Late For Work 3/27: Ravens Haven't Invested In Joe Flacco Targets Recently

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Ravens Haven't Invested In Flacco Targets Recently

In an ESPN wrap-up video from the NFL Owners Meetings, a Pittsburgh reporter joked about how the Steelers would be very happy if the Ravens chose not to find quarterback Joe Flacco new weapons.

If the season started today, the two starting wide receivers would be Steve Smith Sr., who turns 36 in May, and perhaps either Kamar Aiken or Marlon Brown, who have a combined one start between them.

Second-year Crockett Gillmore would be the starting tight end, but he sees himself as a more of a blocker than a receiver.

"They have to find someone to catch the ball," Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley said in the video. "Joe Flacco right now only has one legitimate receiver on the team and that's Steve Smith."

"I can tell Jamison, [the Steelers] think Baltimore does not have to upgrade. Keep the pass catchers the way they are," Steelers reporter Scott Brown replied.

Wide receivers only account for $7.036 million of the Ravens' 2015 salary cap, per Spotrac.com. That ranks 27th in the NFL.

To put that in perspective, 14 individual wide receivers have higher cap numbers than that alone. *That list begins *with Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson's league-leading $20.558 million and ends with the Indianapolis Colts' newly signed wide receiver Andre Johnson and his $7.5 million cap hit.

The Ravens have more invested in the tight end position with a reported $8.081 million, which ranks 12th in the NFL. The problem is most of that money is tied up in Dennis Pitta ($6.2 million), who is still dealing with his second season-ending hip injury in as many years.

"For those who continue to criticize Joe Flacco, you have to consider how much the Baltimore Ravens are investing in his targets," Hensley wrote. "And lately, the Ravens haven't addressed the wide receiver position as much as other areas on the team."

The Ravens haven't drafted a receiver higher than the sixth round for the last three offseasons, and they added three "moderately priced" veterans over the same time period with Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley.

Of course, throwing tons of money at a specific position doesn't guarantee success. Just ask Miami, Houston and Washington. But Hensley points out that four of the top five passing games in 2014 – Indianapolis, New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta – all ranked in the top half of the league in most cap space allocated to wide receivers. 

"So, you don't have to spend the most cap room on receivers, but you can't ignore the position either," Hensley wrote. "This isn't insinuating that the Ravens are being cheap. In fact, the Ravens spend more than most teams, which is why they don't have much cap space to sign high-priced free agents this year. But, based on how the cap is spread out on the team, the Ravens have placed a lower priority on wide receivers."

Here's where the money is being distributed per position and the NFL rank, per Spotrac:

Cornerback ($18,012,015): Rank No. 9 in NFL
Quarterback ($14,550,000): No. 16
Outside Linebacker ($13,010,313): No. 8
Guard ($10,060,735): No. 7
Left Tackle ($8,213,000): No. 11
Tight End ($8,081,504): No. 12
Inside Linebacker ($8,042,608): No. 16
Safety ($7,500,806): No.19
Wide Receiver ($7,036,542): No. 27
Center ($5,363,106): No.*9
Defensive End ($4,154,102): No. 30
Punter ($3,100,000): No.
8
Defensive Tackle ($2,409,864): No. 30
Kicker ($2,356,000): No. 14
Running Back ($2,185,146): No. 27
Long Snapper ($665,000): No. 25
Fullback ($660,146): No.
*
15
Right Tackle ($621,140): No. 30

There's still plenty of time for the Ravens to invest in a veteran pass catcher,* *or they can use a high selection in the draft. But will they?

"Two years ago, the Ravens traded Anquan Boldin and regretfully didn't replace him in free agency or the draft," Hensley wrote. "After watching Torrey Smith sign a rich deal in San Francisco, the Ravens can't afford to repeat the same mistake."

Steelers Nab C.J. Mosley In Draft Do-Over

Would the Pittsburgh Steelers pass on rookie Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley if they had a second chance?

They did the first time.

But in a 2014 draft do-over, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks corrected that mistake and has Pittsburgh nabbing Mosely before he could reach the Ravens at No. 17.

"Mike Tomlin loves productive players with grit, toughness and menacing demeanors," wrote Brooks. "Mosley not only fits the bill, but he would team with Lawrence Timmons to give the Steelers a dominant 1-2 punch on the interior."

Two spots ahead of the Ravens in the 2014 draft, Pittsburgh used their No. 15-overall pick on Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. While Mosely made the Pro Bowl his rookie season, Shazier suffered an MCL sprain and struggled so much in his rookie campaign that there is persistent talk in Pittsburgh about moving him to safety.

Tomlin explained his team's decision to pass on Mosley in October before a Ravens-Steelers showdown.

It basically boiled down to the Steelers' connection with the Ohio State football program. Former Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau was a Buckeye and has a strong relationship with the school, similar to the one GM Ozzie Newsome has with Alabama.

"It wasn't us selecting [Shazier] over Mosley," Tomlin said at the time. "It was more about what we knew about him we had a level of comfort with. We have a close, personal relationship with his program, and with their defensive coaches specifically."

It usually takes a good three years to fully evaluate a draft pick, but so far it looks like the Steelers' loss was the Ravens' gain.

Mosley
Started all 16 games; Pro Bowl nod; 2 playoff games
Stats: 133 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defensed
Pro Football Focus ILB ranking: No. 10
Shazier
*Played in 9 games, started 5; 1 playoff game
*Stats: 36 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions, 1 pass defensed
Pro Football Focus ILB ranking: didn't make top 60

With Mosley taken at No. 15 in Brooks' draft do-over, the Ravens would have needed to find a different player to take two spots later. Shazier was still on the board, but Brooks didn't give him a first-round grade. Instead, he has the Ravens taking the man they got in the second round: Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.

It's a compliment to Jernigan to receive the first-round grade, but the Ravens are happy to have gotten him as a steal in the second round and working directly in front of the pick they nailed in the first round with Mosley.

Stefon Diggs Getting Advice From Torrey Smith

Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs is focused on preparing for his pro day with the hopes of a strong enough outing that it could raise his draft stock. He's currently generally projected to be taken in the third round.

Diggs told Glenn Clark Radio this week that it would be a "blessing" if he happened to be drafted by the Ravens, and he wouldn't fear playing in the shadow of former Ravens receiver Torrey Smith.

That's because he's already been doing that at Maryland the last several years, and instead of being intimidated by Smith's legacy, Diggs has turned to Smith to be a mentor.

Diggs has frequently been compared to Smith because they are both speedy pass catchers that played for the Terps and their college career numbers are similar. Diggs had just two catches less than Smith's 152 (third all-time in Terps history). Diggs picked up more yards than Smith, edging him out with 12 more (second most).  

"Torrey Smith, as anybody knows, he's a great person," Diggs said. "Along the process, I gave him a lot of phone calls, text messages to see where I should be training, what I should be doing as far as just the whole process. He gave me a lot of guidance and a lot of advice. I really appreciate that."

The two worked out recently together, which Diggs tweeted about last week.

It's a Maryland thing.It was great seeing this guy.We got some good work in #UMD#UA pic.twitter.com/FCuKnZB8Kp — iG: stefondiggs(@stefondiggs) March 16, 2015

"It was just really, really nice to see him, because I hadn't seen him in awhile," Diggs said. "I try to pick his brain as much as I can to get all the information I can for the next level, because I'm trying to be a sponge."

Quick Hits

  • A panel from Around The NFL voted on the league's divisional power rankings, and the AFC North came in at No. 2 behind the NFC West (Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks). "This year's vote was closer than ever, due in large part to the questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, formerly an NFC superpower," Chris Wesseling wrote. "Buoyed by the Jimmy Graham blockbuster, the Seahawks are once again viewed as the league's strongest team." [NFL.com]
  • A group of 12 year olds decided to start an all-girls flag football team, called the Ravens, and it helped teach them what it means to be a girl. [Huffington Post]
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