Consider this column an official rebuttal to the notion, widely held, that no matter of even the slightest importance to the Ravens is currently ongoing.
Yes, it’s true that we’re right in the middle of what is known as the NFL’s “dead period,” the month-or-so break between the end of spring practices in mid-June and the start of training camp in mid-July – a time when most players, coaches and executives find a beach to hit, a mountain to climb or whatever they desire in a vacation. And yes, things are especially quiet this week, as July 4th approaches. The Ravens’ business offices are closed.
But to the suggestion that nothing whatsoever is happening, I say hooey. There are things going on that could or definitely will impact the Ravens in 2019 and beyond. Yes, I’m talking right now, smack in the middle of the dead period.
For instance, there’s the matter of defensive tackle Michael Pierce getting himself into the kind of shape that allows him to practice and play. He’s a big guy, and his bulk is an important part of what makes him so effective, but he’d let things go a bit too far, it seems, so he was told to sit out the team’s mandatory minicamp last month.
Though it was a surprising development, Ravens officials weren’t that concerned. I mean, when it happened, the team was still three months away from playing a down that counts. Pierce has plenty of time to get in shape.
But it’s important, maybe even imperative, that whatever corrective measures he undertakes get the job done.
The Ravens ranked No. 4 in the league in rushing defense in 2018, and Pierce was crucial to that effort. Various metric services graded him as high as any player on a defense that featured a lot of big names and quality performers. He was, quite simply, a bull in the interior. Now, with some of those big names playing elsewhere, it’s important that the key guys still around keep doing their thing.
The Ravens do have some D-line depth, but they’re counting on Pierce.
Another matter of considerable significance happening right now is the culmination of rookie wide receiver Marquise (Hollywood) Brown’s recovery from the Lisfranc injury that ended his college career prematurely.
It didn’t keep the Ravens from making him their top draft pick in April, but it did keep him out of every spring practice. That’s not necessarily a huge deal, but if he continues to miss practice time once training camp gets underway, we’re starting to talk about an issue that could impact his rookie season. Foot injuries can be tricky. Just ask Hayden Hurst.
As always, the team has several lingering injury issues coming out of minicamp, but no doubt, Brown’s is the biggest. The Ravens are optimistic about him, and as with Pierce, they’re counting on him being an important puzzle piece in 2019. But the first step is seeing him on the field.
Another important matter potentially unfolding right now are negotiations on contract extensions for several of the team’s more prominent younger players. The Ravens locked up slot corner Tavon Young in February and hoped to follow suit with several other players, the idea being to keep them from even approaching free agency. Easier said than done, of course.
The season for such negotiations never ends because, well, as long as you take your cell phone on vacation, you aren’t entirely on vacation, are you? You can be sure that holds true for player agents and front office executives. Negotiations culminating in an announcement during training camp are entirely possible.
It’s also possible the front office is laying the groundwork for a free agent signing to be announced later this month – my best guess would be at inside linebacker. Veteran linebacker Vincent Rey reportedly worked out for the Ravens last week. I don’t expect to hear news of a deal as fireworks are echoing later this week, but again, as noted above, as long as the right people have their cell phones on vacation, the business of pro football never stops.