'Outstanding' Newsome Still One Of NFL's Best
General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have long been regarded as one of the best in the NFL at building their roster and finding talent through the draft.
Things started off with a bang when the franchise drafted the likes of Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. From there, the Ravens added numerous Pro Bowlers, including Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.
Some around town, however, have wondered if some more recent draft classes have taken the luster off the Ravens' record.
Draft guru Mike Mayock joined the Purple Reign Show last week, and was asked if the fans should be worried by picks that haven't lived up to expectations recently, including 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam, and second-round picks Sergio Kindle, Arthur Brown and Terrence Cody.
Worried? Mayock responded quickly and clearly.
"No, I think the Ravens front office is as solid as any in the National Football League," he said. "It's not just Ozzie who is outstanding. It's [Assistant General Manager] Eric DeCosta, it's [Director of College Scouting] Joe Hortiz. These guys are outstanding. They've stood the test of time. One bad season with a ton of injuries, I don't think warrants criticism."
Mayock agreed that some of the players named above could be criticized, but argued that you have to dig deeper into each class to get a full picture.
For example, he said while Brown and Elam have struggled from the 2013 draft class, that same class also produced starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams (third round), starting fullback Kyle Juszczyk (fourth round) and starting right tackle Rick Wagner (fifth round). Mayock called Williams "one of the best nose tackles in football."
He praised the 2014 class, which included first-rounder C.J. Mosley, who was the first Raven ever to go to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The class also boasts Timmy Jernigan, who helped take over for Ngata, and starting tight end Crockett Gillmore and offensive lineman John Urschel.
The 2012 class produced four-year starters in outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is considered to be the best free agent at his position this year, and Upshaw is expected to garner interest around the league that could make him too expensive to re-sign. Both are good signs that the Ravens nailed those picks.
In 2011, the Ravens nabbed Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee and Tyrod Taylor.
We have to go back to 2010 to find the toughest class. Kindle and Cody didn't last. Dennis Pitta and Arthur Jones were both productive, but if Pitta is cut this offseason, there will be no more players from that class left on the roster. It should be noted, that there was no first-round pick that year. The first pick was No. 43 after the Ravens traded back.
The jury is still out on the 2015 class, but there are very positive early signs with Maxx Williams, Carl Davis, Za'Darius Smith and Buck Allen. As my colleague John Eisenberg wrote yesterday, it is far too early to put any label on Breshad Perriman after he missed the season with a knee injury.
This year, it'll be very interesting to see what Newsome does with a top-10 pick. He hasn't drafted this high in more than a decade, and his record shows he usually nabs a blue-chip player when he gets an opportunity like this.
"I think when you really go through their draft and understand what's happened, they are one of the solid drafting teams in the league and they will continue to be so," said Mayock.
Would Ravens Be Interested In Mike Wallace Or Eric Weddle?
The Ravens are known to scour the cap-casualty market when signing free agents. That's because released players don't count against the compensatory pick formula.
Two players that are rumored to be cut by their teams include wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Eric Weddle. Would the Ravens be interested in either?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley says no, and it's not just because the Ravens don't have a ton of money under the salary cap.
"When Wallace played for the Steelers, it didn't seem like the Ravens held him in high regard. There was more respect for Antonio Brown and this was before Brown hauled in 100 passes every year," Hensley wrote.
"As for Weddle, it's a situation where the Ravens don't need another safety. Both starters, Will Hill* *and Kendrick Lewis, return. Lardarius Webb is moving from cornerback to safety. The Ravens invested high draft picks recently in two safeties, Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks. The little cap room the Ravens will have needs to be used on bigger positions of need."
Are Ravens' Salary Cap Cuts Near?
With free agency just a few weeks away, we're starting to see NFL teams release players to clear cap space.
Things have been very quiet in Baltimore, however. With the reportedly second-least amount of cap space in the NFL, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec expects that to change very soon.
"The Ravens have to open salary cap space somewhere, and they need to do it before March 9," Zrebiec wrote. "They could make some moves official this week.
"The Ravens don't have a lot of obvious candidates to be cut. The contracts of tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe make them more likely to be post-June 1 releases. Middle linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive end Chris Canty and cornerback Kyle Arrington could be in jeopardy, but jettisoning all three would create only about $6 million in cap space."
AFC North Update: Burfict Wants To Change
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict spoke for the first time since he was suspended for the first three games of next season for repeated violations of NFL player safety rules.
Burfict has developed a reputation for being a "dirty" player, and he admitted that his style needs to change. He specifically regretted his hit to the head of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the divisional playoff round that resulted in a concussion.
"Like I told coach, I wish I could take that play back because I probably would have hit him low," Burfict told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I don't like hitting low, but I have to change because it's getting flags because I hit him high or hit him in the helmet, and it's so hard to determine where to hit the offender because they're going to tuck their body, and you have to pretty much tuck with them. I tried to pull up at the last second, but it was obviously too late – it's a bang-bang play.
"I play hard. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. My style of play is aggressive, and (the game has) changed, and I have to change with it."