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Late for Work: The Real Reason Darius Slay Did Not Become a Raven

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md.

The Real Reason Darius Slay Did Not Become a Raven

You may recall that former All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay was oh-so-close to signing with the Ravens last year before ultimately agreeing to a new deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now for the rest of the story.

The six-time Pro Bowler recently revealed on the “Pulp Fiction” podcast that it was Dom DiSandro, the Eagles' head of security, who was responsible for him not coming to Baltimore.

"Dom is the reason I came back to Philly," Slay said. "I almost was for sure a Baltimore Raven. I really committed to the Ravens and was gonna go. Then Dom called me and said, 'Slay, I want you here.' And I'm like, 'You know what, Dom? You calling me, I'm coming back.'"

"Big Dom," a cult hero in Philly, made national headlines last season for engaging in a sideline altercation with San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw that resulted in both being ejected.

While Slay remained in Philadelphia, Brandon Stephens blossomed in Baltimore as a starting corner opposite Marlon Humphrey and the Ravens chose Nate Wiggins in the first round of this year's draft.

Jeff Zrebiec Projects Favorites at Key Roster Competitions

With this week's mandatory minicamp beginning today, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec looked at the roster competitions that will pick up steam.

Here's a look at some key positional battles and which players Zrebiec views as the favorites:

Final one or two wide receiver spots

The competitors: Malik Cunningham, Deonte Harty, Qadir Ismail, Tayvion Robinson, Sean Ryan, Dayton Wade, Tylan Wallace, Isaiah Washington

The favorites: Harty, Wallace

"Special teams will go a long way in determining who sticks around. Harty and Wallace are the main candidates to fill Devin Duvernay's shoes as the primary return man. Wallace has performed well in other areas of special teams, so that should benefit him in what ultimately could morph into a competition with Harty for one roster spot. Don't discount Ryan, who flashed last summer and has a full year in Baltimore's offense; or Cunningham, the converted quarterback who hasn't looked out of place at wide receiver. It's not impossible that the Ravens bring in another veteran receiver before training camp begins."

Starting right tackle

The competitors: Daniel Faalele, Josh Jones, Patrick Mekari, Roger Rosengarten

The favorite: Rosengarten

"The Ravens know Mekari is a reliable starting option at all five positions. Yet, he's so valuable in the sixth offensive lineman role that Baltimore will be in no hurry to move him out of it. Head Coach John Harbaugh said this offseason that Jones has played some of his best football on the left side, so he's probably a long shot as a Morgan Moses replacement. That leaves Faalele and Rosengarten. Faalele struggled at times during OTAs. Meanwhile, the Ravens pinpointing Rosengarten as the guy they wanted long before Day 2 of the draft began suggests they believe he's ready to play right away. They won't just hand the rookie a starting job, but he'll get every opportunity to work his way up the depth chart."

Both starting guard spots

The competitors: Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Ben Cleveland, Daniel Faalele, Josh Jones, Patrick Mekari, Andrew Vorhees

The favorites: Cleveland and Vorhees

"If the Ravens prioritize experience, they could pencil in Jones at left guard, knowing he'll be serviceable there, and then give Cleveland, who has made seven career starts, first dibs at the right guard spot. Cleveland, though, has a lot to prove this summer, starting with his ability to stay healthy and consistently practice well. Vorhees, a seventh-round pick in 2023 who redshirted his rookie season as he recovered from knee surgery, has a lot of support in the building. It seems only a matter of time before he ascends into a starting role. The wild card is Aumavae-Laulu, a sixth-round pick last year. The Ravens were intrigued enough by his talent that he started last year's training camp working with the ones. Then, he curiously didn't get an opportunity to play, even when many of Baltimore's starters sat for the team's Week 18 game against Pittsburgh. The idea of Faalele moving inside has garnered some support at the team facility."

Patrick Ricard Recalls How He Impressed John Harbaugh in His First Play at Fullback

Fullback Patrick Ricard appeared on the “Green Light with Chris Long” podcast. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Impressing John Harbaugh in his first play at fullback: "It was my first week of OTAs. Kyle Juszczyk just left in free agency to the 49ers, so the team didn't have a fullback. I'm doing my thing as a D-lineman, and then a week goes by and [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman in the hallway comes up to me and says, 'Hey, would you like to try a rep at fullback?' I'm undrafted, so I'll do anything to make the team. I'll be a water boy. I'll do the laundry. … Practice happens, the play gets called. Wille Henry breaks through, I knock him to the side, I laid up on the mike perfectly. I was kind of smart what I did next. I stood next to Harbaugh behind the line while we're watching plays. I can see the wheels starting turning in his head a little bit. He's like, 'That was pretty good.' I'm like, 'Yeah, I used to play fullback in high school.' He's like, 'Oh, OK. You look like a natural.'"

Whether he was concerned about his role last year under new OC Todd Monken: "Yeah, it was definitely a concern because he was more of a passing coordinator. I also had my hip surgery the first offseason he was here, so I couldn't really show him what I could do, so there was a little bit of a concern, but at the end of the day, I know the player I am, I know how versatile I am, I know how I can be used in so many different ways. … I played a good amount last year and I'm just building off of that in OTAs right now."

The Ravens' winning culture and continuity: "Every offseason you just know that we're a team that's going to have success, and everything's already been here, and guys that we have from the draft or free agency, they'll just buy in because you kinda have to. That's the culture. We don't have guys that are 'me' guys. Our best player is Lamar Jackson and he's the most humble dude on the team. … It's not like a new head coach every year and a new offensive coordinator. I'm going into my eighth year and this is my third offensive coordinator."

The new-look offensive line: "I think we have good guys, we have a couple guys in the draft, some guys who have been here, a couple in free agency that are looking pretty good right now. We'll see when the pads come on how they really come off the ball and displace guys."

Despite Roster Turnover, Ravens Are Still 'Incredibly Talented and Balanced'

There was a lot of talk about all the players the Ravens lost this offseason, but perhaps more focus should be put on just how deep the roster is in spite of the turnover.

Pro Football Focus’ Dalton Wasserman named one reason for optimism for each team, and for the Ravens it was simple: they are still stacked with talent.

"They are incredibly talented and balanced," Mosher wrote. "Their overall team grade in 2023 ranked second behind San Francisco. Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP. Now, they've added running back Derrick Henry, who continued to excel last season with a 90.1 overall grade.

"Baltimore's defense lost linebacker Patrick Queen but retained elite playmakers in Roquan Smith, Justin Madubuike and Kyle Hamilton. First-round pick Nate Wiggins adds needed speed and length at cornerback. If the Ravens find enough help at wide receiver and along the offensive line, they will contend for a Lombardi Trophy."

On a related note, The 33rd Team’s Marcus Mosher placed the Ravens at No. 3 in his offensive core rankings, which looked at each team's top quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

"Lamar Jackson is good enough to warrant a spot on this list after winning his second MVP award in 2023. But the Baltimore Ravens deserve a lot of credit for putting a better team around Jackson," Mosher wrote. "They've added Derrick Henry this year, giving them more size and physicality in the backfield.

"Mark Andrews is one of the NFL's best tight ends, and Zay Flowers had an impressive rookie season. The Ravens hope Flowers can take another step in 2024 because that spot is the only reason they aren't higher on this list."

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