How RGIII Signing Affects Ravens' Draft
The Cleveland Browns announced Thursday they reached a two-year agreement with quarterback Robert Griffin III. The deal is reportedly worth $15 million, and a max of $22 million with incentives.
The AFC North rival's signing has more than one implication for the Ravens.
First, it likely means Baltimore will be game-planning for Cleveland's 24th starting quarterback since 1999 because last year's starters probably won't be around. Johnny Manziel was already released and the Browns are now expected to trade Josh McCown, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora and ESPN's Adam Schefter.
When it was rumored that Cleveland was in the mix for a Colin Kaepernick trade, it was less likely for the Browns to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 pick. That would mean less elite talent at other positions would slide to the Ravens.
That is not the case with the RGIII addition. Consider this from the Browns' team website:
"As Robert Griffin III and the Browns put the wraps on his contract with the team, Hue Jackson and Pep Hamilton were featured prominently on NFL Network as they watched North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz go through his pro day," wrote Andrew Gribble. "Just a few days earlier, they were on the scene and just as involved in Cal quarterback Jared Goff's exhibition for pro scouts.
"Whether or not the Browns select a quarterback with the No. 2 pick or later in April's draft remains to be seen. What's been made clear this week, though, is Griffin's signing won't affect the team's approach and the team's decision won't affect Griffin's."
Schefter took it a step further.
If the Browns do select a quarterback, there's a greater chance that at least one of the four consensus highest-ranked defenders will slide to the Ravens, including defensive back Jalen Ramsey, defensive end DeForest Buckner, pass rusher Joey Bosa or linebacker Myles Jack.
And speaking of premier defensive talent sliding to the Ravens ….
Todd McShay Has Ravens Picking DeForest Buckner AND Noah Spence
ESPN's draft guru Todd McShay just put together a dream scenario for the Ravens defensive line.
In his latest mock draft, McShay projected Buckner to Baltimore at No. 6 and then pass-rushing monster Noah Spence as the team's second-round pick at No. 36.
"While OT Ronnie Stanley and RB Ezekiel Elliott would both be in play here, I have a feeling Buckner would be the pick if GM Ozzie Newsome sticks to his best-available strategy," wrote McShay. "The No. 3 player on our board, Buckner isn't a traditional edge rusher, but he is disruptive against the run and plays with a great motor."
Could you imagine a dominant lineman like Buckner teaming up with Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan? Can you imagine the impact Spence would have on a pass rush that already boasts Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil?
Adding those two players would elevate the entire Ravens defense "back into elite status," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Buckner is frequently listed as top-five overall talent on analysts' draft boards, and many consider Noah Spence to be top-15 talent. The reason Spence could fall to the Ravens is because of two drug-related suspensions that forced him to transfer from Ohio State to Eastern Kentucky. However, Spence hasn't failed a drug test in over a year.
"These picks would make it seem like the Ravens got two first-round picks this year, and both would significantly improve Baltimore's ability to get to the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton," wrote Hensley. "Now, it's just a matter of whether one or both will slide to Baltimore."
Courtney Upshaw Visits Falcons
Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw had his second free-agent visit Thursday, meeting with the Atlanta Falcons nearly a week after visiting with the New York Jets.
Upshaw, 26, started 51 of 64 regular-season games for the Ravens after being drafted by the team in the second round of the 2012 draft. He has been a solid edge-setting linebacker, but hasn't developed into an impact pass rusher.
"While no one expected Courtney Upshaw to fetch a record contract this month, it's surprising to see him still unsigned more than two weeks after the start of free agency," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"[T]he underwhelming market for his services illustrates how increasingly important it's becoming to have multiple players with the ability to get after the quarterback in any situation."
While re-signing Upshaw is still in the realm of possibility for the Ravens, General Manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this offseason that it would be difficult to do so.
"Ozzie's still monitoring," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "I haven't talked to Courtney at all. I'm not sure where he's at, but he's still on the radar."