In Ozzie We Trust, But What's The Plan At Receiver & Tight End?
Few in Baltimore – or in the entire football world – doubt General Manager Ozzie Newsome's ability to build a roster that will be playing in January. After all, he's done it six of the last seven years.
But that doesn't mean there aren't a few questions along the way.
"As cheesy and played out as it may sound, I buy into the 'In Ozzie We Trust' mantra. I drink the purple Kool Aid and trust the process," wrote Russell Street Report's Ryan Jones. "As brutal as it can be to see great players depart, history speaks for itself and the Ravens usually get it right. When a high-priced, high-impact free agent signs elsewhere you have to shrug it off and know that Ozzie has an ace up his sleeve.
"With all that said it's hard not to ask the question, 'What is the Ravens plan at wide receiver?'"
On behalf of some other inquiring Ravens fans, I'll add another popular inquiry, "What's the plan at tight end?"
Let's address receiver first.
Despite Torrey Smith and his 11 touchdowns walking out the door, and Steve Smith Sr. turning 36 in May, there hasn't been a single substantial report of the Ravens so much as considering a free agent.
The team has Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro on the depth chart, but can any of the three be considered a No. 1 receiver or even a starter?
"I'm not sold on [those three] being the answer," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "It reminds me of the Ravens banking on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson to step up at cornerback.
"With each passing day, it looks like the Ravens will wait to address wide receiver in the draft. The Ravens can find a starter at the bottom of the first round."
Baltimore could also use that first-round pick on tight end (the current greater need), cornerback or pass rusher, but "wide receiver makes the most sense at this point," says Hensley. That's because it's a guessing game as to who will still be on the board at No. 26 but the wide receiver class is one of the deepest positions and may have a gem waiting to be plucked. To find an impact tight end will be difficult because the class isn't spectacular and the consensus top pick – Minnesota's Maxx Williams – could be gone.
Outside of drafting Torrey Smith in the second round in 2011, the Ravens don't have a glowing history of selecting productive receivers in many minds. CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown cites wide receiver as one of Newsome's draft record "blemishes."
Brown pointed out that of the six receivers the Ravens have taken in the third round or higher, only one (Smith) has ever had a 1,000-yard season. The other five that didn't break the milestone are Patrick Johnson (1998, second round), Travis Taylor (2000, first round), Devard Darling (2003, third round), Mark Clayton (2005, first round) and Yamon Figurs (2007, third round).
To continue to change that trend after the success with Smith, Hensley says the "best bets" (40 days ahead of the draft) will likely be Arizona State's Jaelen Strong or Ohio State's Devin Smith. Don't expect Newsome to select Oklahoma's Dorial Green-Beckham due to his background of domestic violence.
As for tight end, the "best bet" is Williams if he's still around at No. 26, says Hensley. But neither the draft nor the remaining free-agent veteran market has dazzling talent. We discussed Hensley's top 4 on Friday, all of which have concerns. Of the four, the Cardinals' Rob Housler, 27, could be a good under-the-radar-pick, but he is a true free agent, not a cap casualty.
So, what's Hensley's advice to bolster the unit that only has Crockett Gilmore and Phillip Supernaw as healthy options?
"The Ravens might explore a trade because of the lack of options in free agency," he wrote.
Who Could Be This Year's Rick Wagner?
The lack of activity for new Joe Flacco weapons makes WNST's Luke Jones wonder if the Ravens have more confidence in their current stable of pass catchers than the outside world.
Remember what was being said last year at this time? Everyone and their dogs were saying the Ravens sorely needed a new right tackle after Michael Oher signed with the Tennessee Titans. Ravens brass, however, believed in second-year player Rick Wagner who didn't have the experience and was a fifth-round draft pick. He ended up being the top-rated right tackle in football last year by Pro Football Focus.
"Who might the Ravens view as this year’s Wagner?" asked Jones.
Above, Hensley dismissed Brown and Aiken as possible solutions, but he also voiced concern over Wagner last year. He said the Ravens' "riskiest move" last year was not addressing the right tackle position in either the draft or free agency. There's still time for the Ravens to address the receiver position, but Jones points out that the Ravens may have unknown reasons to have more faith in Brown and Aiken.
And maybe the same is true for Gillmore.
"Do the Ravens need to add another tight end? Absolutely, but the lack of free-agent activity to this point and an underwhelming draft class make you wonder if Baltimore has a higher opinion of Gillmore than most observers," wrote Jones. "Barring a trade, finding a backup tight end would certainly appear more feasible than a starter at this point.
"No one is suggesting the Ravens should — or will — stand pat at wide receiver or tight end, but few would have endorsed Wagner as the starting right tackle at this time a year ago. It's simply a possibility to keep in mind as the offseason continues and we inch closer to the draft with the Ravens' two biggest needs yet to be addressed."
Steelers' Rooney Agrees Ravens Had 'Legitimate Gripe'
Well, look at that. The Steelers and Ravens CAN get along.
Steelers Owner Art Rooney II showed actual sympathy for his bitter Baltimore rival when discussing the ineligible receiver maneuver the Patriots used in the divisional playoff game.
"I didn't think it was handled the right way when they ran the play," Rooney told his team's website ahead of owners meetings. "We have these rules where a player has to report to the referee]. The referee is supposed to make sure the defense is notified on who reports. I thought [Baltimore had a legitimate gripe about how that was handled."
If Rooney can see the Ravens got a raw deal in the very game that his own team didn't get to play in because the Ravens knocked them out of the playoffs, then there's a decent chance that some sort of rule change is made this week.
The Competition Committee has proposed a rule requiring any player who reports as ineligible to line up inside the tackle box, and owners will vote on the proposal Wednesday.
What Was Learned At First-Ever Veteran Combine
For the first time ever, NFL veterans who are looking for another chance to make an NFL roster worked out in front of a reported 100 scouts (including the Ravens) at a veteran combine over the weekend in Arizona.
Time will tell if the event will result in any Cinderella stories, but the early results don't look promising.
"Of the 105 participants here, scouts I talked with said as few as five or as many as 10 players could be signed to contracts," wrote CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco. "One scout said he was really disappointed with the talent. The entire process came off as an NFL-made-for-TV event."
Here are some lessons learned, per NFL.com:
Michael Sam, the league's first openly gay player, faced a swarm of media and told them he's "very confident that I will be playing football this year, somewhere." He wasn't interested in talking about anything outside of football. When asked about his time on Dancing with the Stars, he cut off the reporter and said, "Next question."
Cardinals running back Michael Bush had the roughest outing when he posted a 4.91 when the 40-yard dash. "You gotta be (expletive) me," Bush said. "... 4.91? ... There you go, there goes my career."
Quarterback Brady Quinn, the Browns former first-round pick told media: "I'm 30, but I feel mentally as good as I've ever felt and as far as throwing the ball and understanding the game, I feel great. I had a great preseason with Seattle. I didn't get much of an opportunity in Miami, but I was 4-for-4 on the reps I got."
No word yet on how well former Ravens and Terps receiver LaQuan Williams* *did in his outing.
Forsett Reached Out To Pierce To Give Support
The Ravens cut ties with Bernard Pierce hours after news hit that he was arrested for a DUI last week. And even though Justin Forsett was once in competition with Pierce for the Ravens' starting job, Forsett forged a strong friendship with Pierce and wanted to make sure he was OK after his release.
"I wanted to know how he was doing as a father and a man. He has a family to take care of," Forsett told SiriusXM NFL Tadio. "I wanted to make sure that this one adversity, that it won't define him. I'm praying for him and told him I'm here for him for anything he needs."
Forsett was asked in the interview about the importance of representing your team logo and the NFL shield. The family man said he understands there are always consequences, which is why he tries to make good choices.
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