Could Ravens Afford CB Josh Norman?
In a surprising and unusual move, the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman Wednesday after the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal.
That makes Norman, one of the league's best cornerbacks, an unrestricted free agent and eligible to strike a deal with any NFL team.
"Norman may not be perfect, but last season was about as close to shutdown play as cornerback play gets in today's NFL," wrote Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson.
So, are the Ravens interested in Norman?
Based on reports from CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora, Baltimore is not one of the teams pursuing him. The Washington Redskins appear to be the most aggressive with a "very strong" offer and Norman is scheduled to visit the team Friday. The San Francisco 49ers are also "pushing" for Norman and considered a front-runner, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are all "monitoring."
Sorry, Ravens fans. No signs of interest from Baltimore.
But even if they were interested, could the Ravens afford Norman? He is reportedly seeking between a $14 and $15 million per year average, which would be the highest average salary among all NFL corners (Darrelle Revis ranks first with $14.02 million).
Well, sure. While the Ravens only have a reported $12 million in cap space with half of that needed to sign their rookie class, NFL teams can always shuffle money around for a player they covet. Elvis Dumervil was a perfect example of that when a fax snafu led to his unexpected release from the Denver Broncos in 2013.
But that doesn't seem to be something the Ravens are willing to do for Norman at this point.
"[T]he bigger issue is how much a huge contract would handicap them in the future and potentially prevent them from paying defensive standouts like Brandon Williams and C.J. Mosley," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"As much as the Ravens would love another cornerback – and Norman is one of the game's best – it's hard to believe they would be willing to shell out anything close to the $14-$15 million annually that the former Carolina Panther is reportedly seeking. The Ravens traditionally do their due diligence on the top available guys, but there is no indication to this point they will be primary suitors for Norman."
Temper Expectations On Jalen Ramsey
In a head-to-head three-round mock draft with ESPN draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey actually fell to the Ravens at No. 6.
"How fast can the Ravens make this pick?" asked McShay.
Uh, it might be the fastest 40-yard dash clocked to turn in the card with Ramsey's name on it.
That said, not everyone is 100 percent sold on the world-class athlete. Among the concerns with Ramsey is his lack of interceptions. He only notched three picks in three college seasons, which isn't a great sign for a Ravens defense that ranked last in interceptions last year (six).
"You better temper your expectations because there are going to be some areas he's going to struggle with," said ESPN draft analyst Louis Riddick on a Wednesday conference call. "He's shown the ability to play good football at all three positions (corner, nickel, or safety), but he hasn't been able to master any of them. He's also shown some deficiencies at them.
"Jalen will be able to deal with big wide receivers who are a little bit slower afoot at the line of scrimmage, a little slower as far as route runners are concerned. The smaller, quick, change-of-direction wide receivers are going to give him trouble at the NFL level."
You're going to find questions and concerns for just about every prospect, and it'd be hard to believe that these would deter the Ravens from Ramsey if he really made it to the sixth-overall spot.
"If Jalen Ramsey is on the board at 6, they'll go running up there and turn in the card right away," ESPN's Adam Schefter said. "But he's not going to be there."
If you need any more convincing on how freakishly athletic Ramsey is, check out this mind-boggling Sports Science breakdown:
Teams Interested In QB Paxton Lynch Should Call Ravens
With the top two quarterbacks essentially already taken off the board, there's increased pressure on quarterback-needy teams to get into the top-10 and grab the third-best signal caller, Paxton Lynch.
"That means it's time to call the Baltimore Ravens," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Teams can jump ahead of the San Francisco 49ers (No. 7) and Cleveland Browns (No. 8), who could both be interested in Lynch, by trading with the Ravens at six.
"In order to secure a shot at Lynch, the other teams who are in the market for a quarterback – the Chicago Bears (No. 11), Buffalo Bills (No. 19) and New York Jets (No. 20) – could be convinced they need to make a deal with Baltimore," Hensley wrote.
"The Jets could offer Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and multiple picks. The Bears could give the Ravens additional picks as well as chance to get a mid-first round prospect like Georgia pass-rusher Leonard Floyd, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley or Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. Even the Browns could be motivated to jump a few spots ahead to block another team from getting Lynch."
Are Ravens Switching To A 4-3 Defense?
There's been speculation about the Ravens* *changing from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 with the possibility of drafting Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa. After playing in a 4-3 defense throughout college, Bosa is more comfortable in that system.
But there would really be no need to make big changes. For one, the Ravens think Bosa would transition smoothly to their current defense. And two, they already employ elements of a 4-3 defense.
"The reality is the Ravens have always incorporated 4-3 concepts into what they do defensively," wrote Zrebiec. "You ask members of the defensive coaching staff and they'd likely tell you the Ravens play both a 3-4 and a 4-3, depending on the personnel that is on the field.
"Every offseason, the Ravens review their schemes and their personnel and make adjustments. It's possible we'll see more 4-3 looks going forward, but it would be surprising if there were drastic changes to the defensive schemes."
Ravens Mourning Prince's Death
Ravens players were among the many Prince fans mourning the loss of the legendary singer, who died Thursday after he was found unresponsive at his Paisley Park Studios complex and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He was 57.