Mike Flacco Entering Draft, 'Intriguing' Prospect
The Ravens are in need of some tight ends, and it just so happens that an "intriguing" prospect recently declared for the 2014 draft.
Mike Flacco, brother of franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, is declaring early after just one season at the University of New Haven, where he was selected as a third-team Division II All-American.
The news was reported by several outlets, including CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, who called Mike "raw but athletic and very intriguing."
Meanwhile, the Ravens currently don't have any tight ends locked up for next season.
All three tight ends on the roster – Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark – are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March.
Whether the Ravens would seriously consider Mike is unknown, but even if they did, expectations should be low. CBS Sports ranks him as a seventh-round or rookie free agent prospect.
"Mike is a considerable longshot to crack an NFL roster," wrote NFL.com's Dan Hanzus.
After pursing a professional baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox for four years, Mike reportedly wanted to make an immediate jump to the NFL, but hadn't played football since high school. So he joined the New Haven Chargers, and the 26-year-old caught 30 passes for 591 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
La Canfora notes that Mike needs to improve his blocking and strength, "but will draw interest" from teams. While he is raw, he is very athletic and would have instant chemistry with his older brother.
"[H]is athleticism will at least garner a look from NFL scouts," wrote CBS Sports Derek Harper. "He is believed to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.8-second range, and NFL teams look high and low for seam-busting tight ends in the mold of Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, who played just one season of football at the University of Miami after exhausting his basketball eligibility."
Agent Joe Linta, who negotiated Joe Flacco's $120 million record-breaking contract, will represent Mike.
Pierce 'Expected' To Have Shoulder Surgery
Running back Bernard Pierce is expected to undergo shoulder surgery to repair his right rotator cuff, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
Surgery isn't definite, but regardless, he will have to begin rehabilitation this offseason.
"Surgery hasn't been scheduled yet," Wilson wrote. "If Pierce has the procedure, it would take place this month to allow him sufficient time to heal up for next season.
"The initial recommendation for Pierce was that he needed to have surgery, which would require four to five months of rehabilitation this offseason. If Pierce opts not to have surgery, he would still require months of rehab to strengthen the shoulder."
In addition to the shoulder, Pierce also fought through hamstring, knee and toe injuries last season. Starting running back Ray Rice dealt with hip and thigh injuries.
If both can get healthy, they would be expected to improve the Ravens' 30th-ranked rushing offense.
Franchise Tag Realistic For Pitta?
Considering Pitta came back from a career-threatening hip injury and showed he can be a reliable offensive weapon, The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec believes the Ravens will want to keep him off the market.
"He's 28 and has plenty of good football left in him," Zrebiec wrote. "With teams using tight ends in the passing game more and more, there's little doubt that Pitta will have his share of suitors when/if he hits the free agent market and some of those suitors will surely have more financial flexibility than the Ravens."
In order to keep other teams away from Pitta, the Ravens will need to reach an agreement before free agency opens on March 11, or use the franchise tag to lock him up for at least one more year.
But using the franchise tag could be too costly, totaling $6.7 million in a year the Ravens are already strapped for cash under the salary cap. They could use the tag simply to buy more time, extending their negotiating period to July 15 to reach a long-term deal.
"[I]t’s a tough call and it will probably be one of the more prominent topics of discussion later this month when the team's top decision makers gather at Bisciotti's home in Florida to outline the organization's offseason plans," Zrebiec wrote.
Can Ravens Rely On Osemele?
The Ravens already said the only certainty on the offensive line next season is Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda starting at right guard.
That means there could be a lot of big changes, but most of the decisions seemed to have been already made, says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"The Ravens have not hid the fact that they want to re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe, especially after they traded a fourth- and fifth-round pick to get him in October," Hensley wrote. "The coaching staff also has seen enough to know it needs an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski at center and it needs to part ways with free-agent right tackle Michael Oher."
That leaves a crucial decision about guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, who was placed on injured reserve last season after undergoing back surgery.
Osemele has the potential to become a Pro Bowler, but can the Ravens rely on him after such a serious injury?
"A]lthough he says there will be no limitation in his training in another month, this is a scary injury for an offensive lineman,” Hensley wrote. “The Ravens have to determine if he [can be counted upon to start in 2014 because that will affect their priorities heading into free agency and the draft."
Grading 2013 Offseason Moves
The Sun's Matt Vensel looked back on the Ravens' offseason moves from last year, giving a grade to each. I'll list the grades below, and you can read about his reasoning for each here.
Parting ways with Ed Reed: B-
Letting Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe walk: A
Trading Anquan Boldin: C
Signing Elvis Dumervil: B
Cutting Bernard Pollard: B
Signing Chris Canty: C
Trading for A.Q. Shipley: C-
Signing Michael Huff: F
Signing Marcus Spears: F
Re-signing Bryant McKinnie: D-
Signing Daryl Smith: B
Bringing in Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley: D
- Hensley continued his countdown of the five plays that ruined the Ravens' season. At No. 4 is Emmanuel Sanders' fourth-quarter kickoff return for 44 yards that jumpstarted Pittsburgh's game-winning drive in Week 7. The play killed the momentum the offense and Flacco built after tying the game at 16 with just under two minutes to play. Safety Michael Huff fessed up to the "unforgivable" blown coverage, and was released before the Ravens' next game. [ESPN]
- @MichaelOher: Ain't worried about nothing!! [Twitter]
- @TorreySmithWR: At this Pepsi shoot...chillin in my trailer eating Roscoe's....#denzelwho #justkidding #Isuck #beenherealldayforoneline #hopeitmakesitonTV #mommaImadeit #justplayingagain [Instagram]
- @Ravens: #Ravens RB @RayRice27 will star on #NFLRushZone [tonight] @ 8:30pm ET on #nicktoons & on Sat. @ 8am on @nflnetwork [Twitter]