My thoughts on the Ravens' news and many moves:
Move: Keeping nose tackle Brandon Williams
Reaction: I'm guessing Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has a smile on his face. His defense got a whole lot better Thursday with the signing of safety Tony Jefferson followed a few hours later by this news, which means Williams now becomes a franchise cornerstone instead of just another young guy who cost too much and got away. He DID cost a lot, but his signing means the Ravens will be stout against the run for a long time, and that's close to priceless. They're celebrating in the Ravens' offices tonight over being able to retain a homegrown talent who is also a locker room leader and organizational favorite.
Move: Signing safety Tony Jefferson
Reaction: I didn't see this coming because of the high price, but I like that the Ravens went all in to solidify their pass defense. Jefferson, 25, is much younger than most free agents, so you're getting him in his best years. Pairing him with Eric Weddle should tighten up the back end of the secondary, limiting big plays. Next, the Ravens need to draft a starting-caliber cornerback, preferably in the first or second round. With Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and fill-in-the-blank at cornerback, and Jefferson and Weddle as safeties, the Ravens would be well-armed for the secondary skirmishes that decide so many games.
Move: Signing running back Danny Woodhead
Reaction: Initially, I didn't get it. The Ravens had said they wanted to supplement Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon with a back who possessed breakaway potential, and that's not Woodhead. He's also 32 and coming off a major knee injury. But I'm sure the price was right, and if healthy, Woodhead adds a different skill* *set to the running back corps. With Thursday's news about Dixon facing a 4-game PED suspension, the move immediately becomes more important.
Move: Losing tackle Ricky Wagner to the Lions and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to the 49ers
Reaction: Both guys priced their way out of Baltimore with big deals, which, if anything, pooh-poohs the idea that the Ravens whiffed on the 2013 draft. The Ravens don't have a proven replacement for Wagner, who was excellent in the second half of last season. But they didn't want to pay that much for a right tackle, and I don't blame them. They should be able to find a cheaper alternative and use the money they save to fill one of their many needs. As for Juszczyk, it might take two guys to replace him, a pure blocking fullback and a receiver –perhaps* *Woodhead. But the two-headed fullback will be cheaper.
News: Ending up with Mike Wallace instead of Torrey Smith as a starting receiver
Reaction: The Ravens weren't going to pay both, or at least I didn't think they should because they're so similar as receivers. I'm sure they compared the two once Smith became available earlier this week. They ended up with Wallace when Smith signed with the Eagles, and that's fine. Even though Wallace, 30, is two years older, he had a much better season in 2016, and advanced metrics suggest his hands are surer. Re-upping with the popular Smith was a nice thought, but I'm always dubious about reunions. They seldom work out.
Move: Re-signing Ryan Mallett
Reaction: This surprised me. I thought Mallett, 28, might sign where he had a chance to start, and that's not happening in Baltimore. But his return gives the Ravens what they need in a backup quarterback – a veteran who can come in and win a game if Joe Flacco goes down. That's not guaranteed with a rookie project, so the Ravens were going to pay a veteran one way or another. Now they have a veteran who knows their system, an added bonus.
News: Many holes remain unfilled
Reaction: No doubt about that. It's early March. The Ravens don't play a game for another six months. But they do have a lot of work to do. They're looking for a cornerback, inside linebacker, rush end, right tackle, fullback and possibly a center. Did I leave anything out?
News: Dixon to be suspended for first four games of 2017
Opinion: This was the first news that broke after the new league year began Thursday, and the Ravens can only hope it isn't an omen. It's a setback for a player they had penciled in for a big role in 2017. They'll miss him, but the sky isn't falling as long as Dixon learns from his mistake.
Move: Cutting Elvis Dumervil
Reaction: The respect he commanded in the locker room was apparent when this news broke and many teammates tweeted their salutes. Dumervil's classy departing message to the team and fans was an indication of why he was held in such high esteem. But football-wise, his departure was Salary Cap 101. Age and injuries have limited him, and the Ravens have too many other needs.