Why Contract Makes Ryan Mallett Likely 2016 Backup, What He Must Prove
You don't hand out contracts like this if there isn't a plan beyond the final three games of this season. You hand out contracts like this because you believe there's long-term potential.
The Ravens and quarterback Ryan Mallett agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $2.15 million in 2016, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
"If Mallett's contract is any indication, the Ravens view him as a potential backup for Joe Flacco heading into next season," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "Assuming he comes in for the rest of the season and shows that he's learned from some of the issues that he had earlier in his career, Mallett is the clear favorite to back up Flacco in 2016."
This deal makes Mallett the only quarterback besides Flacco under contract for next year. Both Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen will be unrestricted free agents come March. The other top options in free agency include this offseason will include Chad Henne, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Clemens.
"It's easy to see why there's an appeal for Mallett," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
In addition to his contract, Mallett (27) is considered the frontrunner because he's "younger, has a stronger arm and is more talented" than Schaub (34) and Clausen (28), added Hensley.
Seems like an easy call, right? Well, there's a big "but" in this situation.
The Ravens had Mallett in for a workout on Dec. 2, but he was not immediately signed.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Mallett had some "personal things" he had to work through.
Two months ago, Mallett was released by the Houston Texans after the team had frequently fined him for chronic tardiness. He missed a team charter to Miami in October because he was "stuck in traffic" and also overslept for a training camp practice shortly after Brian Hoyer was named Houston's starting quarterback.
Apparently, Mallett has done enough between his visit and Tuesday morning to prove to Ravens brass that history won't repeat itself in Baltimore.
"The Ravens] decided to sign Ryan Mallett after the quarterback [assured them he has received professional help for personal issues that contributed to his downfall with the Houston Texans," wrote ESPN's Ed Werder.
"The Ravens consider Mallett 'a talented guy' and the risk-reward factor to be to their advantage in signing him through the 2016 season."
General Manager Ozzie Newsome minimized the risk with the way Mallett's contract was reportedly structured. Next year, Mallett gets $1.5 million in base salary and $1 million in incentives.
Mallett has the chance to prove his rough patch in Houston was an aberration. After all, he was thought of highly enough to back up future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady for three years. He seemed professional and talented enough for Bill Belichick's approval.
"So there must be something to like about the 6-foot-6 passer," wrote NFL Media's Conor Orr. "Mallett has a cannon for an arm and, perhaps under the direction of quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman, he finds direction."
It wouldn't be surprising if we saw Mallett take snaps in the Ravens' final three contests this season, but Zrebiec says the most important thing is to get him acclimated to the organization and offense. Ravens brass can also use the time to get a feel for whether Mallett really has overcome his personal issues.
Mallett will factor greatly into the team's offseason plans, too.
"Backup quarterback is no longer an afterthought in Baltimore," wrote Hensley, citing Flacco's 122-game streak that was snapped this year.
Flacco will miss all offseason activities while rehabbing his surgically-repaired ACL and MCL, and he could potentially miss part of training camp. Mallett provides insurance in case Flacco isn't ready.
"Still, he is in a 'prove it' stage of his career, where he has to follow through on his commitment in the meeting rooms, weight room and on the practice field," wrote Hensley. "Will Mallett reward the Ravens' faith in him like safety Will Hill did a year ago? Or will he struggle to overcome past blunders like Johnny Football?
"Only Mallett can answer those questions."
Matt Schaub Not Going On Injured Reserve
Mallett's signing should not be viewed as an indication that Schaub is so banged up that he is a candidate for injured reserve.
In fact, according to Werder, Schaub could be on the field this week.
There also appears to be no contractual incentive for the Ravens to give all the remaining snaps to Clausen or Mallett.
Sam Koch Revolutionizing Punting … And Almost Nobody Has Noticed
It's mandatory that you click this link for ESPN's Kevin Seifert's in-depth look at how Ravens punter Sam Koch is revolutionizing the punting position.
Koch has successfully* *created an assortment of punting styles that have never before been attempted, and have yet to be copied because few have noticed, and, well, they may be just too hard for even the best punters at the highest level of the game to replicate.
He has about 10 different kicking styles in what the team refers to as his "golf bag."
"The effect was immediate and, without exaggeration, has turned punting strategy in the NFL upside down," wrote Seifert. "Yet almost no one has noticed.
"… It's not unusual for NFL punters to develop a 'changeup' of sorts, but no one has ever had multiple options at the ready. The innovation has vaulted Koch to the top of the NFL's most credible punting statistics."
Koch gave Seifert an inside look at some of his different punting styles, including the hook punt, liner punt, knuckler and boomerang, but didn't go into great detail in order to preserve trade secrets.
"The NFL changes every day, but there are only a few moments in each generation when it transforms. This is one of them," Seifert wrote. "In plain sight, Sam Koch and the Ravens have introduced a new way to punt."
Baltimore Needs Miracle To Get No. 1 Overall Pick
The Ravens currently own the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but for them to move into the top spot by season's end, Hensley says it will take a "miracle."
"Will Hill's unlikely touchdown off that blocked field goal in Cleveland two weeks ago – the second time an NFL game has ended in this fashion – might go down as the play that causes the Ravens to miss out on the top overall selection," wrote Hensley.
To get the top pick, Baltimore would likely have to lose the rest of its games, something the Ravens don't want to happen. But Zrebiec says it's a "distinct possibility" against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, who are all playing for playoff seeding.
But the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, who are currently ahead of Baltimore in the draft order, also don't appear likely to win any more games. Maybe the Chargers could win one or two more games against the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos.
"That's why the Ravens need plenty of good fortune – or misfortune, depending on your perspective –in order to land the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history," wrote Hensley.
They asked me about Santa was joking around!!! #SmithWPOYChallenge. now I'm threatening... https://t.co/iFxYrBX1zt pic.twitter.com/b3YZyv40WU — Steve Smith Sr.(@89SteveSmith) December 16, 2015