What Happened? Ravens Sign Brandon Carr, Not Morris Claiborne
For the past week, reports indicated the Ravens wanted to sign free agent cornerback Morris Claiborne. All we heard was Claiborne, Claiborne, Claiborne.
But on Thursday, Claiborne turned into Brandon Carr.
Baltimore still struck a deal with one of the Dallas Cowboys' starting cornerbacks from last season; it just wasn't the one that everyone was expecting.
Money and stability. That's what happened.
Based on reports, Claiborne, the sixth-overall pick in 2012, appeared to be the Ravens' first choice, but he was seeking close to $7.5 million a year, and the Ravens were offering around $5 million annually.
The two sides seemed to be at a standstill, so Baltimore switched gears and picked up Claiborne's former teammate for a much lower cost. Claiborne then reportedly reached a deal with the New York Jets.
"This makes sense when signing a 30-year-old corner," said ESPN's Jamison Hensley of the deal.
Outside of the money, Carr is the more reliable bet for the Ravens because of his durability. He has started 144 consecutive games, which is by far the NFL's longest active streak among cornerbacks. The Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson is second with 96.
Analysts say Carr doesn't have as much upside as Claiborne, who was considered by some to be the best overall athlete coming out of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec said Carr isn't known as a playmaker with one interception over the last three years. But, Claiborne has struggled to stay on the field. He missed nearly 50 percent of Dallas' games due to multiple injuries during his five-year career.
Pro Football Focus ranked Carr as the No. 52 cornerback last season. For comparison, Tavon Young was No. 22, Claiborne No. 25, Jimmy Smith No. 41 and Shareece Wright No. 64.
So, between Carr and Claiborne, which is better for the Ravens?
Hensley says it's the man they ended up signing.
"There will be a debate over whether the Ravens should have signed Carr or Claiborne. In terms of upside, the better choice would've been Claiborne," Hensley wrote. "But he was a boom-or-bust signing because he's never played a full season in the NFL. The better fit for Baltimore is Carr, who has never missed a game in his nine-year NFL career.
"That has to come into play when the Ravens' other starting cornerback, Smith, has been sidelined for 22 games over six seasons. The concern with Carr is he's on the downside of his career. He even considered retirement this offseason. … But he's a solid starter and clearly better than last year's stopgap Shareece Wright."
The Ravens have started at least four corners over the past three years, so Carr brings much-needed stability to the unit, but it also means the Ravens could use at least one more addition.
Smith (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and Carr (6-0, 210) are expected to be two physical starting outside corners, and Young (5-9, 177), who had one of the best seasons of all Baltimore's rookies last year, can move inside to the nickel cornerback role.* *That leaves room for one more.
"[The signing] won't preclude the team from taking a cornerback early in April's draft," wrote Zrebiec. "Analysts have said this is one of the deepest cornerback draft classes in years."
Confirmed: Tony Jefferson Turned Down More Money From Browns
Recently-signed safety Tony Jefferson is feeling preeeeetty good after coming into the league as an undrafted rookie and working his way to a four-year deal reportedly worth $34 million.
The contract validates his work ethic and skill over the last four years, but he could have been paid even more had he wanted it. Word was the Browns offered him more money to come to Cleveland, and NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano asked if those rumors were true.
Siciliano: "Did the Browns offer you more money?"
Siciliano: "But you turned it down because …?"
Jefferson: "I don't play football for money."
Siciliano: "Good answer."
Jefferson: "True answer."
Jefferson said one of the biggest recruiters from the Ravens was fellow safety Eric Weddle, who Jefferson wanted to play with after watching him in high school.
"Defense, man. I got a chance to talk to (Eric) Weddle a little bit through the process," Jefferson said. "He's been a guy who's been a real help through the process. Helped with my decision on that. I'm real excited.
"We've been working out and he's been keeping me in line but at the same time, I'm excited about this tandem. It was definitely a difference-maker, being able to watch Eric Weddle last year who played at a very high level, was rated a number one safety by Pro Football Focus. That was real huge to me."
Mike Williams Shows Speed To Go With Size
Somewhere, quarterback Joe Flacco has to be drooling.
The Clemson Tigers held their pro day Thursday, and one of the key headlines coming out of the event was wide receiver Mike Williams' speed.
The NCAA football champion opted not to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, so scouts across the country wanted to see what kind of speed Williams would pair with his monster 6-foot-3, 216-pound frame.
Williams didn't disappoint.
Reports of his final time were a bit scattered with scouts clocking their own times, but NFL Network's Gil Brandt reported times of 4.53 and 4.51 seconds. Mike Mayock had Williams at 4.55. Either way, the respected draft analyst was impressed.
"Mike Williams today at 216 pounds ran a 4.55. Plenty good enough for the type of receiver he is," Mayock said. "What is he? He's an outside the numbers fade, fade stop, back shoulder, red-zone guy. He's got an attitude. He gets after the football. He's a first-round wide receiver all day long."