Ravens Work Out Hakeem Nicks, Other WRs
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday afternoon that the Ravens were "looking hard" at figuring out what to do at wide receiver now that top target Steve Smith Sr. is on injured reserve with an Achilles injury.
He wouldn't rule out bringing in a receiver from outside the building, and it appears that process begins today.
The Ravens will work out several free-agent wide receivers today at the Under Armour Performance Center, headlined by former New York Giants star Hakeem Nicks, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec and ESPN's Ed Werder.
Zrebiec added that he has not heard that Wes Welker – another veteran free agent – is part of the group. The folks at Russell Street Report also suggested kicking the tires on Reggie Wayne, but there's been no word on him either.
"The Ravens traditionally have tryouts during the bye week to update their list of available players in case of injuries," wrote Zrebiec. "However, the wide receiver position emerged as a significant need."
Nicks is a buzzworthy name after two standout years (2010-11) in New York when he produced a total of 2,244 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. He was considered one of the best at the position, but several foot and leg injuries have derailed his career since.
He's only 27 years old, but he hasn't regained his 2011 form. Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, he notched a career-worst 405 yards on 38 catches. Nicks was cut by the Tennessee Titans in September, and he's reportedly worked out for four teams since. The Giants, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots all got a look at him and yet he remains a free agent.
"The Ravens are now in desperation mode in looking at Nicks," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"With what's left in free agency, the Ravens are probably regretting not addressing the wide receiver position beyond drafting Breshad Perriman in the first round and Darren Waller in the sixth."
Perriman hasn't played this season and Waller landed on injured reserve last week.
Meanwhile, the healthy receivers on the active roster include Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Chris Givens,* *Jeremy Ross and Jeremy Butler. Hensley called group "unproven and inconsistent," as none of them rank in the league's top 60 of in receiving yards.
The group has big shoes to fill. Per Zrebiec, Smith has made up more than 22 percent of quarterback Joe Flacco's completions and about 31 percent his passing yards. The top two receivers – Aiken and Brown – are former undrafted rookies and Aiken has gone from never starting an NFL game in his previous three years in the league to the No. 1 receiver in a matter of two months.
One wonders if Brown will maintain his spot on the depth chart. Ross and Givens continue to get increased action, and Sunday against the Chargers, Givens (33 snaps) played more than Brown (30 snaps) for the first time this season. Ross finished with 14 snaps.
"Acquired from the St. Louis Rams last month, Chris Givens had his best game as a Raven with three receptions for 57 yards," wrote Zrebiec. "While Marlon Brown continues to struggle to make an impact, the Ravens have been trying to get Jeremy Ross more involved."
La Canfora: Smith Intends To Return In 2016
Harbaugh confirmed that Smith will undergo surgery next week to repair his Achilles tendon, and according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, he is doing it so quickly because he has "intentions of playing football next season."
This is music to Ravens fans' ears, but Smith has not formally told the team of any such plans.
"Smith had said this would be his final season, but several people close to him said he is already talking about a return and the Ravens would welcome him back," wrote La Canfora. "Smith faces a long return, but the sooner he gets the Achilles repaired the earlier he could conceivably make it back in 2016."
When asked if the Ravens would like to have Smith on the roster for next season – he would be 37 years old – Harbaugh didn't hesitate. "Absolutely," he said.
Harbaugh and Smith clearly admire one another. The head coach loves Smith's work ethic, passion and production. And Smith appreciates the freedom to be himself and to play for a physical team.
Amidst trade rumors prior to Smith's injury, the two wouldn't even entertain the idea of parting ways despite a 1-6 start. Apparently, other teams tried.
"Smith] did not want the struggling Ravens to deal him prior to this week's trade deadline – team brass [would not even entertain the thought though other clubs inquired – and said he would only play for the Ravens," wrote La Canfora.
Boldin Unlikely To Be Dealt
I've seen a loooooooot of fans inquire about the Ravens potentially trading with the San Francisco 49ers to bring back the beloved Anquan Boldin. The 49ers seem to be in rebuilding mode after trading tight end Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos yesterday.
Boldin would obviously be the perfect replacement for Smith, and then dreams start getting really big when envisioning both on the roster next season as they are both under contract for 2016.
Sorry to burst your bubble, folks.
Even if the Ravens wanted Boldin back, and were willing to give up draft picks or personnel, the 49ers will not part ways with Boldin, according to ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio.
"Boldin was inactive [Sunday] after being listed as questionable with a knee injury, prompting speculation that the 49ers were simply keeping him out to keep him healthy," wrote Florio. "The source says Boldin is indeed injured, and that the injury is sufficiently severe to keep another team from trading for him.
"Trade or not, Boldin's future in San Francisco is uncertain. He's 35, and the 49ers may decide to go younger in 2016, across the board."
Will Lions Trade Haloti Ngata?
This one is not an actual report. It's more of a suggestion to the Detroit Lions.
After a rough start with his new team, talk of trading former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has begun. His 10th NFL season started with a hamstring injury that sidelined him from training camp, and a calf injury kept him out of two games this season.
The Lions have a league-worst 1-7 record and have fired Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi. They might be in rebuilding mode for 2016, and La Canfora thinks parting ways with Ngata is a good place to start.
"The Lions should be working phones ASAP looking to move veterans who aren't going to be a part of the future there, starting with Haloti Ngata," wrote La Canfora.
He added: "If I'm the Lions and can find someone to take the rest of Haloti Ngata's salary off my hands, I'm doing it. They should be sellers."
Ngata could very well stay in Detroit for the remainder of the season, but the simple talk of trading him highlights General Manager Ozzie Newsome's ability to part ways with players at the appropriate time. Don't get me wrong, they would have loved to keep him this season, but the mantra is always, "right player, right price."
Newsome got draft picks via the trade, created cap space, and Ngata's replacements, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, are two bright spots on the defense.
Pro Football Focus Grades
With Terrell Suggs out for the season, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil continues to shine. He received the top defensive ranking for the Ravens this week from Pro Football Focus, and he ranks as the No. 5 player at his position overall this season.
"Dumervil (plus-3.6) came into the game near the top of our 3-4 OLB grades and did nothing to change his standing after picking up five pressures in 34 rushes – and an additional two pressures that were nullified by penalty – with neither LG Chris Hairston nor RT Joe Barksdale providing much of a challenge against his array of pass rush moves," wrote PFF's Thomas Maney.
On the offensive side, Flacco continues to get praise for this performance even after losing Smith* *midway through the game.
"Despite a fairly thin receiver group and outside of a few misfires, Flacco had a solid game with several big-time throws and no risky passes," Maney said. "You won't see a better pass than the one he made at 9:24 of the second quarter, pulling the trigger on 3rd-and-1 to hit [Givens] in stride for a big gain downfield."