Top Options To Address Ravens' Five Biggest Needs
With the first and second waves of free agency far in the rearview mirror, the Ravens running low on cap space (reportedly around $6 million), and the team's desire to retain compensatory picks, the options to fill remaining primary holes are dwindling.
Team brass will look at all remaining options to fill any needs, and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec examines the "most likely" way the team will address them, whether it's via free agency, the draft, a trade or internal promotions.
1) Wide Receiver: Pressure is on to draft a wide receiver early
Notes: The Ravens want to add another veteran. No receiver currently on the roster beyond Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman had more than seven catches last season.
Zrebiec's most likely scenario: "Ideally, the Ravens would add a veteran like [Anquan] Boldin, who is no rush to sign, and also draft another receiver in the middle rounds. However, Boldin is reportedly hoping to play closer to his South Florida home so a reunion may not be in the cards. Beyond him, there's not an obvious free-agent fit unless the Ravens feel that [Victor] Cruz and Vincent Jackson have some good football left. Given that and their stated offseason desire to get quarterback Joe Flacco more help, the Ravens face some pressure to take a receiver early in the draft."* *
2) Pass rusher: Look for the Ravens to use a high draft pick
Notes: Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens are looking for the next Terrell Suggs, who will turn 35 this season. The Ravens cut veteran Elvis Dumervil. There is potential in recent mid-to-late-round picks Matthew Judon (fifth round, 2016) and Za'Darius Smith (fourth round, 2015).
Zrebiec's most likely scenario: "The Ravens will draft a pass rusher. The only question is how early. There's a decent chance that they take one in the first round if the guy they covet is available. Dumervil and [Dwight] Freeney can still provide a jolt as pass-rushing specialists, but the Ravens really need to get younger and more explosive on the outside. Coming out of the draft with an heir apparent for Suggs would be a coup."
3) Inside linebacker: Kamalei Correa is the next in line, but insurance may be needed
Notes: The Ravens thought they'd be going into the offseason with this position locked down with C.J. Mosley and Zachary Orr, but Orr unexpectedly retired early with a newly-found congenital spine condition.
Zrebiec's most likely scenario: "Harbaugh expressed confidence in Correa stepping into a starting role. Still, the Ravens need to add somebody else into the mix in case Correa doesn't make a second-year jump. At this point, there's no evidence that the Ravens have tried to add a free agent inside linebacker, so they'll almost certainly draft one. [Temple's Hasaan] Reddick is typically the type of player the Ravens covet, but there's no guarantee he'll still be available at 16."* *
4) Right tackle: Get a veteran stop gap and draft for the future
Notes: Rick Wagner's departure in free agency left a big hole on the offensive line, where the Ravens want to get bigger and stronger in 2017.
Zrebiec's most likely scenario: "The Ravens like the potential of [De'Ondre] Wesley and [Stephane] Nembot, who are raw but massive. Wesley is 6-foot-6 and 326 pounds while Nembot is 6-6 and 320. However, it's very hard to imagine the team entrusting the tackle spot to players who spent all of last season on the injured list. For a team that badly needs playmakers on both sides of the ball, it also would be difficult to use a first-round pick on an offensive tackle for a second straight year. The best bet would be signing a player like [King] Dunlap, who played some solid football under Ravens Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris in San Diego, and taking a tackle with some upside on the second or third day of the draft."
5) Center: An internal promotion may be the best bet
Notes: The Ravens traded three-year starter Jeremy Zuttah (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) to the San Francisco 49ers last month. The top internal options are Ryan Jensen (6-4, 310) and John Urschel (6-3, 300) to fill the starting role, while released Pro Bowler Nick Mangold is still on the market.
Zrebiec's most likely scenario: "It doesn't appear the Ravens and other NFL teams are convinced that Mangold, who was cut by the New York Jets, would be an upgrade. [Free agent John] Sullivan really isn't a starting-caliber center at this point. The Ravens are probably better off letting Urschel and Jensen compete for the job and taking a guard/center type in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft."
Should Ravens Be Raiders' Opening Opponent In New Las Vegas Stadium?
Do you remember who the Ravens' opponent was when they played their first game after relocating to Baltimore in 1996?
To tell you the truth, I didn't remember either, but it was the Oakland Raiders.
In the name of "historical symmetry," ESPN's Jamison Hensley says the Ravens should be the first team to play in Las Vegas, where the Raiders will get their brand new $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat dome stadium in 2020.
"In 1996, the Ravens' first game as a franchise came against the Oakland Raiders. So, 25 seasons later in 2020, Baltimore could return the favor when the Raiders are the relocated team," Hensley said.
"The odds of that happening aren't great. In fact, it's about 6 percent right now."
Since the Raiders don't debut in Las Vegas for another three years, it's still not known whether Baltimore will even face the Raiders that season. The league still has to announce whether the AFC West will face either the AFC North or AFC South in 2020, and even if it is the AFC North, the Ravens would have to finish in the same spot in the 2019 standings as the Raiders.
"In other words, Baltimore football fans shouldn't be booking a suite at the Aria anytime soon," Hensley wrote.
Our April Fool's Joke Declared 'The Winner' Of All Pranks
Don't feel bad if you fell for our April Fool's joke on Saturday, which said the team will ditch the airplane and take a ship to London for the Week 3 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
First of all, you weren't the only one.
Second of all, CBSSports.com declared our prank "brilliant" and the "winner" of all the April Fool's jokes played in the NFL over the weekend.
"The Ravens went all in on this prank too," wrote John Breech. "Not only did they put up a well-written story on their website, but they also had coach John Harbaugh make a video lauding the benefits of taking a seven-day cruise to London vs. flying for seven hours.
"On an April Fool's Day that gave us Tom Brady sharing #FakeNews from a real newspaper and where Le'Veon Bell said he wouldn't sign his franchise tender , we're going to go ahead and declare the Ravens the winner."
That's pretty good because I'll admit the Bell joke got me. I was ready for an entire season where the Ravens didn't have to face one of the league's premier running backs.
I have to give major props to Harbaugh, who was really able to sell the prank with a straight-faced interview. I was there when he recorded it, and I can assure you, it took a couple of takes before he could deliver without a big belly laugh. But I commend the head coach for having a little fun with fans.
Here are some of the awesome replies we got on Twitter from those who seemed to fall for the joke.