Cundiff. Reality is he didn't lose this job as much as Tucker won it,” tweeted Jeff Zrebiec. “The rookie was near flawless in camp.”
This idea could help with the tough decision at wide receiver …
The Ravens have to get their roster down to 53 by Friday and there is a tight battle at wide receiver. Head Coach John Harbaugh said he will keep between five and seven receivers; last year the team kept six.
The conventional wisdom suggests these are the top five (not necessarily in order):
But the injured reserve list could allow the Ravens to keep seven without it counting against the 53-man count.
“One move could be placing wide receiver Tommy Streeter, who didn't practice Saturday, on injured reserve to store him away for a year,” wrote Hensley.
Ravens rookie free agent Nigel Carr was fined $15,750 for a roughing the passer penalty during Baltimore’s preseason game against Detroit, according to Wilson.
That’s a lot of dough for a guy who hasn’t even officially made the team.
“The schedule says it’s the preseason, but the folks who levy fines against NFL players already are in midseason form,” wrote PFT.com’s Mike Florio. “Carr may appeal the fine because it exceeds 25 percent of his weekly pay. (With a first-year minimum of $390,000, Carr would get $22,941 per week, if he makes the team.)
“And that’s one of the main reasons why fines should be based on a percentage of the offending player’s salary or cap number. The more a guy makes, the less of a deterrent the fine becomes.”
This rumor got major buzz over the weekend after Colts Owner Jim Irsay tweeted this: “"SERIOUS TRADE WINDS SWIRLING. We're talking giving up high pick for SERIOUS Vet/Starter."
The Indianapolis Star then reported the player the Colts were after was a cornerback.
It’s still unclear to me how Cary Williams’ name got put in the middle of rumors, but that chatter picked up quickly on radio talk shows and fan message boards, including here at BaltimoreRavens.com. Many thought the Colts would deal Dwight Freeney for Williams.
Somehow an unnamed source was credited with the news, but you may notice that none of the major news outlets picked up any reports.
The Carroll County Time’s Matt Zenitz tweeted Friday afternoon: “From a source close to Williams regarding the reported trade interest from the Colts, ‘There is no real source. All speculation."
Turns out, the player the Colts traded for: Former Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis for a second-round pick.
Steelers Get A Bad, Bad Injury
The Steelers didn’t just sustain a bad injury over the weekend, but a bad, bad injury.
That’s how SI.com’s Peter King characterized guard David DeCastro’s dislocated knee cap, torn medial collateral ligament and damaged patellar tendon. He was carted off the field after sustaining the injury in the Steelers-Bills preseason game Saturday night.
“One of the best guards to come out of college football in years, David DeCastro was playing like a five-year vet for Pittsburgh in the preseason,” King wrote. “Now he's out, likely for the year, with a torn MCL and dislocated kneecap suffered Saturday night in Buffalo.
“The Steelers drafted DeCastro first and tackle Mike Adams (who has been poor in preseason tests) second in April, and now they may get zilch out of both this season.”
- Anything happening with a new contract for
Joe Flacco? “Not really. … Joe is happy playing it out,” said agent Joe Linta. That said, Linta reiterated there will be no shut down in talks at any point. [PFT.com]
- @Crushboy31 [
Bernard Pollard]: Just had a real good time with my teammates!!! Not too many teams have bonds like this, but I'm happy to say we do. "Red Robin Yum!!!" LOL [Twitter]
- @GerrySandusky: The more I see of rookie off. lineman
Kelechi Osemele, the more I think the Ravens drafted a future Pro Bowl player. [Twitter]
- @GerrySandusky: I think
Courtney Upshawwill have slower initial impact than most projected when the Ravens took him with their top pick. [Twitter]
- @PriscoCBS: I can't tell you how impressed I am with the new-look Baltimore offense. Can they keep it that way? [Twitter]
- What is this all about? Retweeted by fullback
Vonta Leach… @alistnetwork: Vonta Leach hosts first cheer camp in Lumberton, NC. [Twitter]
- Oh my goodness. Eric Davis and Mark Kriegel try to channel their inner-
Ray Lewisand give their impressions of what he might say to motivate teammates before a preseason game. [NFL.com]