Late For Work 2/22: What Is Nick Boyle's Future With Ravens?

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What Is Nick Boyle's Future With Ravens?

Nick Boyle's future with the Ravens has been called into question after the tight end was suspended a second time for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Boyle was suspended the final four games of his rookie season in 2015, and now he'll miss the first 10 games of 2016. It's unknown what the substance is or if it was the same as the first time (all we know is it wasn't steroids the first time, per Head Coach John Harbaugh). If Boyle violates the policy again, he would be suspended for two seasons.

Harbaugh and Boyle both agreed that the first violation was "stupid," and now a second suspension before he even got back on the field has some calling for Boyle's release. They say it's not worth the headache for a former fifth-round pick.

But not so fast.

Zrebiec, ESPN's Jamison Hensley and WNST's Luke Jones all pointed to that similar situation in 2013 with Jackson. Harbaugh expressed disappointment in Jackson, but ultimately demonstrated patience and Jackson remained on the team through 2015.

That said, both Zrebiec and Hensley believe Boyle put his career in jeopardy.

"The suspension … certainly casts Boyle's future with the team in doubt," wrote Zrebiec. "The Ravens have long said that they'd have little tolerance for repeat mistakes, and now Boyle won't be available to play until mid-to-late November."

"It would be presumptuous to write off Boyle right now," added Hensley. "But Boyle has a lot to prove. This repeated mistake shows poor decision-making and that he didn't learn the first time. It also puts his once-secure place on the Ravens roster in jeopardy."

The difference between Jackson and Boyle, says Hensley, is the Ravens were more "desperate" at cornerback at the time, whereas they have a solid foundation at tight end with Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams.

One part that's so disappointing is Boyle was playing above expectations before the first suspension,* *and he was being dubbed a gem of the 2015 draft class. He came into the league labeled as a blocking tight end, but showed he could be a receiving threat too. Debates ensued as to whether Boyle was outperforming second-rounder Williams.

Boyle will have some time to redeem himself, and regain trust,* *because he is eligible to participate in offseason activities before his suspension begins in September.

But now, even if the Ravens don't cut him, Boyle gives an opportunity to another tight end to prove he deserves his roster spot. Baltimore has Harold Spears on the team, and Konrad Reuland is an exclusive rights free agent. The Ravens found out about the suspension early enough that they'll have plenty of time to bulk up even more via the draft and/or free agency.

Ultimately, we may not know Boyle's fate until we know the Ravens' circumstances when his suspension concludes.

"If Boyle's replacement fills his void, Baltimore could decide to move on from Boyle in early November when he is eligible to be reinstated," wrote Hensley. "Boyle's mistake creates an opportunity to take a spot he may never be able to regain again. The worry with sticking with Boyle is he's one more violation away from being suspended for two years.

"There's also a chance that the Ravens will be counting the days until Boyle can play again. Gillmore and Williams dealt with multiple injuries throughout last season and missed a combined eight games. If either one is injured, Boyle could come back to a situation where Baltimore needs him to play significant snaps right away."

Does Boyle Affect Dennis Pitta Decision?

Fans on social media have wondered whether Boyle's suspension could affect Dennis Pitta's standing with the team.

It likely does not. Pitta's situation entirely rests upon his health and whether doctors will approve him to play.

"The Ravens are looking for players who can be available and there are too many questions about Pitta's health at this point in time," wrote Russell Street Report's Wola Odeniran.

Pitta hasn't given up hope on a return, but understands that the decision isn't entirely in his hands. Read up on the latest on Pitta here.

Say Goodbye To Longtime Steelers Rival

You will no longer hear the "HEEEEEEATH" chant at M&T Bank Stadium when the Steelers come to visit.

That's because Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller announced his retirement Friday afternoon after an 11-year career. He was the Steelers' all-time tight ends leader in receptions (592), receiving yards (6,569), and touchdowns (45).

Miller has been a thorn in the Ravens' side ever since, so feel free to do the happy dance knowing he won't be returning. Harbaugh likely is.

"I'm so impressed with him," Harbaugh said in September. "I was going to say I'm so looking forward to when he retires. I guess that's a compliment right?"

Miller joins a long list of top players who have retired this offseason, including Jared Allen, Marshawn Lynch, Rashean Mathis, Jared Mayo, Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson. If Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson join that group, it should make for an especially impressive 2021 Hall of Fame class.

Three Deals That Got Ravens In Second-Worst Cap Spot

According to the ESPN roster management system, the Ravens have only $6.1 million in cap space and that doesn't count restricted free agent tenders or the potential franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker. Both will eat up a nice chunk of the remaining money.

It adds up to the Ravens having the second-least amount of cap space in the NFL, trailing only the Buffalo Bills,* *who are projected to be over the cap limit of $154 million.

Hensley points to four contracts that put the Ravens in this predicament. First is quarterback Joe Flacco's $120 million contract, which hasn't been a problem in the first three years of the deal, but skyrockets to a $28.55 cap hit if it isn't addressed.

The three other deals are what Hensley calls "bad."

Contracts for cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10 million cap hit in 2016), offensive tackle Eugene Monroe ($8.7 million) and Pitta ($7.2 million) make up 16.8 percent of Baltimore's entire cap. They were lauded as good deals at the time, but Hensley says they all fall into the "buyer's remorse" category now.

"The knee-jerk reaction is to cut Webb, Monroe and Pitta before the start of free agency," wrote Hensley. "But the Ravens would have to carry $19 million in dead money to create $6.7 million in cap space. That's not winning economics in the NFL."

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